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The Main Bathroom Remodel – Part 2

main bath remodel

Who Doesn’t Love Avocado?

If you recall, a couple of weeks ago I shared the story of our avocado green bathroom remodel and the demolition process. Let’s get back to where we were!

As a delightful reminder, the before photos:

The new plan

Since our options for real change were limited to the footprint and layout of the bathroom, I had to come up with a vision for a modern galley bathroom. I knew that I also had to think of some solutions for storage, since we were removing the closet by the entryway. We also kept a short column of drawers by the toilet and we liked the storage it provided, but that had to go. Pricing out a mini counter turned out to be much more than anticipated, so we went with an over-the-toilet hanging cabinet that more than gets the job done.

main bath remodel
New storage by the toilet

After the new insulation and dry wall were installed, I had to make a quick decision on paint colors. I swear by my technique with paint chips: hand them up in different parts of the room and visit the spot throughout the day and with different lights on to make sure that the colors are right. I definitely nailed the neutral color I wanted, but I really, really struggled with the green. In the end, I still am not 100% happy, but it will do. And who knows, maybe someday I will fine the color I had in my head.

Hooray for Jack and Jill

Priority number one was getting a counter top that have us two sinks. As I mentioned before, it was getting to be a challenge to share the space with two other people. I also hated the top/over mount sink from before and, fortunately, Central Heating also sold the single piece countertops by Bertch in the exact same style as the downstairs. While I was looking to tie the two bathrooms together, I didn’t want an exact replica, so we went with the same finish (matte) but a different pattern (Vanilla Bean).

We like to shop and support local businesses and our carpenter gave us the name of a new place that we didn’t know of when we remodeled the downstairs bathroom. In fact, it was a new place to him, too and he was impressed when he went there once day to pick up a fixture for another client of his.

We decided to go for a visit to check out their showroom and (hopefully) get a little inspiration. After meeting with the consultant and walking around, I knew that we’d be working with Central Plumbing and Heating out in Glenville, NY. The name does not do it justice – it’s not only a place to buy boilers and fixtures – it was a full design company! In an effort to keep some continuity between the two bathrooms, this business also carried some of the same brands as the other company and we were sold.

main bath remodel
The New Countertop and Vanity

Linen storage

I gambled on a linen cabinet with drawers and I won big. It turned out to be even better than expected. It even provided more storage than the sizeable closet that we used to have. Plus, with the drawers underneath, I now had my own drawer storage, which I previously did not have in the old vanity. I was using plastic drawers from the early days of our marriage back in the stone age. The mini drawer on top was absolutely perfect as a make-up drawer, too!

The tub

The shower/tub was something we did end up buying from a big box store (Home Depot). It was a bit surprising how much more expensive these tubs are at local companies, even when they are nearly the exact same product. Normally we don’t have a problem paying a little more for something unique, but in the case of a plain white tub that was going to be hidden behind a curtain, we just couldn’t justify the expense. And since we bought our downstairs shower from Home Depot, too, we were able to find a matching shower/tub combo for the upstairs – a Delta Classic 400 style.

main bath remodel
The New Tub going in!

The floor

We had some tiles leftover from the the downstairs job and, again, in an effort to tie the two rooms together we decided to buy some more. These also came from a great place that is a smaller chain – Pro Source. We’ve purchased pretty much every new floor from this place.

The final result

I was literally blown away by the final result. I was going for a modern and clean bathroom and I got a beautiful hotel spa as well! We saved up for this room for an incredibly long time and we made an effort to do as much as we could on our own to save money there, too. But we also recognize that an updated main bath is a huge investment that can only increase the value of our home. While this house is intended to be our forever home, you never know what life will throw at you – so you might as well enjoy every part of your home, too!

<<The Main Bathroom Remodel: Part I

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The Main Bath Remodel – Part 1

Main Bath Remodel

Who Doesn’t Love Avocado?

I do, but this was a bit much. Welcome to my Avocado Bathroom. Sister to the Harvest Gold bathroom. This main bath remodel wasn’t our physically largest project, but was the most anticipated and *cringe* most expensive one to date. There is a reason why they say bathrooms and kitchens sell houses – and our main bathroom felt like a spa when we were done!

This glorious almost original bathroom featured floor, wall, and ceiling tiles. They were identical to the 4″ tiles downstairs…but in more abundance. We were also aware of the fact that the ceiling was being pulled away from the joists in the attic. We made this fun discovery while up int he attic one day. The weight of those tiles over the course of 40+ years was literally going to collapse into the bathroom. This job was not only a “want to do” it was a “must do” job.

The Plan for our Main Bath Remodel

We lived with this galley-style bathroom for about 5 years before we finally could make changes. It’s our largest bathroom and the most used, as it’s on the main living floor. Changing the footprint wasn’t really an option, since our bedroom was on one side and the kitchen on the other. The challenge was how to make this long and narrow space into a more efficient and roomy space. There were some things on the list to go right from the get go:

The single sink situation

Woof, this was a challenge to live with, especially after our daughter became big enough to stand at and use the sink. My husband didn’t think a Jack and Jill sink was particularly necessary (but he has since re-canted his statement!). I appreciated the long counter space to the right of the sink, but the rest of the counter didn’t make much sense. There were no drawers under the right side (possibly because of the baseboard heater likely would have overlapped) and the mirror was clearly not original to the bathroom, because it didn’t take up the whole space. You could also see where the original mirror was installed.

Old Counter
The Old Countertop

The linen closet

While the closet storage was useful, the location of said closet was terrible. It made the entryway into the bathroom much narrower. The door to the closet and the door to the bathroom constantly would tangle. If someone was in the closet it was inevitable that someone entering the bathroom would bang that door into the closet door. We’ve literally bounced off of each other trying to pass by each other. The storage options in this bathroom were just impractical.

The Linen Closet
The Linen Closet

The tub

I did like the size of this shower-tub. The walls were a bit curved to give the illusion of space. But that’s all that was going for this shower-tub. There was barely any shelving or storage to hold soaps, shampoos, etc. I couldn’t even hang an under shower caddy because of how the tub came out from the wall. A caddy just wouldn’t stay hanging. Plus it was avocado and very much so an original to the house. Amazingly, the toilet had been updated right before we moved in, so that was not avocado.

Green Tub
The Green Tub

The floor

In addition to feeling “squishy” in parts, the itty bitty mosaic tiles were starting to pop up off the floor. We had to glue quite a few down over the first 5 years int he house. Honestly, we were terrified of what we would find under the tile.

It was oh so satisfying to bring up when it was cooperating


As per usual, we took care of the demolition ourselves. While this particular home reno job needed the skilled hands of a professional, we aimed to save money where we could. That meant doing demolition and painting on our own. The wall tiles were a bear to bring down. I had to channel all of my stress into swinging my hammer to break into the wall. The mosaic tiles came up incredibly easy in some places and were also a challenge in other areas. The sub-floor was (miraculously) not in terrible shape. We never did figure out why the floor was squishy, but it probably had something to do with the tile.

The ceiling tile. Oh that ceiling tile. We made sure to put on hard hats for this part. As soon as my husband took down the single over-head light fixture, the ceiling visibly sagged. He swung the hammer twice and the whole thing came down like a cartoon. The tub also came into the house during the build phase, so the only way to get it out was with our trusty reciprocating saw in pieces. The whole demolition took about 3 days to take down and clean up.

Just a few more taps and it was down

The Main Bathroom Remodel: Part II>>

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Strip that down for me

Stairs Update

I hate the stairs in my house. Like nearly every bit of wood trim in the house, they were stained a very dark, very dated brown. It’s hard enough to bring natural light into our home, living at the bottom of a hill in the woods. When we first moved in, I attacked nearly every bit of dark brown trim with off white paint (Swiss coffee). As we’ve remodeled, all of the new trim starts out as this color. Doors are painted (campfire ash) before they are even hung. But now I am ready for a DIY stair remodel.

The way before

I wasted no time painting the side trim of the stairs, but everything looked dark and dingy. While the sellers were aiming to do some quick and cheap improvements, most of them were superficial and just looked awful. I figured a little paint certainly wouldn’t make it look worse.

For some strange reason, the upper half of the stairs had been poly’ed. I have no idea if that was new or old, but in addition to being ridiculously unsafe (duh) it made the lower stairs look particularly like garbage.

The semi improvement

Painting the risers and the handrail spindles certainly improved matters. Whenever anyone is looking for a nice, dramatic improvement, painting the risers and spindles always looks great. This served us well for 6 years.

My current mess

The cheap carpet that was put down right before we moved in. In the past 6 years it has quickly become matted, stained, and no longer truly cleanable. I am counting down the days to a new floor. Before we did that, I decided it was time to attack the treads on the stairs. If I couldn’t rip them out and replace them, I was going to do my best to make them look completely different.

The lower stairs were fairly easily stripped. I bought this varnish remover from Home Depot. This stuff is no joke, so be sure to wear gloves, glasses, and ventilate your space. It probably helped that there was no finish on top of the stain. The second set of stairs proved to be much more difficult and it is an on-going saga. I was able to successfully remove the poly, but not much of the stain. That will be the next “step” (haha) in the project. So stay tuned!

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A Kitchen Spruce Up

The Backstory

The kitchen hasn’t been touched yet – but it was time for a kitchen spruce up. When we moved into our home in 2015, it was from a very tiny apartment and so the kitchen felt enormous to me. The new kitchen had about 5 times the counter space (I may have about 6 usable feet right now, so don’t be too impressed). We bought an island from Bed Bath & Beyond and we had a bookshelf that had been used as a pantry from two apartments ago.

The bookshelf was helpful; it housed some pantry items, but also cookbooks and other non-food items. When our daughter was born, we had to stop using the bottom shelf for storage for obvious reasons.

I thought it was finally tie to up the ante and make some floating shelves for the kitchen for storage.

DIY Kitchen Shelves

I ordered brackets on Amazon that look like pipes – I thought it would be an interesting aesthetic to bring into the kitchen. Plus all of the fixtures in the kitchen are a dark, bronze-y color. I purchased these.

I then went down to my favorite lumber yard, Hankle’s, out in East Nassau, NY. Last time I was there I saw these maple boards and I knew I wanted them for something. 2 x 12’s were ideal for my needs and they were kind enough to cut them down to size for me.

After bringing them home I sanded the heck out of them; I purposely chose rough cut because, well, I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg while lumber prices were soaring. If you decide to save yourself the effort, definitely go for a more finished board.

Making sure everything is square and fitting properly.

Because of the width of board that I chose and the brackets I picked out, I did have to run it on the table saw to make sure it fit properly in the bracket.

After sanding, I conditioned the wood and then went with my favorite Danish Oil as a stain. I took extra care on these and let them dry out for a few days before applying my clear wax. I’ve become a huge fan of the clear wax finish this past summer. As time goes on, it hardens and protects.

Install time

When it was time to install everything, I had to double and triple check every measurement. I did NOT want my shelves to be crooked or out of level. I drew all over the walls. This was an instance where my 4 foot level really came in handy. I also made sure to drill right into the studs. This was going to hold quite a but of weight and I wasn’t going to mess around. As a result, it is a touch off center, but as time has gone on, it’s not even noticeable now.

I started out by finding my studs and marking the center of the first two. Then I repeated the process down the stud at each desired shelf location.

Moment of truth

I confirmed each pair of markings was level by using the 4 foot level and drawing right on the wall. Then, I grabbed the flange piece of the bracket and lined up the holes onto the stud and marked those. Some of the holes did go beyond the stud, so I drilled those out and installed anchors; but I made sure that as many holes as possible were lined up on the stud. I checked for level one more time!

Then the fun part – I screwed on the “pipes” and plopped the board on top, making sure everything fit properly. I checked for level again. Once all of my boards were loosely on the brackets, I took my 4 foot level and made sure they all lined up together. They may not be centered on my small stretch of wall as a whole, but I was absolutely going to make sure they were off-center together!

The final product!

After securing the boards to the pipes with the included under-mount hardware, I took a step back and admired my hard work. Good luck and have fun!

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DIY Garden Bed

Looking to up your gardening game this summer? Cedar garden beds are the way to go – and they can be easy to create and pretty affordable. Step away from the fancy kit and build your own in a day – for a lot less. Let’s DIY a garden bed!

Up close image of the garden dirt
Watch out for surprise roots!

Our backyard is a pretty steep hill. But it’s also the sunniest spot in the summer and our veggies grow best up there. I discovered this by accident last summer when a mystery squash started growing like crazy on the hill. I already planted some potatoes and carrots before I had the idea to build a terraced cedar garden bed into the hill.


Head over to your local home store and pick up some cedar fence pickets. There is a reason why people use cedar for fences – they are durable, last a long time, and are rot-resistant. Thus making them ideal for garden beds.

Grab some wooden garden stakes while you are there, too.

In terms of tools, you’ll need a shovel, mallet, circular saw, tape measure, level, and nail gun (or any tool that can join two pieces of wood, e.g, screwdriver, drill, or hammer)


I wasn’t looking to make anything particularly fancy. It was a Sunday morning and I had a lot of other jobs to do. Cedar fence pickets are ideal also because they come in 6 foot lengths. That seemed like a reasonable width to my garden bed.

I started out by deciding where my very first board would go. Keeping things simple, I went with a 3 foot depth for the beds. Gearing up to dig, I measured out 3 feet up hill and started digging until I was close to level with my starting point. Once I had dug out most of the soil, I started to check for level. I wasn’t looking for a perfect level, but I also didn’t want to have any major sloping.

Then, I repeated this step for the next tier until I had a rough area to work in. Next, I stacked two boards and checked to make sure they lined up with the next tier. This became the rear retaining wall of the bed.


Here’s where I started to work with the wood. I took the two retaining wall boards and placed them on my work surface. Using the nail gun, I affixed two garden stakes to the back of the boards. This was to join them together and give the wall something to grab the earth below it.

Two boards joined together
The back retaining wall

I then proceeded to hammer them into the ground and checked for level.

Checking for level.
Love it when it finally levels.

It was a quick job to measure out the halfway mark on the board to cut the sides of the bed. For the sides of the beds, I only used one row of boards. I cut the additional garden stakes down into shorter lengths and nailed one to each end of the 3 foot board.

When I installed the 3 foot boards, I hammered them level and then nailed the front board to the garden stake that was already nailed to the 3 foot board.

Attaching the boards to each other
This adds stability and keeps everything together.

And just like that I had made two tiered garden beds before lunch! Make sure that you line the bottom with weed barrier and bring in some compost and soil for your beds. Enjoy your beautiful garden and impress your friends with a DIY garden bed.

Almost finished product
Just about finished

Because I use our own compost, I will be letting this bed do it’s own thing this season. I am sure some mystery plants will pop up!

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Building the Fire Pit, the Fire Pit Adventure Part 5

We are finally at the pièce de résistance, time to build the DIY fire pit. While the patio might require more skill and patience than the average homeowner may posses (although everyone is capable!) the fire pit itself is easily achievable by anyone.

The Stones

I chose these stones from Home Depot. I am a fan of the tumbled look and because of the shape, they easily form a circle. These were also an affordable option; if you are looking to just make a pit, these stones are a good option to make a professional-looking fire pit for under $100.

If you recall, early on in the project I dug down about a shovel’s depth into the ground. I added gravel to help with drainage. If you find that you have a more dense soil, such as clay, I recommend a few inches of gravel to help with drainage.

Fill the pit with gravel for drainage

In addition to your choice of stone for the pit, you’ll need to grab some construction adhesive. I bought this Loctite brand, but after I ran out I found some more in the house, but actually in the right color this time. Make sure you pay attention to the color listed on the bottle; I didn’t and I bought white – and the stones are gray.

The Build

Start out by laying out your first row; take the time to level the stones out as best you can. If you are using even bricks, this will help keep everything level as you work up. Tumbled bricks will make it a little more of a challenge to be perfectly level, but it works well enough.

Level out the bottom row

After laying out your first row, dry fit your next row. Lay each brick on the joint between two bricks of the row below. This helps to keep the wall of bricks strong. Dry fitting the bricks is a good way to be sure that you have enough bricks (hint: I didn’t do this on my last row and I was short 4 bricks).

This is the color I should have gotten the first time around.

Use a healthy amount of the construction adhesive and let the bricks sit for a bit before poking at the bricks. Once everything has set, you will find that the bricks are pretty immovable.

Dry fitting the next row

The Liner

I decided to line the inside of my fire pit with a galvanized fire pit ring. For some reason these are ridiculously expensive at most home improvement stores. I did a quick Google search and I found this one at Ocean State Job Lot for about a third of the price.

My DIY fire pit is a bit of an odd size and not a perfect circle, either. A second lesson I learned in this part of the process: perhaps use the liner as a template for your circle. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to use a liner, so it was a last minute decision. To make the liner fit, I assembled the four pieces together, but I overlapped the final joint.

Happy campfire season!

I decided to fancy it up a bit with 6 bags of black river rocks and boom, hot dogs for dinner tonight!

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Set in Stone – the Fire Pit Adventure, Part 4

Creating a diy paver patio is the newest learning experience for me as a Weekend Warrior. I’ve seen it enough times on Ask This Old House and YouTube, but this was the final exam. And let me share with you what I did right and what I did wrong.

Close up view of the paver joints in a diy paver patio.
The concrete sand base came up too high in some sections. Lesson number one.Close

Lesson One

Choosing the stones and laying them out was the easy part. But there is one thing I wish I paid a little more attention to during this stage – keep the joints free and clear and at least half an inch to an inch deep. This would be important to the success of my paver set. More on that in a minute.

After making sure everything is nice and level, I brought out my polymeric sand. This is key in a diy paver patio. I was pretty intimidated by this product at first. It’s basically designed to act like a grout, joining the pavers together and binding them in place. Short of masonry mud, this is going to keep everything together – so no pressure.

I went with the gray to blend in, but it comes in other colors.

Lesson Two

I initially started out with just two 40-pound boxes, but four were ultimately necessary. And in all honesty, here is the second lesson: don’t skimp on the polymeric sand. Having some depth in the joints is key to a good, solid set.

The instructions are simple enough, clean the work space, dump the sand, push broom it into place, tidy it up, and water it like your lawn. The water is what jump starts the binding agent. It takes about a day or two to set. It’s important to follow the instructions specific to the brand you buy.

Using a push broom to get the paver set into the joints between the stones.
Pushing the sand into the joints.
Applying water to set the polymeric sand
Growing a patio this spring.

Lesson Three

And here is lesson number three; the instructions on my brand specified using a leaf blower to clear out dust and debris in the work space. I wish I had been a little more aggressive with the leaf blower to help clear out those joints.

Up close of the broken sand joint. The lessons of a diy patio.
In the places where the sand was too thin, it flaked right up.

I ultimately had to go through some spots, dig out the paver set that was too thin and re-do some sections. I made sure to have at least an inch of depth between those joints and I filled them generously. To be as efficient as possible, I recommend using a funnel to get the sand right into the joints, where needed.

If you have the ability to rent or buy a compactor to vibrate the sand into the crevices, definitely use that. Otherwise, plan to tap on every paver to make sure that the sand gets into every area around the stone.

It was really exciting to water the stones and check the progress the next day. Even with a few mistakes, it’s coming together really well! I’m thrilled that I am done with the diy paver patio portion. Come back next week for the final part of my adventure with the fire pit. See you soon!

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Bringing in the Flagstones – The Fire Pit Adventure, Part 3

This was the exciting week – the patio pavers arrive! There was a lot of hand-wringing on my part when it came to picking the patio materials. I am the type of person that must love an item before purchasing, no matter what.

As you recall, last week I wrote about making an un-level patch of land level-ish. It was exhausting. But figuring out exactly what I could buy that met my expectations was a bit of a challenge.

I went back and forth in my mind between going for a rustic, natural look or a crisp, polished look. In the end, I knew that the outdoorsy, natural look was the way to go. And that meant flagstones over brick.

I was quite sore after this particular day.

If money were no object, I would have gladly purchased a few pallets of the gigantic flagstones at my local Ace Hardware. But I didn’t think spending $2,100 on a patio was a good idea. So, plan B.

The first batch of flagstones were decent-sized, about 2 feet at max length. Some were pretty heavy. The ultimate challenge with flagstones is making the space level. While I did a fairly decent job of leveling out my surface beforehand, it basically meant nothing because each and every flagstone is of varying thickness and texture. As a result, one corner of the area (near the hole, of course) required quite a LOT of pavers base (upwards of 6″), while the opposite corner required the bare minimum of 1″.

My three tools were a one-foot level, a four-foot level, and a rubber mallet. Each tool had a specific use; when installing the pavers, not long did I have to make sure that the entire surface area was level, but each stone was level in multiple directions.

Levels come in a lot of sizes, the most important is to have a fairly long and short level for this project.

To make things a little easier, I started with the largest stones around the circle where the fire pit will be. Making these all level to one stone set me up for the rest of the pavers.

This was the last easy part.

Definitely a painstaking process; picking a stone, leveling the stone to the nearest level stone, and then confirming that the whole piece was level.

Rain put me off for a few days, and either because of the rain or because I just didn’t notice before, but one whole section was completely sloping and I had to pull out great pieces of the patio to repair it. The sooner I can get the paver set in, the better!

You can see the larger pavers in their places in the background.

After setting the largest stones, I had another batch of pavers brought in by a friend and started filling in the gaps to try and bring the spaces down to no more than 1.25″.

Up close view of the paver design
My daughter was able to contribute to this part, looking for smaller stones.

Hopefully the ground will be dry-ish by Sunday so I can begin the paver set process. Stay tuned!

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Getting Rid of a Sidewalk – The Fire Pit Adventure, Part 1

the old fire pit

Home Improvement: 1977

Outdoor home improvement can be easy weekend projects or multi-year commitments. One of the things I love the most about our home is the property. Living among the trees is something that B and I grew up with. Neither of us expected a mid-century staple to be our forever home. I didn’t grow up in a raised ranch and neither did my friends, so when we bought our house back in 2015, I was confused as to why there was a concrete sidewalk all the way around our house.

sidewalk around the house
Sidewalk alllllll the way around
sidewalk around the house

This was back in June 2015 and we thought, we’re young, let’s get this out ourselves. How hard can it be? We headed down to our local Home Depot and rented a mid-sized jackhammer.

Using the jackhammer to break the concrete.
If I recall correctly, we also ran a 5k that morning.
Using the jackhammer to break the concrete.
Oh to be 30 again… We also inadvertently dressed alike that day.

Let’s Go!

Well we started chipping away at it and nothing happened. And when I say nothing, I mean literally nothing. The photo of B on the right was after 20 minutes. The photo of me on the left was over an hour in. What was going on? Oh, that’s right, instead of installing decorative cement around the house the original owners installed 6″+ THICK SIDEWALK GRADE CEMENT around the house.

Our busted up sidewalk
This took all day.

The busted up cement sat there for a while. Like a long while. It was exhausting even to look at. I did decide to pull some up and make our very first fire pit. I hate waste and I like to re-purpose as much as I can (you know, reduce, reuse, recycle).

the original ring of busted up concrete that formed the fire pit back in 2015
Aw, how cute.
the last fire in the pit before the demolition
Our last fire before demo.

And this is where my journey begins to spruce up our “outdoor living room”.

Part II: Unmaking Waves>>