Friday, November 30, 2007


    I'm putting this out there to hold myself to it: we want to move in on Dec. 15. That's two weeks from tomorrow.

    In those two weeks, we need to do the following:

    Install and paint baseboards, paint door trim, install kitchen cabinet doors, install kitchen trim pieces to match cabinet doors, build and install a concrete kitchen countertop, install a kitchen sink, install a kitchen sink disposal, install a kitchen tile backsplash, reseal the tile, build living room bookshelves and fireplace cover, install window coverings, find a plumber and get a washer drain line hooked up to finish the washer-dryer nook, purchase and install a refrigerator, install a bathroom sink and cabinet, install a bathroom mirror, find and install a bathroom light, paint interior of hall linen closet, install hall linen closet doors, install closet shelving systems in two rooms, touch up living room paint, paint inside of living room coat closet, rehang remaining doors, install new doorknobs, find and install kitchen lights, put up a shower rod, install a bathroom fan cover, saw off and cover the toilet floor bolts, caulk baseboard, install threshold pieces between bamboo and tile flooring, replace the bedroom ceiling fan with something better looking, and clean everything.

    Oh my.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Cabinets the Ikea way

    Now that the flooring is in, our attention has turned to the kitchen. The Monday before Thanksgiving we spent the evening in the deep recesses of a gigantic blue building in Draper where we picked out the different cabinet pieces we needed to make our kitchen. About 3 hours later, the Element was absolutely loaded to the hilt with flat-packed cabinets and we were on our way to having a kitchen.

    Tuesday evening Kersten's brother Daniel and his wife Lacy were kind enough to come up from Provo and help us assemble the cabinets.

    After an entire evening, and a trip back to Ikea to replace a tall cabinet that came pre-shattered, we had our cabinets assembled.

    Wednesday evening after work I set out to install the cabinets, starting with the upper cabinets. Given the fact that there are no right angles in the kitchen, it took some time and a lot of fine tuning to get them installed just right and leveled.

    Thursday we took the day off to consume the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes but we were back at it Friday and Saturday.

    After the upper cabinets were installed it was time to get going on the base cabinets.

    The sink base cabinet was especially fun because the plumbing comes out of the wall in exactly the wrong place, so I had to do a bit of work with the jig saw and then reinforcing everything.

    We picked up the cabinet doors last night and this weekend I am going to start working on the counter top (more to come on that later). Things are starting to feel like this could be a home someday.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007


    Well, we are at the point where we need to think of what to do with the fireplace. We didn't want to just do the standard tile or marble surround as it had previous to our ownership.

    We closed off the pass through to the kitchen that was left of the fireplace so that we could add room for a washer/dryer in the kitchen. In doing this we decided to put some built-in shelves on the living room side.

    We thought that it would be nice to incorporate the new fireplace mantle with the built in shelves. This is a potential design for the mantle and shelves.

    Imagine the yellow is a nice piece of Baltic birch with a mantle that runs into a shelf in the built in shelves on the left. A thought is to do it with an exposed plywood edge.

    Tell us what you think. We would love some input.

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Fiat lux

    We are so pleased to have new lights up in the place — the early 1990s, French-country vibe from our all-white ceiling fan in the living room wasn't working for us any more:

    Also not working for us? The slasher-hotel, bare bulb look in the entryway and kitchen:

    And, who loves a nipple light? Not I, especially not in the kitchen. (Please excuse the horrendous metering and light level editing.)

    We replaced the living room and entryway lights with this fixture, which puts off plenty of light through its three compact fluorescent bulbs, looks decent and ties together the front rooms with the same look:

    We have a technical problem that prevented us from using this light in the kitchen — we're now in the market for something that will make the clearance from a cabinet door. Flat, modernish and not too expensive...

    But our hall light went from this...

    to this:

    And the office light used to look like this...

    but now it looks like this:

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Tell me about it

    I like a lot of what I read in the Los Angeles Times. They tend to carry trend stories that resonate more with me in Salt Lake City than the New York Times can offer me from 2,000 miles away. Particularly, this.

    Don't these people look angry? It seems that in California, as in Utah, you just can't mess with the bungalow without making enemies.

    The story is more than a week old, but somehow I fear that it's timeless: modern aficionado picks a neighborhood based on its charm and liveability (translation: established, mature homes in an older style) and wants to update his property with a contemporary structure. Neighbors burst into flames.

    Other than the details specific to this situation, the article does a good job summing up what Tai and I fear would happen when we try to pull a building permit anywhere near downtown Salt Lake City. Many of the city's best neighborhoods are that way because a developer bought large tracts of land decades ago and built hundreds of houses all in one or two styles. (Sidenote: wouldn't it be hilarious if 50 years from now new Draper was considered historically charming??) There are plenty of great reasons to preserve and restore significant historical buildings; there also are plenty of great reasons to allow a blend of new and old in established neighborhoods.

    What's evolved in Salt Lake City since that developer of yore are historic landmark districts in many parts of the city. I cannot talk about these districts without first bursting into flames — or at least getting an expression not unlike the man's above — not because their stated purpose is to retain the historical charm of these neighborhoods, but rather because that purpose is often translated to and enacted as "No. New. Anything." sans discussion about compatibility, building for your era, etc.

    This, and the monster home ordinance of early 2006, are two of a few very large reasons that we've been eying Summit Park more and more these days, despite all the other very large reasons not to (including our genuine love for Salt Lake City proper).

    Chew it over while you enjoy your turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007


    While all the gentlemen worked hard Saturday on making our place more liveable via the wonder of bamboo flooring, I dinked around with several small tasks, including zapping myself on live outlets several times and emitting a few choice "$%^@!!!!!"s. After my arm stopped tingling for the third time, I shifted my attention to the window caulk. I stripped off the old caulk with a razor blade and then re-did it in white.

    There are some spots where I'm not sure I did much better than the old version, though...progress? Who can tell any more?

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Welcome, voyeurs

    Most of you probably know that we started another blogging endeavor at Renovation Voyeur, an aptly named site for the more prurient among us. We'd like to issue a hearty welcome to those finding us via that route, and we'd also like to send all our regulars over to check out the site if you haven't gotten there already.


    On Monday of last week I went over to Lumber Liquidators and picked up about 570 square feet of bamboo flooring. I had previously purchased from, but because I listen to NPR I had heard about Lumber Liquidators a lot since they sponsor a lot of programs. I price checked them against iFloor and they were less expensive and I could just go to the warehouse and pick it up. So Monday I loaded 24 boxes of bamboo into the Element and let them acclimate to the condo for the week.

    On Friday morning I rented a floor nailer from Diamond Rentals and and went to the condo and got started. I started in the front living room and started to work my way back.

    I worked non stop by myself on Friday for about 11 hours and was able to get all of the living room done.

    Earlier in the week I had put a call out to my two brothers-in-law Bricky and Luke. As a family, we have all done projects like this multiple times, so we were all experienced. They came over and working as a team, we were able to knock out the rest of the condo in about 6 hours. Twice as much in about half the time. It was great. Many thanks to Bricky and Luke. Hopefully they aren't still really sore.

    Eventually it would be a continuous run of bamboo from the living room running back through the two bedrooms.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Toilet's in

    Here's the sewer drain hole that no one should ever get too close to.

    Here's the wax ring that I replaced on the bottom of the new toilet (upside-down bowl) to seal it to the sewer drain.

    This illustrates me leveling out the bowl. It took a few shims to make the bubbles line up.

    And here's our can, newly installed and fully functional:

    We still need to cover up the floor bolts, but the covers that came with the toilet can't accommodate the super-long screws. After we hacksaw off the tops of the bolts, we can cover them up. We also have baseboard attached to the bathroom walls, but it is awaiting primer and two coats of white paint. And, when the Miracle Method tub and tile refinisher left, he took some of our fresh bathroom paint with him, so we'll be adding another coat, hopefully sometime this weekend.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    It's called knowing your market

    Evidently Utah makes lots of something, too, and it's not flat-pack furniture...

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Cheap and Swedish

    My mother refused to help us remodel until we could provide a functioning bathroom — you know that I'm excited about the toilet since I've already done two posts about it (maybe it goes in tonight?), but here's what we're planning on for the vanity and sink:

    And here's what we're thinking of for the faucet:

    This setup appeals for us for a couple of reasons: one, it's IKEA which means that it looks decent for not a lot of money, and two, the sink eliminates any need for a separate bathroom countertop. I'm relieved because the idea of having to come up with a few square feet of bathroom countertop was giving me a headache (for instance, does it match the kitchen? if so, is it worth it to do concrete in the bathroom? if not, what do we get that looks good but doesn't cost a fortune?, etc.).

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Tile's Done

    I'll spare you all the details, but the tile has been cleaned, sealed, grouted and is done. The grout was perhaps my least favorite thing about remodeling that I have ever done. We used a sealer/enhancer, which turned our gray looking tile to almost black, which is what we wanted.

    Once we have stopped making a mess in there, I will seal the tile one more time.

    Here are some pictures.

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    The can

    We are, after weeks of dashing to businesses where I would never purchase anything, ready to replace the toilet in our bathroom.

    This is what it currently looks like, in the middle of our office:

    And this is the video that will help us get there. I've never been so excited about plumbing in my life!

    Sunday, November 11, 2007


    Here's a song for you to accompany this post, from Interpol's "Turn on the Bright Lights," because I did a search for songs with "color" or "green" or "orange," and finally just searched for "bright." The song has nothing to do with the colors — it's just a long-time favorite by a long-time favorite band.

    Above, the entryway green — "peppermint leaf" — and living room orange — "orange parrot." Below, the office blue — "blue nose."

    The bedroom green — "meadow view."

    All the colors are Benjamin Moore Aura base. I didn't put up pictures of the kitchen because it's a boring white — the color in that room will come from red kitchen cabinets.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    Tai-el, part II

    The tile saga continues:

    The entryway required a bit more prep before I could get to actually laying the tile down. The subfloor in the entry is concrete, so I couldn't just screw some Hardi-backer down. It needed to be fastened to the concrete with the same thin set mortar that we are using for the tiles. Before I could do that though, there was some old mastic all over the floor that had been used in the condos previous life to glue 1/4 inch particle board down that the carpet sat on top of. This required a lot of chipping. Then I had to make all the cuts to the Hardi-backer to make sure that they all fit before starting with the mortar, since I didn't want the mortar to solidify as I made cuts as I went. Once I made the cuts, I spread the mortar (it took about 35 lbs) and placed the boards. Then once those had set, I was finally able to lay the tiles.

    Am I done yet? Nope.

    There is still the issue of cutting the tiles. Kersten's grandfather offered us the use of a tile saw, which was great, so on Monday night we went out to his storage unit to pick it up. He said it was heavy but I was completely unprepared for this thing. I had rented a tile saw before, but a rental saw is usually a few years old at the oldest. This thing is at least 20 years old and is HEAVY duty. In a previous life it was used by US Steel to cut through core samples for their mining activities, and it must weigh at least 200 lbs (her grandfather was/is a geologist). The saw collapsed a cart, so to save the garage floor, I had to heft the thing off by myself; it was all I could do to move it about 3 feet inside the garage. It ended up on two sawhorses in my parents' side yard.

    I made about 90% of the cuts and then went to the condo and installed them.

    Because slate tiles is essentially compressed dirt, it makes a really muddy mess. Now the installed tile needs to be cleaned, sealed and grouted. My goal is to have the tile all the way complete by the end of Saturday...

    ...which means stay tuned for Tai-el III.

    Friday, November 9, 2007


    I have been working on the tile in the entry, kitchen and bathroom since last Thursday. Let me just start by saying that this is the last time I work with slate tile again. It looks good, but man, it's a pain to work with. The problem mostly lies in the fact that the pieces are so imperfect. It's the nature of slate that it is a bit of a rustic material. As such, they aren't exactly square and they aren't uniform in thickness either. This makes getting perfect grout lines impossible. So instead, you have to have a margin inside which your grout lines fall. We have been trying to keep them between 1/8" and 1/4".

    Last Thursday my dad, who will forever be referred to as "Rockstar Dad," came over and we took the day off and worked on tile to get us started. Even though he didn't have a ton of free time, he took time from his own projects a few days before he left the country to help us out.

    We started in the kitchen because we needed frequent access to the tub in the bathroom, which is currently our only water source. By the time my dad had to leave at around 4:30, we had finished almost all of the kitchen, which is about 150 square feet.

    Two things kept us from finishing. The first was that we don't have a tile saw on-site, so we left out any tiles that needed to be cut. The second reason was that when I purchased the tile that morning from Contempo Tile, they only had about 120 square feet of the 240 square feet I had ordered currently in stock. The balance would not be available until the next morning. One of the problems with slate being so imperfect, as I mentioned above, is that sometimes you just have tiles that are unusable, and I had run out of usable tiles.

    In the kitchen we had been trying to use tile spacers to set the tiles. These are usually great because all you have to do is get your first row in straight and then use the spacers to insure that the rest of your tile goes in straight.

    Slate, we discovered, is a different story. After some research on the internet the next day, I came up with a new method. I snapped a chalk line for each row of tile that included the desired spacing between the tiles and then did my best to eyeball the tile within those chalk lines. This allowed me to adjust for tiles that weren't square or uniform in width but still keep my overall tile rows straight.

    On Friday I picked up the remaining tile from Contempo and bought some more thin-set mortar to set the tiles in. This time I got the rapid set stuff that dries in 3 hours — they said it was good for smaller jobs. Since all I had left at this point was the bathroom and entry way and filling in the rest with cut tiles, it seemed ideal. I started out by mixing a 25-lb. bag of mortar, since I would normally work with about that much of the regular stuff at a time. This turned out to be quite a mistake. After only laying about 14 tiles, using half of the mortar I had mixed, the rest of it had turned solid and I ended up having to throw it, and the bucket, away. I was pretty frustrated. I found after that that if I would just mix half of a 25-lb. bag at a time it worked perfectly, and it is really nice to have the tiles set up so much faster.

    On mixing the mortar. When I picked up the first batch of tile on Thursday I also purchased a mixer (giant egg beater) that you can use with a drill to mix the mortar. This seemed like a wise purchase, since mixing by hand is quite fatiguing. When we went to mix the first batch of mortar on Thursday, it turned out that the 1/2" mixer was too big for the three drills we had on site, all of which are a 3/8" chuck. So, we mixed 100 lbs of mortar using nothing but the strength we possess in our forearms and a putty knife. Not so much fun, so the next day when I picked up the rest of the tile, I bought a mixer that would fit a 3/8" chuck and it's a beautiful thing. My 12-volt DeWalt only has enough juice in a fully charged battery to do about 4 minutes of non stop drilling, so I had to charge between each bucket of mortar.

    More later.

    (Our version of the Titanic handprint.)