Monday, December 14, 2015

Butler's Pantry - Renovation (part 2)

I managed to get a few hours of renovation time scheduled for this weekend, and finished the shelves! Here's a final look, including the new overhead light.


The previous light was just a pull-string, but we had an electrician replace the old fixture and add a light switch to the outside of the pantry.

Old light

New light


Here are some photos of the final product after all the shelves were in. 

(note the new light switch placement)

Eventually we plan to replace the current trash and recycling bins with some wooden tilt-out bins that are sized to fit the space. I'm just not sure if I want to tackle building these, or if it's worth the extra cost to just buy them pre-built. Right now I'm honestly leaning towards the latter.

That's it for now! I'll leave you with a final photo of the installation process and my little helper/audience...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Butler's Pantry - Renovation (part 1)

Over a year since my last post! It's not that we haven't been working on the house since then, but everything's been very minor improvements like fixing the way a door swings on its hinge - nothing that I felt really lent itself to blogging and pictures. I have something now, though!

Our current project is remodeling the "butler's pantry". (No, we don't have a butler.) According to Wikipedia:
butler's pantry or serving pantry is a utility room in a large house, primarily used to store serving items, rather than food. Traditionally, a butler's pantry was used for storage, cleaning and counting of silver; European butlers often slept in the pantry, as their job was to keep the silver under lock and key. The wine log and merchant's account books may also have been kept in there. The room would be used by the butler and other domestic staff; it is often called a butler's pantry even in households where there is no butler.


Below you can see a snapshot of the butler's pantry prior to demolition. It included a homemade cupboard and shelves on the back (east) wall, plus a small cupboard hanging from the northwest corner. On the ceiling was a small pull-string light. Unfortunately, it wasn't serviceable for storing much more than cookbooks. The lower shelves were too narrow to store large items, and the upper shelves too narrow and too short.



Here are some views of the pantry with the cupboards removed:

Northeast corner

Southeast corner

West wall (doorway)


To update the pantry, we were heavily inspired by some images we found on Pinterest. (You can see my Remodeling and Home board by clicking here.) The biggest inspiration, however, was Jordan's pantry renovation on Oh Happy Day. Although her ceiling looks higher, and the walls possibly a bit narrower, the layout is a very reasonable match compared to ours. It even uses white subway tile like what we have in our upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.

Inspiration photo from Oh Happy Day


The first step was tiling, which we have plenty of experience with thanks to the previous bathroom renovations. I won't walk you step through step with those, but here are a few photos to show what we did. When I had to cut pieces for the corners (and for the floor and ceiling, since the walls weren't square), I labeled both the wall and the back of the tile with the same code (a compass direction indicating the wall, and the tile number). As you can see, the short northwest corner between the doorway and window was really a pain!


With the purchase of some metal IKEA shelf brackets, some wooden planks (48" x 11" for the back wall), some screws, a 3/16 ceramic tile/glass drill bit, a 6" drill bit extension (for getting the screws in at the corners), and some paint, we were ready to begin.

Because I'm working on the shelves by myself, I screwed the brackets to the shelves, then stacked boxes and books to bring the shelves up to the desired height and keep them there while I used a pencil to mark the locations to drill. Fortunately(?), I have quite a few printer-damaged copies (too much binding glue) of Corporia, my latest book, so I used those to boost up the shelves in small increments until I had them at the right height. The bottom shelf is 21" off the ground, with the next two shelves at roughly 15" above that one. The last two are 14" above the previous shelf, with the shelf space getting just a bit smaller as we get closer towards the ceiling.

I had to hold the drill steady to get a hole started in the tile, then continue to drill slowly so as to avoid cracking it. This made it slow going, since it's not like drilling into wood - and the absolute last thing I want to do is have to chisel out and replace a broken tile!

This paint goes on pink and turns white as it dries

Metal shelf brackets (we rotated these so the long side supports the shelf)

So far I only have the back (east) wall done, but hope to start on the adjacent (north) wall tonight. We'll see how it goes. Free time is precious right now, so progress is incredibly slow, but I hope to have it all done by Christmas! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Downstairs Bathroom - Finished (Mostly)

The sink and shower hardware was finally installed last week, so except for the decorating and some minor tweaks here and there, we finally have a usable bathroom!

Since you can read all about the previous stages in earlier posts, I'll just give some 'before', 'in progress' and 'after' photos here. As we start decorating and fixing the small details, I'll provide separate future posts for those. Enjoy!


BEFORE: Okay except for some rotting drywall around the shower bottom
IN PROGRESS: Opening up the floor to get to the burst pipes
IN PROGRESS: Rebuilt floor and wall
AFTER: Tiled wall and floor, replaced shower stall with refurbished vanity sink


BEFORE: Mirror too low, sink plumbing and drawers were badly installed
IN PROGRESS: Opening up the floor to get to the burst pipes; finding electrical sloppiness
IN PROGRESS: Rebuilt floor; window frame still butchered
IN PROGRESS: Tiled floor and wall, fixed window frame (and tub to replace sink)

AFTER 2: with temporary towel rack

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Bathroom Update and a Bit of Tub History

It turns out that we were missing the drain/overflow and the supply lines for the clawfoot tub, as well as the faucet and drain for the bathroom sink, but we should have everything in hand by the end of this week. So... getting close!

Here's a side and bottom view of the tub:

I like that it's an "American Standard"-brand tub that is so old it actually predates that brand by four decades. From their site:

Before American Standard, there was the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company. It was founded in 1875, and merged with several other small plumbing manufacturers in 1899 to form the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company. Standard Sanitary pioneered many of the plumbing product improvements introduced in the early part of this century including the one-piece toilet, built-in tubs, combination faucets (which mix hot and cold water to deliver tempered water) and tarnish-proof, corrosion-proof chrome finishes for brass fittings. By 1929, Standard had become the world's largest producer of bathroom fixtures.
That same year, the Standard Sanitary Corporation merged with American Radiator Company to form the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation. The corporation adopted the name "American Standard" in 1967.
Of course, even if the tub is a 1927 model, it's still technically a couple of decades too young for the 1905 house - but I can live with that!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Converting an Old Dresser into a Bathroom Vanity - Shelves

As promised, here's a quick look at how I handled replacing the runners for the reworked top drawers. This simply involved taking the partial runner piece from the single center runner and measuring its width, as well as the 'notch', then measuring the inside of the dresser to determine the length.

The original center runner used by both top drawers

The really tricky part is that the right-hand top drawer doesn't have perfect 90-degree corners - instead, it travels at a slight angle towards the sink. Due to the overall curve of the dresser front, you don't notice this when you're using that drawer, but it was certainly obvious during this reconstruction - and a major pain to deal with. With this drawer, I had to create two runners - one for the left and right underside of this drawer, and both at an angle. It's really amateur carpentry that I'm not proud of, but it works, and no one will notice it unless they take the dresser apart.

Creating the new runner

The left-hand top drawer was perfectly straight, and I got extra lucky because the original right runner for the right-hand drawer fell off the inside of the dresser. Its angle was already sized to fit the corner, but it wasn't not long enough to run entirely from back to front, so I attached it to an 'extender' piece rather than having to a new runner entirely from scratch.

Right drawer runners. See the 'notch' on the right side?

Left drawer runners

And that's pretty much it for now. Right now I'm putting on several coats of clear satin polyeurethane to protect it from the water, and I need to take off the hardware and paint it silver/chrome instead of gold (to match the forthcoming bathroom fixtures). I'll also have to rework the middle and bottom drawer, but that will have to wait until the pipes are installed and I see how much room I have to work with...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Converting an Old Dresser into a Bathroom Vanity

Although the clawfoot tub was refinished last week (and looks good!), there’s still the matter of getting the sink ready to go. I’ll tackle that in today’s post - and probably next week’s as well, since this project is a bit more technical than I’m used to. In order to save some money while keeping within our design sense, we opted not to purchase a ready-to-install bathroom vanity, but instead bought a separate sink and dresser in order to create our own. The sink is a Kohler model (Bryant WhiteDrop-In Oval Bathroom Sink with Overflow, from Lowe's), and the vanity was just one that Liz found on Craigslist up in Wisconsin and so – as with the tub and tile - required a special extra-long trip to acquire it.

 The actual installation of the sink was fairly straightforward, fortunately. That simply involved cutting out the paper template (which came with the sink) and using blue painter’s tape to secure it to the top – after some very careful measuring to ensure it was centered. Next, I penciled a line around the template to show where I’d have to cut.

After removing the template, I drilled three adjacent holes just within the line, creating a single thin oval that was large enough for the blade of my jigsaw. If you look closely, you may be able to tell that, while cutting, I got a little overconfident and accidentally brought the blade outside of the pencil line. I soon realized my mistake and got it back on track, though – and I didn’t go so far outside the line that the sink doesn’t still cover the extra cut. In the end, installing the sink was quite easy.

The tricky part is – and will be – the drawers. I want to lose as little drawer space as possible, and just removing the insides and gluing on the faceplate doesn’t work for me. Instead, I wanted to cut out the drawers so they move around the sink and pipes. For the top drawers, I removed the bottom, back, and the side closest to the sink. After cutting and resizing the back and side, then cutting and resizing the bottom, and a great deal of frustrated nailing, I had two top drawers that would fit around the sink. 

I’d hoped not to have to put any nail holes in the faceplate, but my carpentry skills just aren’t professional enough that I could secure the sides without doing so. I used small nails, though, and sunk the holes below the surface, so an application of wood filler or putty should make those nearly invisible.

 Another problem was that both top drawers used the same center runner (which I severed when cutting out the sink hole),  so I’ll need to craft and install two new wooden runners (one for the inner side of each top drawer). 

Both drawers used one runner. Now I need two new ones.

The lower drawers only have runners on the sides, so I just have to make sure those are secure – at least one is not – rather than create new ones. As for their insides, I’m going to wait and tackle the lower drawers after the plumbing is installed, so I’ll know just how much to cut out. Unfortunately, their bottoms are so warped that they don’t slide out easily, so I’m pretty sure I’m also going to have to replace those as well – probably with half-inch plywood. Fingers crossed that the lower drawers won’t be nearly as much trouble as the two above!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Downstairs Bathroom - Fan and Window Frame

We're expecting the tub guys to show up and refinish the clawfoot tub this week, so that's exciting! We're really looking forward to getting that out of the way. Today, though, I wanted to show you some minor items that are finally finished.

As I mentioned a while ago, the window frame on the south wall had been butchered by some previous owners - apparently just so they could get the bathroom vanity as close as possible to the wall. Here's what we found when we took it out:


Fortunately, we have a good handyman (another shoutout to Bill's Poor Man Repair, in Zion IL) who was able to fill the gaps with some wood and putty. Afterwards, I stained all the window frames to match what's elsewhere in the house. The stain on and around the new pieces still needs to be touched up a little, but compared to what was there before, I'm very pleased! Even though this window will mostly be obscured by the tub and/or shower curtain, it was really important to me to have this fixed.


Once the fan had been installed and the holes filled, I also painted the walls and ceiling (with Valspar paint-and-primer semi-gloss white), so that's finished, too!


You'll notice that the switches for this unit are very high on the wall! That's because these controls are specifically to change the unit from exhaust fan/light to heater (the actual on/off switch is lower on the wall where you'd expect it to be). The heater is intended for when the temperature drops to near-zero or sub-zero temps, and doesn't need to be turned on any other time. Having these special switches higher up on the wall keeps them out of the way of the casual user or curious child. I still have to install the tile around the special switches, but that will be easy.


My main goal was to finish the area around the bathtub, so once the tub is refinished (hopefully 'today' - the day this post appears) it can stay in place and I won't have to worry about moving it or working around it. I didn't quite make my deadline - I still have to touch up the window frame and then clear-coat it with a satin polyurethane - but I can cover the tub in plastic and then stand inside it to do those little jobs.

The next big job that I'll have to tackle is to cut a hole in the top of the vanity dresser we bought on Craigslist and drop in the sink - and reshape/resize the drawers so we can still use them. The vanity will go next to the toilet (we finally have a downstairs toilet again!):

Okay, that's it for this week. I hope next week I'll at least be able to show you the tub refinished and in place. I'm not sure if I'll be able to work on the vanity this weekend. We'll see how it goes...