Visitors Are Welcomed

It finally arrived.  My long-awaited front door was delivered to the shop for painting/staining on February 28.  I huge thanks goes to Anna Petersen, the young lady that welded my basement sink stand for allowing me to use her studio.  Due to the delay, the door arrived during very cold temps, too cold for my painter, Britt Sang to work on the door in his house shop.  Due to the size of the door he wasn’t able to get it into his basement where he normally works on door projects.  He was not able to warm his garage to a temp needed for painting and staining, so I was forced to either find a new painter or a place for him to work.  Since he was referred to me by Hyde Park Lumber and they were now paying for his services as part of my reparations, I called Anna who did not hesitate to say yes.

Hyde Park Lumber arrived promptly at 10am.  The same two men that delivered the first door brought the new and they nervously removed the cover in anticipation of my reaction. It was beautiful.  It had the right sidelights and with a quick measurement was the right size.  Massive relief.  Britt and his partner Bernie got busy right away.  Initially Britt told me it would take him 10 days to paint and stain the door, but Bernie tackling the stain side and him the painted they were able to have it done in a week.  Unfortunately for me I was scheduled to be in New Orleans with a client the first week of March, so it was decided that I would not schedule the install until I returned, which gave the paint and stain extra time to cure.

I had Doug Routt owner of Sentry Doors scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, although we didn’t confirm until Monday the 11th to ensure the weather would cooperate and it did.  That gave me two days to find and clean up the inside trim pieces from the original door.  The top trim, between the door and transom, was missing when I purchased the house, but thankfully I had a suitable replacement from all the saved trim from doors that were removed during demo and not part of the rebuild.  I also cleaned up the transom, all using my tried and true denatured alcohol and Restor-A-Finish process.

Doug’s installer Eddie and his wife Jen (this husband and wife team did not disappoint like the Roland Hardwood couple) picked the door up from Anna’s shop and brought it to my house.  As fate would have it, Duke Energy was working on power lines in the area and had turned off power to my side of Camp Washington.  He was able to remove the original trim (the goal was to keep it in tact as it would be impossible to find new which match the trim around the transom), but he soon reached a point where he needed power to run his tools to cut out the old door.  Fortunately I had a battery-powered reciprocating saw he was able to use until the battery died.  At that point I left to retrieve my generator from my storage locker.  Power was restored before I returned and thankfully Jen took pictures of this momentous occasion in my absence.

I returned in time to see the sidelights and frame being carried from the truck.  Eddie suggested that I should work to remove some of the paint built up on the trim he removed, so I turned my attention to that in between taking more pictures.  I love seeing the handwriting from the mill on the back of these old pieces of wood.

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20190315_124848I had 16 weeks to pick out and order the lockset for my door.  Incredibly I forgot and Monday was forced to do a Google search to see if a can find one locally.  I wanted something similar to the original handle and a higher quality than what I could find at Home Depot and Lowes.   I found Bona Decorative Hardware located in Oakley.  What an awesome display of cabinet and door hardware they had among other items like fire place inserts and faucets.  If I am fortunate to restore another old house, this will be my go to place.  They are family owned and operated and what struck my eye when I first saw their website were the words “architectural hardware”.  I had no doubts that I would find something, the more pressing question was could I get it in two days.

Fortunately they had a vendor, Emtek Assa Abloy, located in CA that shipped same day if ordered by noon.  Their product line was exactly what I was looking for, actually more than I was looking for as I was able to customize the lockset and select my inside and outside pieces.  I selected their Nashville set, which offered 8 different finishes, 10 different lever options, and 19 different knob options.  Since I have the original 8 point glass knobs throughout the house I selected a 8 point glass knob for the inside.  All in oil rubbed bronze to match my outside lights.  They arrived Wednesday morning and I was able to pick up while Eddie and Jen took a lunch break.

With the time lost with the power outage, Eddie had to return on the next day to finish putting the trim back on.  That gave me extra time to apply stripper on the outside pieces to remove more than what scrapping could remove.  I got down to either the wood or original white color after removing gray, dark green, and yellow layers.  The original inside pieces as a stand alone looked darker than the door, but once attached to the door it made the door look like it had been there forever.  It proves the weeks I took removing trim prior to demo was worth the effort.  I love the front door and I’m so glad I held firm on the decision to maintain the 40″ opening and wood.

The Rest of the Story

With the tub reglazed and moving into a house without a functioning kitchen or bathroom it was time to crack the whip on the 1st floor bath.  I had to resume working on the tile around the tub so that I could at least take baths.

Since a few days had gone from when I started the walls, when I went to resume I quickly noticed that the tiles on the long wall were not lining up with the shower head wall.  The bottom row is the only row I had to cut to size and at some point I did not pay close enough attention to keep them aligned.  The American Olean 4×4 had built in spacers, loved that about them, but I knew if I didn’t correct alignment by the time I got to the top my chair rail tile wouldn’t line up.  Thankfully I had bought 1/8″ spacers, so I used them to slightly widen the space until the corners lined up again; four rows with spacers meant I was 1/2″ off.  So fortunate to catch that when I did.

The first real challenge I had was the soap niche.  I had never done one, but YouTube and a few visits to look at tile shop displays was all I needed to feel comfortable with moving forward.  Planning the location of a soap niche is very important.  I purchased pre-fabricated soap boxes for both showers, which had to be screwed to the joist before the cement board.  I measured up approx 22″ from the tub, which is where I thought five, whole pieces of the 4×4 plus the 2×6 bullnose border would fit.  Missed it!

First, the tile actually measured 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ and I didn’t know before I started that the bottom row would not be a whole piece, so I actually needed a 3″ wide border.  I was stymied for a couple of days until I had another one of my MacGyver visions.  I had initially bought the wrong cove base, but hadn’t returned it yet.  It was 4×6 with a bullnose, so I cut it down to the 3″ I needed.  The mitered corners were easier to measure and cut than I thought they’d be.  10 days after moving in I took my first bath; no more inconveniencing friends and former neighbors.

Once I got passed the soap niche and tub area I turned my focus back to the floor.  I had grouted the white area, but not the black as I wanted to do it with the soap niche.  In hindsight I should have chosen a neutral grout color, like gray, and used it on the floors 20181225_175135and walls, but noooooo my mind/vision was fixed on black on black, white on white.  Before I could apply the black I had to use my Dremel tool to clean out the grooves where the white grout had gotten into the wrong areas.  I was on my hands and knees for hours.  After getting all the areas cleaned out I vacuumed and applied blue painters tape around the edges in hopes that would be enough to stop the black grout from bleeding into the white areas.  Theory and reality did not match on this occasion.  When I pulled off the tape the “rug affect” looked like a hot mess and I cursed myself for thinking I could pull that off.  At least the soap niche turned out alright.

Fixing the bleed over was more hours on my hands and knees using my Dremel tool to clean out the black.  In some areas I had to mix more white grout to touch up, but amazingly, given my amateur status, the “rug affect” was a success and I could turn my attention to finishing the rest of the walls.  All tile work was completed on January 8, over three months from the day I started.

My birthday gift to myself was going to be the completion of the bathroom by installing the toilet and sink.  Unfortunately my Signature Hardware hardware fixtures, purchased in Spring of 2018 did not allow that to happen.

I started with the sink.  I really wanted a console sink, but I decided to be prudent given the master bath extravagance and save the $400.  I got the pedestal base in place and set the sink on top and placed it against the wall.  It did not lay flush.  I thought for sure it was my tile job, so I pulled out my leveler and it was not the wall.  The sink was defective; there was a hump in the middle.

I turned my sites to the toilet only to find that one of the two tank bolts were missing.  I was PO’d.  So much for that birthday gift.  I called Signature Hardware, had to send them 20190112_193101the pictures and video above to prove the sink was defective, but once received they agreed to replace the sink.  Fortunately for me I live about 15 minutes from their warehouse, so I didn’t have to wait for delivery.  I returned it myself and was told they had to open four boxes before they found one that was flat across the back.  Apparently they had gotten a bad batch from their manufacturer.  I got a new pack of tank bolts too.  This cost me another week.  When I was able to work on the bath again I started with the toilet.  Easy, peasy, I had it connected in about 30 minutes, flushed it once all was well.  Back to the sink.  I had to connect all the faucets parts first and as I was working on that, the toilet started to run.  Long story shortened they sold me a toilet that had been returned/defective.  That was why there was only one bolt originally.

I am now beyond PO’d.  My track record with my Signature Hardware fixtures up to that point was not good.  I had already dealt with two bad drains, two bad aerators, the sink, missing bolts, and now a defective toilet.  There customer service with each call was stellar, they always replaced parts quickly and without question.  For my inconvenience with the sink they refunded me 10% of the purchase price, a whopping $21.99.  In a previous blog I had talked about ordering sink faucets with the wrong reach that they would not let me return, so needless to say I wanted a manager to explain how I got a returned toilet.  I wasn’t overly irrate, but I listed all the issues I have been having with their products and shared I had never had problems like these when purchasing from Home Depot or Lowes and that they were supposed to have a high end product.  I told him I regretted ever buying from them and that I feared connecting the fixtures in the master shower (the only items of theirs left to install – 10.16.19 update the master shower system is a complete disaster).

He asked me what he could do to make me happy, as my experiences weren’t a true reflection of their workmanship and quality.  He opened the door and I burst through it.  I asked for the console sink I really wanted and he gave it too me with no hesitation.  I’d rather have things work right out the box as the time lost, translates to money lost, and the value of the console doesn’t equate.  It took another two weeks before my schedule allowed me to put everything in, but on February 9th I had a fully functioning bath.

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The towel rod, and toilet paper dispenser are American Standard TR Collection and the sink and shower faucets are American Standard Hampton Collection all ordered from  The original tub filler that came with the shower set I had to swap out for a longer one, Delta 7″, as when I filled the tub about half of the stream went directly into the overflow due to its cup design.  That also came from  Next to Amazon that is my favorite online store to shop for my house.

Trying to be a more positive person is something I’m seeking on this new journey, so that is the inspiration behind my decor.  It is a tribute to all the positive people that have come into life keeping me sane and motivating throughout this restoration journey.  The wall paper that line the shelves in the closet and the back of the medicine cabinet is called Dream Big from  The shower curtain, filled with motivational quotes and hooks, double sided so curtain and liner don’t share a hook, were great finds from Amazon.  My other accessories: soap dispenser and trash can came from Bed, Bath, while the paper hand towel dispenser  and linen like paper towels came from Amazon.  All complimenting my black and white color scheme.  I may have mentioned this item in an earlier blog about the electric, but I absolutely love my exhaust fan/light.  Purchased from the fan comes on automatically whenever it senses humidity in the room.

I still need to touch up some areas with paint, hang the doors and medicine cabinet, but the functionality is complete.  Of all the things I’ve done in this house, I think I’m most proud of this bathroom.  My goal was to restore it to its original look and I think I accomplished that.  I see the flaws, but I also marvel every time I walk in it amazed by what I accomplished with no assistance.  I actually tell myself I’ve done good.  I’m giddy, excited, to get the medicine cabinet complete.  It will be an inspired by DIY/HGTV project with salvage material.  Check back often to see the COMPLETELY restored bathroom.


And Then There Were Two

20190301_111545I was able to remove the yellow electrical permit from my front window today.  I passed the electrical inspection.  Of all the things my father said we could tackle, this was the one I had most doubt.  I have a healthy fear of electrocution and electrical fires.  My house had already survived one fire in its past, so I most certainly didn’t want to cause another.

HOWEVER, although physically taxing (pulling stiff wire through small holes above your head is no joke) I will never doubt my ability to tackle a project like this again.  I saved $1000s by doing the work myself and learned a great deal thanks to my father and my resident licensed electrician that stepped in when needed, Paul McGhee.