December 2: Day 19
Finally, some progress! My parents came up to visit us this weekend, and I immediately put them to work. Not in the kitchen, though, because that would be too obvious. We started out early Saturday morning with the toilet in the main bathroom.
We discovered a few days ago, when we started to tear out the ceiling in the kitchen, that our only remaining toilet was leaking. I’ve actually suspected this for a couple of months, but Chris and I were in denial: it could just need a new wax ring, or it could be that the entire floor was rotted. Easier to pretend it wasn’t a problem, right? But without a kitchen ceiling to catch the drips, we were getting toilet water on the kitchen floor.
Which meant that we couldn’t ignore it any longer. Damn.
Now, I think we’re probably capable of changing a wax ring, but I was pretty worried about opening up a can of worms that would lead to us being without a toilet for more than a few hours. Or a few days. Also, I find that house guests LOVE the possibility of having no toilet whatsoever during their stay. So I saved this project until my dad, a DIY expert, would be around to help us out and maybe speed up the process.
Luckily, for once, we found a simple problem with a simple answer. The floor was intact, and after installing a new wax ring — a project that only took about 20 minutes — the leak is fixed. So we could move on to bigger and better things. Like the torn-up kitchen.
6 years ago, we pulled up the carpet in the dining room and discovered that the floor was sagging. At the time, we fixed it by propping up the joists in the basement with temporary posts…and never actually got around to sistering in new joists.
Since these joists sit right under the load-bearing wall that we’re planning to mess with, we figured we should take the time now to fix the joists permanently. My biggest concern was that when the inspector comes in to check out our work in the kitchen, he’d see the temporary set-up in the basement and make us redo it. So Chris and Dad set to work in the basement.
While the boys worked in the basement, my mom and I kept busy with tearing up the kitchen. 2 1/2 weeks in, and we’re still not done with demolition — so I gave Mom a sledgehammer and told her to smash up the fridge nook.
I think she enjoyed it a little too much. While she hogged the sledgehammer, I went to work on the stairs.
I finished tearing out that wall right about the same time the boys finished work in the basement. Not even noon yet, and two big projects done…although neither of them provided that sense of satisfaction that comes with visible results.
But with the floor stabilized, we could start to frame out the new doorways. I took a break to make lunch for everybody, and after eating, the boys started building the temporary wall while my mom took a break from demo to walk the dogs with me. Given our limited number of tools and ladders, two people working on one project was enough. And by 4:00, Dad and Chris had the first of our two new doorways framed out.
It was only late afternoon, so we figured we had time for another project. We considered framing out the second doorway, but Mom had made sufficient progress in the fridge-nook demo that we could see another potential problem. And since framing the second doorway would have involved moving some electrical and doing a bit of really messy demo in the basement, we decided to finish ripping out the fridge nook instead.
Mom’s work exposed a wall that we wanted to remove, but the more she tore out, the more it looked like a load-bearing wall. It shouldn’t have been, since it’s only about two feet away from an exterior wall. But it certainly looked like it. We needed to rip out the ceiling to see what was really going on. So Dad took his turn in the nook…
…while I filled up garbage bag after garbage bag of some sort of cork insulation, which came pouring out of the walls.
Mmmm, tasty. Oh, and we found this wasps’ nest in our ceiling:
The good news is, it’s December, so there were no wasps. The bad news is, that wall on the left side of the fridge nook is a load-bearing wall, and there are no joists in the ceiling of the nook.
It’s bad news, of course, because that left-side wall needs to come out. We don’t want a nook; we want an open area next to the back door where we can set down our coats and bags and shoes when we come walk in the door.
So here, finally, is the can of worms I expected at the beginning of the day. How do we remove that short little wall and still support the second floor? With our brains a little fried from a long day’s work, this wasn’t a project we were willing to start. So a little after 6 p.m., we set down our tools, brushed off our shoulders, and called it a day.
Then we called for a pizza.
But we got three entire projects completed, one of which even makes me feel like we’re getting somewhere. That new door frame might not look like much…
…but it’s the first thing we’ve actually BUILT since starting this remodel almost three weeks ago. So that’s kind of a big deal.
AND we didn’t have to call a plumber or rent a port-a-potty. So I’d call this weekend a success.