Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Laundry Room Half Bath Project – or how a Plumbing Project Touched Every Room in the Retro Ranch (and almost every exterior wall too!)

Episode V: The Plumbing Strikes Back!

When last we spoke dear readers, the laundry room had been gutted (except for the old water heater) and the initial framing had been completed. It was time for the major part of the job to begin – the plumbing. Beth and I came to realize at about this time that even though we referred to this as the laundry room / half bath project, it was really a plumbing project that happened to include a laundry room remodel. The plumbers arrived and the first thing to get moved was the water heater from its corner in the laundry room to its eventual replacement’s home in the garage next to the furnace. So we would have hot water during the project, temporary lines were run through the wall of the laundry room into the garage. The floor was then cut out where the water heater had been, becoming the access to the crawlspace for all of the plumbing work. 

New supply lines were run to the bathrooms that were renovated in the summer of 2017. New lines were also run to both, nonfunctioning hose bibs on the south end of the house along with the wet bar in our fabulous living room. This is when and where the first “hiccups” occurred. Properly replacing the nonfunctioning hose bibs on the south side of the house meant removing a section of drywall (approx. 2’ x 2’) in both the guest and master bedrooms. It also meant cutting a similar size hole in the hall for the wet bar upgrades. 

The decision was made – if we are going to do this we are going to do it right. More drywall repair, sanding and painting here we come! We located a hose bib on the north side of the house near the laundry room. This centrally located spigot allowed us to remove the abandoned bib in the north east corner of the garage, the stand-up hose bib that had replaced it and both the hot and cold spigots on the patio (our 2017 shower facility.) This work effectively took care of all of the exterior plumbing issues in one fell swoop! 

Inside, new lines were run to the kitchen sink and dishwasher as well as the line for an icemaker (in our refrigerator of the future). The faucet in our kitchen sink could be described as quirky (which is a polite way of saying annoying). The single lever faucet’s hot / cold function was not centered and the spray attachment worked with varying pressure levels of its own, random discretion. There were times I felt it was possessed as its change in pressure meant you got an unexpected shower at the kitchen sink. Neither Beth nor I are sorry that its new home is a landfill. Sometimes it’s the little things, daily touch points that, while you get accustomed to them, are a perpetual source of aggravation. 

Lastly, and almost most importantly, the relocated lines for the new / stacked washer and dryer, its drain, and the lines for the toilet and sink in the half bath along with the lines for the wash tub in the garage were roughed in. Phew! By the way, this meant additional sections of drywall were cut out in the laundry room area. (Ted, the drywall guy, would have his work cut out for him.) Oregon Plumbing and Pump sent out a crew to remove the old galvanized pipes. The sounds of a sawzall in the crawlspace reverberated through the house for hours that Friday. This would be all for the plumbers until it was time to install the new water heater and do the finish plumbing work in the coming weeks. A City of Portland plumbing inspection was also required. 

When I mentioned that the old galvanized pipes were rusted and clogged almost to the point of not allowing water through them I don’t feel I was exaggerating. The following photos show one of the pipes and an aerator from one of the new (2017) bathroom faucets. And to think we washed our clothes, brushed our teeth, showered and drank that water. Yum! (Note I have since replaced the aerators but waited until the new water heater was installed.) 

Coming soon, Episode 6 – The Revenge of Electrical / HVAC and Drywall Subs!

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Laundry Room Half Bath Project – or how a Plumbing Project Touched Every Room in the Retro Ranch (and almost every exterior wall too!)

Episode IV: A New Laundry Room

When we moved into the Retro Ranch a little more than two years ago we knew that basically every part of the house’s infrastructure needed updating or complete replacement. Our loyal readers know of a new furnace, electrical upgrades, complete bathroom replacements, chimney rebuilds, tuckpointing, insulation, painting, painting and more painting. Well go grab a beverage of your choice and be prepared to be entertained as we tell you about the last of the major infrastructure projects that included all of the previously mentioned improvements and much, much more! 

The Retro Ranch’s plumbing was galvanized steel pipe which was long past its useful life, rusted and clogged almost to the point of not allowing water through it. The tired water heater was chained in a small enclosure in the laundry room (which is off the dining room and leading into the garage) that had been modified by a free-range saw of some sort. Next to the water heater was a laundry tub that was also past its glory days. The placement of the door into the garage always seemed to conflict with the front loading washer and dryer or whoever’s posterior happened to be doing laundry when the garage door was opened. Note that it was usually my posterior - I am lovingly known as the laundry fairy by Beth.

I discussed with Beth that I thought a half bath would be useful and improve the Ranch’s long-term resale value (3-bedroom, 2 ½ bath). We decided placing a new water heater in the garage next to the furnace would be a much better use of space and minimally impact our very large garage. Beth, with her creative ability and research skills, laid out a floor plan that maximized what a newly configured laundry room space could deliver. She was able to design a half bath that met code by having the smallest sink this side of Europe.

We received an estimate for the project in the spring from the contractors with whom we have entrusted the restoration of the Retro Ranch, Northwest Home Concierge (NWHC). While Gordon and Troy of NWHC were booked through most of the year, they promised we would be their last job of the year. When we contacted the plumber that estimated replacing the water supply lines in the house and completing the rough-ins for the project in late 2017, we learned they already had so much plumbing work they couldn’t accept the job in 2018...Well sh*t! After some back and forth they agreed to slip us in at the same time the NWHC crew was completing other work. In retrospect, with everything involved with the project it probably worked out better doing them together.

So let me catch you up on the project, as it was originally envisioned:
   • Replace all of the galvanized water supply lines in the house with pex pipes 
   • Replace and relocate the water heater to the garage 
   • Reconfigure the laundry room to include a half bath
   • Reposition the door into the garage
   • Re-plumb and revent for a stackable washer and dryer 

Seems fairly straightforward you say. So how does this affect every room and exterior wall and include all of the aforementioned previous infrastructure projects you ask? Allow me to explain the term “scope creep”. Scope creep is like the unlimited salad bar at restaurants we prefer not to go to. You head up for some greens, a few tomatoes, bacon bits and dressing and come back with plate that includes those goodies and cottage cheese, croutons, shredded cheese, crackers, a cup of soup and some bread and butter, and it’s too late to cancel your entrĂ©e! So what got added to the project you ask? 

   • Plumbing, if we are replacing all of the supply lines let’s do the full Monty 
       o Replace all of the exterior, non-functioning hose bibs 
       o Remove the stand-up hose bib in the east corner of the house, remove the hose bibs on the patio, remove the abandoned hose bib in the garage 
       o Replace the kitchen sink faucet 
       o Add the line for an ice maker (when we remodel/restore the kitchen in 2019) 
       o Add a laundry sink in the garage 
   • Electric – add a junction box to install a ceiling fan on the patio 
   • Tuckpointing – some additional window sill repair 
   • Wood trim and floor molding – but more on that later. 
   • Replace the kitchen and dining room floors – quoted but not added at this time
And more was added on as the project progressed. With a completion date of December 18th and Beth and I in St. Louis and Chicago celebrating Doris’ 90th birthday, the work began on October 29th.  Unlike the bathroom project of 2017, there wasn’t a shower on the patio, a porta-potty on the driveway or a wall torn down in the second bedroom (or at least not yet.) The “first world” inconvenience would only be the loss of our washer and dryer for the duration of the project. Can you say laundromats and taking our laundry to the condo in Astoria for washing?

The first week’s work included moving the washer and dryer to the garage, relocating the door between the garage and laundry room, demolishing the old cabinets, framing in the ½ bath and pocket door and replacing the old floor with new plywood decking. The garage was also now full of supplies, materials, tools and debris but there was no longer room for the Mini. At long last the project is underway and the hiccups we were about to encounter weren’t in sight – yet.