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 entrée! 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.