Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Powder Room - Dean's Story

Phase 2 is finally over. Well, almost. 99.8% over. We still need to get custom door trim for the hall, but other than that, place a ‘check’ in the boxes next to the ‘Powder Room’ and the ‘Office Nook’. We’re due for an extended vacay—maybe until August or September—and then it’s on to the main bathroom.

The 99.8% completed powder

Phase 2 increased my limited DIY knowledge base. Phase 2 was the first time I framed a door, the first time I finished gyp board, the first time I laid tile, and the first time I hung crown molding. Phase 2 also humbled my DIY capabilities—it was the first time I framed a door, the first time I finished gyp board, the first time I laid tile, and the first time I hung crown molding.

Everything about Phase 2 was an experience for us, good or bad. But now that it is finally over, we’re happy with our accomplishments and the final product. Andi grades the projects as a B+ for the powder room and an A- for the office nook. I grade them “tear my hair out” and “a minor pain in the ass” respectively.

I noted the difficulties I had framing the door and alcove in an earlier blog. Not only did I contend with double wall and 2x3 actual stud size issues, but I learned rough framing plays a huge part in finishing walls (duh). Out-of-level studs made attaching gyp board extremely messy. Once I screwed the gyp board to the studs, the gyp rolled and dipped like the Marin headlands, which made finishing the gyp board sketchy at best.

Taping the gyp board was simple. Mudding (spreading the joint compound over the taped joints and filling the screw holes) and sanding was not so much. Applying the joint compound consistently and evenly was a skillset I barely learned, partially because the gyp board was never flat enough for an even coat of the compound and mostly because I struggled at it. And I never really mastered the “wet sand” technique so it seemed like I spent hours sanding, re-applying the compound after we over-sanded, and sanding again. So I asked Andi to do it instead. She fared better (much better) but also shared in my frustrations.

Typically architects specify gyp board finish on a rating system. Our rating system looked like this:

·      Level 1 - total crap
·      Level 2 - OK if it’s behind something or above eye level
·      Level 3 - acceptable if you squint your eyes slightly
·      Level 4 - done because I’m not doing it again
·      Level 5 - not bad; almost professional

Our gyp board finish usually fell in the 2-4 range, leaning toward Level 4. But there was a fair share of Level 5 and we pretty much got rid of all of the Level 1 areas.

Our powder room is not a rectangle—there is an alcove where the existing door frame used to reside. Although the alcove looks pretty cool now that the bathroom is finished, and gives the user a nice cozy feeling when inside, installing base molding was difficult—mostly because I routinely made incorrect measurements. In truth, installation is a simple process if you have the right tools: a miter saw, a tape measure, a pencil, some finish nails… yep, that’s about it. Unfortunately I am still an apprentice with the complicated tool called the tape measure. I poorly measured and incorrectly cut numerous lengths of base molding incorrectly and made multiple trips to the garage to re-cut new pieces.

The completed office nook.
The crown molding installation was even more exciting. In addition to struggling with the tape measure, I struggled with the compound miter saw too. Crown molding is finicky—not only do you have to set the miter angle, you have to set the bevel angle on the miter saw as well. Miter angle? Bevel angle?! Complicated. I knew the potential difficulties with crown molding going into the project so I selected a brand of crown molding that makes installation easier—Flipface. The Flipface website has step-by-step instructions on how to install their product correctly. I followed them on the whole, but not well enough to avoid some minor errors. First, I incorrectly read the Crown Angle Chart—mostly because I did know which product I actually purchased (R7048) and cut the first few pieces with the cutting angles for a different product (R5180). Once that was discovered, I cut the lengths successfully and relied on Andi to do her caulk magic to make it pretty.

The one area of the powder room project in which we succeeded completely was the budget. Our original goal, a long, long time ago, was to complete the space under the $8,000 mark (our first-time home buyer tax credit). When we started designing the project, and after we completed a few other projects, we realized that goal might be difficult since we underestimated the costs of certain materials and fixtures so we raised our budget to $10,000. We still wanted to be as frugal as we could be, but there is so much cool stuff out there that we splurged on a few things. Well, the final numbers are in… the total project cost was $8,624.21! We came in way under budget! Three snaps in the z-formation for us!

(FYI, there is a new “Budgets” link on the blog titlebar above where you can see the final costs of all of our projects to date.)