>The saga of the half bath…

January 24, 2011

>We thought our first priority as a family of five moving to a house with ONE bathroom would be to install another one.  Little did we realize just how perplexing that would be…  After consulting with my #1 plumber (Dad) and learning way too much about pipe pitch and vents and low beams we still haven’t exactly figured out how to plumb the crazy thing.

The other problem is there is really no good place to put this bathroom!  I don’t want to take a chunk out of the kitchen.  I don’t want to take a chunk out of the dining room – those rooms are relatively square.  There is the office/playroom/bedroom but I don’t want to carve that up into either a giant bathroom or two smallish room with a hallway (big waste of space). 

So I am eyeballing the space under the stairs – it’s a huge space albeit long and narrow with a sloping ceiling, but space that is not well used.  I am trying to preserve a shallow closed in the office/playroom/bedroom and cut another door into the wide part of the opening.  I have visions of built ins and a place for the litter box (those cats don’t need much head room!)…

The real sticking point is I need the smallest sink I can find – pedestal or wall mounted.  I would love a tiny vanity that had a door for storage, but they all seem to be too wide.  I found this article that is very helpful
Ask This old House: Itsy Bitsy Bathroom.  Now I’ve got to go and measure things…and see how our space adds up.

Itsy Bitsy Bathroom
Default Image for ASK TOH

Q: What is the smallest size possible for a half-bath?
— Celia, By Email
A: Tom Silva replies: I’ve put half-baths, sometimes called powder rooms, in some really small spaces, including closets and under stairs. But I’ve never tried to figure out just how small I could go without upsetting the building inspector. Until now. And just so you know, the cost of fixtures or installation is not a factor in this exercise.
The two fixtures in a half-bath—a sink and a toilet—both need a certain amount of space just so you can use them comfortably. The International Residential Code (IRC) requires a minimum side-to-side clearance of 15 inches from the centerline of a toilet to the nearest wall. So the bathroom’s narrowest dimension is 30 inches. IRC also requires at least 21 inches of clearance in front of the toilet bowl. There are bowls that stick out only 20 inches from the wall, which means you need a minimum footprint of 8 ½ square feet just for the toilet.
As for the sink, a small one mounted in a corner opposite the toilet can project just 11 inches from the wall. The IRC specifies you leave at least 21 inches of space for someone to stand in front of a sink. But since you’re not likely to have more than one person in there at a time, this space can overlap with the space in front of the toilet. Total room length, therefore, could be 52 inches. If equipped with a pocket door, which doesn’t require any swinging space like a hinged door, your tiny room could occupy a very space-efficient 11 square feet.
Don’t forget about headroom. You’ll need at least 7 feet, except above the toilet, where it can be as low as 6 feet 8 inches. All of this works in theory; just be sure to check with your building department for local code requirements before you put theory into practice.


>The old house soul…

January 24, 2011

>As you read my blog do you find yourself wondering what in the world we were thinking taking on this enormous project?  You are not alone.  My husband finds himself right there with you.  This morning I found him in the basement bushwacking his way through cobwebs to insulate any bit of exterior wall he can find.  I am afraid he has become…INSULATION MAN.  He is a master at spray in GREAT STUFF and trimming the itchy stuff to fit between unevenly spaced joists.  He has even tacked the hard silver stuff to the back of the bulkhead door.

The basement is not a pleasant place.  It is filled with dankness.  Thin concrete floors that give way to dirt.  The low beams are host to a myriad of cobwebs and the strangest white petrified spiders.  Okay now I know you are dying for a photo – the stairs alone are a work of art which have settled to an odd angle which makes you feel seasick or slightly drunk.

Anyway I digress, I was called into the basement to the tune of “you have to look at this”.  This is just never a good thing by the way.  So I followed the voice, down the dim seasick stairs into the bowels of the basement where my husband is poking at a window to show me how it does not have any glass.  It actually is not a window but a wooden frame stuffed with insulation and covered with a piece of plastic (think saran wrap) and the snow is practically gleefully falling into the house…

He turned to me (did I mention his one bloodshot infected eye from dealing with 100 years of dust) and said “honey I really hate this house”….

I am not convinced that he fully shares my infatuation with old houses…he’s close but I caught him salivating over new construction lately.  I am not sure if this house might just push him over the edge.  I am not sure if I can explain it myself, either you get it or you don’t, kind of like a virus I guess…  Just a part of who you are and you can’t really change that.

>One of the reasons I live where I live…

January 24, 2011


This is the view from my bedroom window during one of our many last snowfalls. The barn belongs to my neighbor across the street and is well over 100 years old. 
There is something so peaceful about snow.  This last snow day my nine year old and I were curled up on the couch watching Harry Potter while the snow piled up outside. 
Of course this next week is supposed to be cold…we are going to the arctic tonight.  We have already gone through three tanks of oil since the end of November and now it’s going to get really cold…


Lo -11 °F

>Why carpenters hate plumbers…

January 24, 2011

>Isn’t that a great line?  Alright I lifted it from George Nash’s Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes which if you live in an old house I highly recommend getting a copy!

Anyway, to answer the question “why carpenters hate plumbers” we just have to pause a moment and take in my living room ceiling…

Can you count the number of joists that were cut through to make way for piping?  Yup, makes you wonder…  Quite a sight to behold.

>Happy New Year 2011!

January 12, 2011


2011 promises to be a year full of renovations!  We are hoping to finish the living room, add a half bath, rip out and insulate the hall way, build a barn and get to the upstairs bedroom and bath remodel.  Ambitious? Yes.  Feasible – probably not.  The barn I am sure will deplete our rapidly dwindling funds…but it will be so nice to have at least one room done!

The nine new windows finally arrived on December 30th, about a month late.  They started to get installed on New Years Day (happy birthday to me!) and are still in the process of finishing the insulating and outside trim.  I will get some pictures up soon – I am waiting for the trim!  The one we put back in the living room has a wonderful view of the sunrise each morning.  It is quite stunning actually and makes the room so much brighter.

I’d like to share with you a poem from my contributing friend, author and quasi-cousin Jen


On the first Day of Christmas my old house gave to me:

1) Some screwed up and scary wiring

2) TWO leaky radiators

3) THREE rotted windows

4) FOUR layers of wallpaper

5) FIVE ugly shrubberies

6) SIX bees nests

7) SEVEN cans of paint

8) EIGHT rotted floorboards

9) NINE thousand hex tiles

10) TEN musty cabinets

11) ELEVEN crumbling bricks

12) TWELVE months of Lowe’s Bills