Narrow closet becomes open shelving

One of the changes I wanted in the kids bathroom was getting rid of the narrow storage closet that was located in the toilet and bath area. The closet was not wide enough to fit a laundry basket inside and was so deep that you lost stuff in the back. Another issue was the door competed with the entry door and made for a totally awkward, and essentially, useless space.

I asked hubby to convert it to open shelving with a cabinet underneath. We removed all the inside shelving, and exterior moulding trim. The depth of the closet was reduced by about 8-10 inches and the height was brought down about 10 inches. We went with a white interior instead of the yellow on the walls to make it look bigger. This was done with 2×4’s nailed into the existing wall which were covered with drywall, plaster and paint.

I put an unfinished base cabinet from Lowes (a closeout) below which gave me a smaller door with a drawer. It was prepainted before installing to save some time  and is the same white as the rest of the moulding. The trim was framed out in the same trim as the wall’s board and batten. We went with a white interior instead of the yellow on the walls to make it look bigger.

The speckle gray counter top (Flint Crystal pattern of laminate) was a scrap from our laminate counter installed over the vanity and was installed with laminate glue onto the old shelf which was re-cut. 

Hubby installed a new outlet inside the closet; electricity was pulled from an outlet in the same wall which opens on the vanity side. This allows me to put in a night light (shade is really a lime green to match towels) so you can use the bathroom without turning all the lights on.

Changing the interior size made the space more visually congruent – this size change probably made the biggest difference so take the risk even if you loose a bit of closet space.

The brush nickel cup pull, silver and porcelian door pull and silver and porcelian towel holder all coordinate and our continued in the theme of the white and chrome lighting fixtures.

The change makes a big difference and helps the toilet and bath area of the bathroom feel far more open. It will also be far more useful without the possiblity of someone walking into an extra door!

Replacing a ceiling vent (and dealing with holes)

In the kids bathroom the original ceiling fan had a light plastic cover that had yellowed and the fan was noisy to boot. We replaced it with a new, quieter vent-only unit.  However, changing this vent unit left us with a big problem – a hole in fact. The old unit was twice as big and wider then the new unit.

You might remember that the only light in the toilet area was from this fan ceiling unit which made the toilet area look like this when it was on:

Scary dark tunnel!

We took the light wire from the fan and used it for a wall sconce, painted the walls yellow, put in white board and batten moulding on the wall, and installed a white porcelian floor so it now looks like this:

Sunshine makes things better!

This bathroom has no windows and is in the center of the upstairs. It has a heat vent shaft that runs under the length of the floor and in winter is usually very cozy with this unintential, radiant heat. For this reason, we decided to forgo putting in a heater in the ceiling unit (and it would have complicated the wiring).

The new fan unit was installed. Originally, hubby was going with drywall to fill in the void between old and new but I nixed that idea. I didn’t think we could get it looking good without calling in a drywall expert and I’m doing this on a budget.

hole difference

Instead we used a piece of the wall board – a scrap from doing the board and batten. It was cut to fit with a hole in the center for the fan cover and installed with screws which will be concealed by the vent cover.

It was then trimmed out with 1×2, nail holes filled with wood putty and sanded smooth, and painted to match the board and batten wall color.

BTW the ceiling vent fan cannot be seen when walking into the bathroom unless you are a child or an adult who is bending over. I had to squat to take these photos. It will be more noticeable once you enter the toilet/bath area.

Another non-glamourous, but necessary project crossed off the Honey-Do list!

Project: Board and Batten interior walls

Board and Batten seems to be really hot right now in decorating. Board and Batten consists of horizontal and vertical boards in an evenly spaced pattern. There are several blogs with instructions on how to do it so I won’t go into a lot of great detail here except for some additional tips and just a general summary.

Board and Batten goes well with the vintage styled floor tile

If your walls are smooth you won’t need a wall board, but if they are textured (ours were) you will need a wall board to achieve the smooth surface look which is essential. We bought primed composite board.

For horizontals, we selected primed MDF 1×4’s. Buying primed boards helped us cut down on the amount of painting needed by at least 2, maybe 4 coats.

Our vertical boards were also 1×4 but you could have gone with a 1×3 or a 1×2, depending on the look you wanted. To experiment, we laid out the boards on the aisle floor at Lowes in a grid pattern. I went chunkier with all the same size asI didn’t want it competiting with the floor grout.

Because we picked 1×4’s for verticals and horizontals, the back of the verticals were reduced in thickness by using a table saw. This way when they sat on top of the baseboard all surfaces would be level.

Vertical on baseboard

If the verticals are not thinner then the baseboard, when placed on top of the wallboard they will project (which I think is sloppy). If you don’t have a table saw, and don’t want the verticals projecting then pick a thicker baseboard or thinner verticals.

Wall boards are installed first. Adhesive caulk was placed on the back of the board before being mounted to the wall. Drywall screws were installed in areas that would later be covered by other boards and we were sure to hit some studs when mounting.

When you measure out the placement of the verticals in your pre-planning you can use a stud finder to locate studs and grid out your design before nailing.

Toilet area with Board and Batten

Do this project with a compressor and nail gun. We did it with nail and hammer and it took a lot longer and we had larger nails holes to cover. BTW Lowes has a compressor and nail gun for $59 and Home Depot one for $69 for Black Friday.

Vertical boards installed in areas with no stud, need adhesive caulk applied to the back before being mounted. Additional nails just keep it in place until the glue dries completely.

A 1×2 is placed across the top of the board and batten. Use a line of wood glue and then nail into place. A piece of cove moulding is placed underneath for more decoration.

Moulding, trim and boards in our project had to be worked around light switches and the toilet hook up. Here we angled the end corner to make it safer in the bathroom:

After you fill in the nail holes with wood putty, and it dries, sand smooth. Everything was painted a bright white twice, then a paintable (white) caulking was applied in the board seams. Paint again.

To make painting go faster buy primed materials, paint a coat on the materials before installing, use a 2 inch sash brush to cut in on the edges, and a cabinet foam roller on a pole to save your back (shown here without the roller). Using a long handle will really save your back and speed things up!

With white, board and batten you can go with a vibrant wall color such as this pretty powerful yellow. The white offset this bright color and makes the room appear more white (photos are showing a bit more yellow then in reality).

View as you exit the bath

While it took longer then expected (doesn’t it always?) we both think we will be using this idea in our Master Bedroom to provide more drama on the wall behind the bed. But next time we’ll have a nail gun!

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving! ~ ~

Project: bathroom vanity with laminate over laminate

The kids bathroom in our house is one of three baths, used (of course) by our two teens (13 and 17 year old). While we are updating to sell the house in a year, this isn’t a make-or-break bathroom that needs to be over the top, it does need to be clean and updated throughout.

One part of the up-modeling is the counter. This bath originally had a blue laminate countertop that we put in 14 years ago when we built the house. It’s way overdue for that to go.

I first considered granite ($800), and then buying a premade vanity countertop with laminate ($225), but in an effort to keep cutting costs with DIY and sweat labor, decided to buy a sheet of laminate (Formica Flint Crystal) from Lowes. Wow! I picked it up from my local Lowes store within three days. It came rolled up in a box and easily fit in my hatchback.

I picked this color and pattern for several reasons. A similar pattern in Corian is at a local chain of gas stations as their counter (TIP! ~ commercial spaces often give a lot of good design ideas). I’ve noticed that it doesn’t show spills or stains easily and that it is a great neutral color scheme.

Gray is very big in design at this time, and with the white (cabinets and moulding), it should be a neutral color scheme appealing to buyers. TIP! ~ Gray could be paired with blue (think French), yellow, fire-engine red, or a neon color such as hot pink, lime green or lemon yellow.

Before laying your laminate, do some research first. It will make the job go easier with fewer mistakes. It’s not that laminate is hard to lay but a mistake or a scratch means re-doing the job and who wants that?? The Cabinetry Expert channel at Youtube has some very good DIY laminate tips:

Cutting Laminate with hand tools

Using a Table Saw to cut Laminate (if using this method, it is ESSENTIAL that your blade be new and sharp; anything dull will cause damage to the laminate. Laminate lays good side up with a table saw.)

Applying Contact Cement Glue (btw I would go with the glue and roller over the spray – and this stuff STINKS!)

If you need a file, he has directions on how to do this properly.

Basic instructions on how to laminate a kitchen countertop from start to finish.

There are some other great videos out there:

From start to finish – building the laminate countertop with an undermount sink. This video shows a beveled edge to the countertop that has been pre-made and just needed to be attached.

Laying over existing laminate – hits all the high points with a bulleted slideshow.

Making your own beveled edge. We couldn’t remove the countertop without damaging it but this would have been the preferred method if we could have (adapted for home materials).

Explanation about Router bits and how to use them.

Okay, so let’s move on to how we did our project. First thing we shut off the water and removed the existing sinks and faucets and plugged the open pipe (to prevent wood debris getting in).

Older houses may not have shutoffs at the sink – you may have to shut off at the curb. If you are going to all this time and trouble, I would recommend putting in sink cut off valves when you re-install the sinks. It provides some real future insurance against disasters such as frozen pipes and leaks.

We pulled off the back and side splashes and cleaned the counter top. If doing a kitchen counter with grease residue, use thinner. We wanted to remove the counter completely but it turned out the builder put it in pretty tight! So in an effort to save it, we left it in place but this meant the project took longer and had to be adapted.

The existing countertop surface is sanded using my electric Mouser sander and 80 grit sandpaper. It has to be roughed up for a better gluing attachment.

Before going past this point – use PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR — laminate really produces a lot of pointy and sharp debris. You could poke your eye out!

We used a circular saw and router to cut the laminate. Holding laminate sheets for cutting can be tricky, especially if they are large, due to their flex. Use sawhorses, boards, clamps, and a helper to support it.

We shortened the length with a circular saw; to minimize splintering, have the good side down when using a circular saw (if using a table saw, good side should be up). The pencil line is slightly off – cutting it a bit wider this first pass allowed room for error.

The Router (with a Straight Bit) came back to get a closer, cleaner edge. When using the Router some things to keep in mind: fatter blades cut slower and chops off more; and thinner blades cut faster.

TIP! ~ The Router must be moved around the OUTSIDE of a rectangle (or circle) on a COUNTERCLOCKWISE movement.

Photo shows a first cut with the Router and a visual verification we are on the right line (look upper left corner).

Clamps, straight edge and boards provide a guide and something to push against when using the Router.

If the Router is a bit off the line or too rough, and you have room to cut closer, make a second pass with the Router. If the roughness is slight then use a hand file to make smooth.

BTW the countertop piece was deliberately cut a little longer in depth so AFTER IT IS PLACED, the Router can do a final trim, getting it a perfectly against the front facing. Trying to cut this exactly before installion wouldn’t give as fine an edge.

TIP! ~ You can always trim back but you can’t add on after you cut 😛

When cutting the long leg, make sure your laminate is supported both at front, back and sides. The cut edge will become the front of the counter and it is marked with pencil and a piece of tape as such. This will help when we lay it on top of the existing counter and mark the holes for the sink.

Next, cuts are done on the long scrap piece. This piece will become the front edge.

The counter front has glue (contact cement) put on using a foam paint applicater. The back of the laminate is also brushed with glue. Both pieces are allowed to dry per the instructions (about 15-20 minutes) before being placed together. When the glue sides touch, it will form a chemical bond that will NOT BE MOVEABLE!

Contact cement is strong smelling; be aware of the need for ventiliation.

Note how the piece is actually taller then the eventual height. This allows it to be cut with the 45 degree ANGLED Router bit and gives a nice beveled edge. Before using the Router to trim it, rub the surface with a block of wax or candle. This prevents the laminate from being scratched by the Router.

The first pass of the Router left too much. We reduced the height on the bit and cut again. A final pass with a hand file trimmed it up nicely. The ends, where the Router couldn’t reach, we hand filed.

Router is used counter-clockwise

NOTE! This is the hard way of making a beveled edge. Since we didn’t remove the countertop we had to improvise. If at all possible, I would recommend removing the countertop completely and making the beveled edge the more traditional way (as shown in the above referenced video).

The counter top is ready to go on. Glue is applied to the old counter top and to the bottom of the new laminate to be placed. The blue painters tape on top of the new laminate marks the front of the laminate. No glue was placed where the sinks were marked out with pencil on the rough side of the laminate.

sticks separate the new from old laminate before laying it down

Again, a helper and some tricks (using sticks – see some of the videos listed above) can make this happen without it being a problem. Work from the center, outwards on removing the dowels and pressing it down.

Once the laminate is down, smooth it outwards to insure there are no pocket bubbles under the sheet. They sell a special J-roller for this; we used a 2×4 block wrapped in clean cardboard because this was a one-shot project. If we were laying a lot of laminate, I would have gone with the tool.

A hole is drilled in the center of the sink area (an empty cavity) to allow the Router access.

The Router (with a Flush Bit) uses the sides of the existing sink holes as a guide to cut a circle in the laminate. TIP! ~ When using a Router to cut the INSIDE of a circle or square, it needs to move CLOCKWISE.

The front edge of the countertop top is cleaned up using the 45 degree angle bit on the Router. It is traveling, left to right, which is a counter-clockwise direction.

Some paint thinner cleans up and removes any glue residue on the laminate. Sinks are re-installed and a line of white, bath caulking is put around each rim. The beveled edge that we weren’t able to cover with laminate, I will paint white next weekend. BTW the price for this project was about $60 as we owned the saws, Router, and bits needed. Cost was only the laminate and the glue.

Woohoo!!! So much nicer already!!

The backsplash will be a tile one; I just felt repeating the laminate as a backsplash would make it look cheaper. I’ll post about the backsplash install after we get the right tile ~ probably around Thanksgiving.

Project: tiling the bathroom floor

In the end, we decided to go with a small tile pattern on a connected grid 12″ x 12″, instead of the 6″or 12″ tile for the bathroom floor. The first reason was, once the 6″ and the 12″ was laid out on the floor we would have ended up with an odd cut against the wall, no matter how we arranged it. 

The next reason was this bathroom has two rooms that do not match in size. Putting larger size tile would have made the adjoining rooms look even more lopsided then they do now.

It’s a problem also because the toilet is not centered in the bathroom so when you enter the first room and look forward, the toilet is off-centered. BTW toilet location is determined by code as it must be so many inches away from the wall and so many inches away from the tub (as determined by your city).

New light in toilet area and yellow paint brightens it up

Because we are changing the floor, I always like to paint before the new floor goes in so I don’t have to worry about paint splatters and drop clothes. I paint the ceiling first, then walls and cabinery. Any electrical work (such as adding the side sconce in the toilet area) should be done before painting and tiling.  

It’s best to completely remove vinyl before proceeding; we used a mat and putty knife to remove it. If you have a lot of layers or old fashioned linoleum, they do sell a floor scraper for removal; it has a broom handle and a blade scraper on the end.

Plug the toilet drain to protect yourself from sewage vapors

The tiles are mixed thoroughly between boxing. Mixing the tile ensures, if color is different between batches, it won’t be noticeable once the floor is laid. The same (mixing wood from all boxes) should be done if you are laying wood floor.

Dry lay just means we are setting out the pattern without afixing it. Take your time here and make sure you get the layout you want.

wood block along wall is the new moulding depth

It’s also the time to make guide line marks in pencil or with a chalk line. This helps keep the tile line straight when being laid. For this project, laying the tile started from the back wall, behind the toilet. But it needs to be measured and aligned from the front entry door so the tile appears straight when entering the bathroom.

pencil grid keeps laying of tiles straight

When going through a doorway pay particular attention that tile is straight both horizontally and vertically. Because these tiles are attached to each other on a 12″ x 12″ sheet they are easier to lay and keep straight then free, individual tiles.

Dry laying helps you check alignment

Most houses don’t have perfectly straight corners. For this reason, dry lay and keep adjusting and make marks where you visually want the tile to lay. For example, we wanted the doorway to be the straight line but that meant it was a bit off from the tub (on the left) so the line was slightly adjusted to appease both area.

TIP! ~ make sure you measure by the true width of YOUR tile. Our so-called 12″ inch, square sheets actually measure at 11 3/4″.

Door way jambs have to be trimmed to fit the new height of the floor.

A Coping or hand saw used to trim out door jamb

Here’s a video showing more detail:

Professionals recommend mixing your own custom Thinset so you can increase the latex and thus the flexbility of the floor (for example if you decide to lay over plywood which can be dicey), but we couldn’t find those materials easily so went with a pre-mixed Thinset by Mapei which had added latex.

Follow your package instructions on making your Thinset and make only as much as what you can do within the drying time the product gives. Make too much and you won’t get it down before it dries. Our floor (about 50 sq. feet) used the entire 50# bag for Thinset and Grout.

Thinset is applied using a grooved trowel (link shows trowel sizes due to tile size; also check the Thinset bag directions; the type of flooring subsurface can effect groove size too). Too little and it won’t adhere – you want an even coat throughout. Too thick results in bumpy tile. It’s not as hard as it sounds – it’s like frosting a cake!

Trowel shown mixed thinset

Because we used a smaller tile, we were able to use a hand tool (nippers) for trimming tile for toilet and wall edges (wear protective eyewear when cutting tile!). For larger tiles (6″ or 12″) use a wet tile saw.

Clamps hold tile for trimming

The tile is left to dry 12-24 hours (read your Thinset directions) before grouting. Grout is applied with a tile float at a 60 degree angle. Excess grout is then removed with a slightly damp sponge. Have some buckets on hand to rinse and clean the sponge as you work through the project.

After grouting, we left the project to dry for 5 days and then I applied a protective topcoat. Without it, your grout will become dirty and change color over time.


original toilet light is on in this photo!

(tile grout still drying so some variation in color is noticeable)

Before the new toilet goes in, we are putting up Board and Batten halfway up the walls with new baseboard and trim.

Beginner Tips:

Tiling isn’t out of your reach but it does take some research and planning beforehand to have a great end product. Great website with lots of information and tips on tiling!

Definitely do some research about your specific floor and what would work best – especially if you have an older home. Size of your tile, the surface you are laying on, and type of tile (i.e. popular glass tiles take a special Thinset) effects the choices for trowels (i.e. size of teeth) and grout.

Depending on how bad the subsurface is you may even have to replace it or smooth it beforehand to get the best end result!

It’s wise to invest in some knee pads if you plan on doing any tile job. They really REALLY help!

Choose tiles for floors that are labeled FLOORS! Some tiles are only graded for use on walls.

If tiling a kitchen or bath, make sure your tile is rated for slippery, wet areas. You may be better off going with a rougher, surfaced tile in a bath area if you think the bathroom users may need  extra security under their feet when stepping out of the tub or shower. Smaller tile with more grout lines also gives additional foot security.

If cutting 6″ or 12″ tile, use a wet tile saw – NOT the small cutting machines sold at home improvement stores. A wet tile saw can be rented from tool rental companies and is well worth the investment. The cuts go faster and are very professional in appearance. If you have used a regular saw of any type they are not difficult to learn how to use (wear protective eye gear when cutting tile!).

For your first project, try to use a tile that is mounted on mesh backing or attaches a group of tiles onto one sheet (our used glue dots). It provides a straighter line, goes down faster and is easier for beginners to work with as opposed to individual 6″ or 12″ tiles. It will also not require spacers since the distance between tiles is set by the mesh backing or glue dots.

Laying tile on the diagonal can be tricky. Wait until you are more experienced before attempting it. This also seems to be going out of fashion right now.

Spend time dry laying your tile and experimenting with how it will cross the floor and where the cuts will be. When we did this project, the smaller tile was definitely more attractive in the cut placements then 6″ or 12″ tile.

Room: Ta-da the new, powder room (bathroom)!

What surprised me about this remodel is I came into it with a plan – and much of that plan was thrown out! It became important to be flexible and it’s one reason the room took longer then expected. Although the room wasn’t quite what I had originally imagined… it’s far better!

As we progressed, it became clear that some things weren’t going to work out. The cream color for the cabinets just didn’t look good with the bright blue of the walls; the bird paintings were too yellow and square for the vertical height of the wall (and were moved to the hallway outside the bathroom), the first, selected light fixture was going to be too dark for the light feeling of the room, and the dark mirror frame got changed to silver.

See the gallery of the new bathroom!


Thoughts on this room ~

For some time, I’ve felt that the height of the room (9 feet) needed to be featured. We did that with a speciality, pearl paint (Winter Blue Fox from Lowes) in a metallic silver for the ceiling, two patterns of crown moulding and a cabinet that reached all the way to the ceiling. Vertical artwork also draws your eye upwards.

Originally we had picked a stock vanity but I kept looking for a unique table that we could use instead. This became a big headache because the space was so small that most dressers (at 34-36″ were too wide) and end tables were too low. Persistence paid off when we found this table at an antiques mall in another city. Stripped, sanded, and redone in the grey to match the cabinet it is topped with Italian marble and a vessel sink.

For such a small room, it was expensive, time consuming and a pain in the neck. While I think it turned out lovely, I’ll be glad to work on some larger bathroom projects that don’t need as many changes.

Total remodel cost ($1400):

Wall finish– Lowes’ Venetian Plaster Aquamarina #67. Because we started with flat walls, one gallon did the job ($40).

Ceiling – Lowes Pearl paint (Blue Winter Fox) with crown moulding ($80).

Vanity ($120) – with marble top ($250), vessel sink ($125), and a new faucet ($150)

Overjohn cabinetextended height size with molding and wood, repainted, and new door pulls ($150).

Base Moulding – removed and replaced with larger molding ($20). Painted Chef White (from available paint)

Fixtures and extras – lighting fixture ($25), mirror ($60), towels and towel bar, toilet paper hanger, toilet bowl brush, trash can ($60).

ArtArtwork from Bed, Bath and Beyond (bought with $5 off coupons for $20 each small, $40 for the large) $120.

Toilet – The one chosen for the downstairs powder room is a space saver, quiet flush from Jacuzzi ($200).

This bathroom is now finished except for a few extra touches such as a towel bar and a soap dispenser — whew!!

Project: table to bathroom vanity 2

This is the first time we’ve tried making a bathroom vanity out of a table so I’d like to pass on some things we have learned that I have not seen on the decorating shows…

We had the Italian marble cut at the shop because the job was too small for them to come out to the house and keep the cost reasonable. You will need to know the location of the faucet and the drain hole for the sink – as well as the size. Do bring the sink, the faucet and the drain stopper with you.

The Italian marble was cheaper then the granite option because of how they cut and waste the sheet. It also needs to be stored on it’s end because it cannot support it’s own weight. If you laid it flat it would crack.

The tabletop wasn’t level – after all it was aged, so a wooden rasp was needed to take down the bulges.

It also turned out that the heavy marble was putting way too much pressure on the legs. The legs were re-glued, reinforced and the crack in one leg (from the marble weight) repaired. It was filled with wood putty.

If you are painting (not staining) any good wood filler will work to repair holes and cracks. When staining you need to match the wood product (i.e. fill with oak on oak etc…). For small holes I like to use my finger to press the wood filler in and then smooth it out. Once it dries, I’ll sand lightly with sponge block, repaint and glaze to match the rest of the piece.

We removed the rollers and put in four more supportive legs that are half hidden by the shelf. This should distribute the weight of the marble and basin evenly from top to bottom.

All the legs have new pads on them. I touched up paint and glaze on the repairs before the install.

Plumbing was extended from the wall to match the drop of the drain from the sink. Plumbing isn’t complicated but make sure you turn off the water, plug up sewage when it is open to prevent fumes, and use the products made for plumbing such as special glues and epoxys.

The table is anchored into the wall with a support at the back underside.

Silicone caulking applied in circles on the underside of the marble will afix it to the table. The marble is “rolled” down gently to prevent cracking. The backsplash is applied with silicone caulking to the wall.

The sink is installed first, attaching it with silicone caulking on the bottom, and installing it’s drain plug. The faucet is then installed and it is hooked up to the water lines.

Marble needs to be sealed as it is porous (just like granite). A commercial product is wiped on before we go to bed – and wiped off in the morning.

Thoughts on the project:

Definitely if you plan on using marble or granite, buy a table or dresser which can support such a weight.

Buy and have on hand all the plumbing equipment before you have the marble/granite cut. Don’t go by the sink hole – get the plug; and be aware that faucets do come in different sizes so don’t “guess” the size.

Do a dry run on measurements before you have anything cut.

Put the table in the bathroom, especially if the room is small, and live with it for a few days to make sure the space works for you.