Archive for August, 2013

Pesky Projects within a Project

Posted on August 26, 2013. Filed under: Home, Master Bath Remodel, Real World |

I had the pleasure of having my impacted wisdom teeth surgically removed in late June. I thought I had passed the point in my life where wisdom teeth would present problems. It’s a little unusual for wisdom teeth to pop up at 27 years old, don’t you think? Maybe this means I’m immature and going to live longer.

I’d rather be ironing, cleaning dirty toilets, or going to work, than to suffer the aftermath of oral surgery. But I had my mommy, husband, and great friends to help see me through it. Spoiler alert: I made it through. Thanks for all the milkshakes, ice cream, soups, Jell-O, DVDs, flowers, and books.

For you sick souls that want to see pictures of me bruised and puffy, you’re out of luck. No such things exist (at least that I’m aware of) and you’ll just have to use your imagination. I looked like a chipmunk with chapped lips. It was oh-so attractive.

While I was laid up on the couch with all the 2013 Oscar-winning movies, Pretty Little Liars, old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Dawson’s Creek, Scandal, a bunch of books, and trashy magazines (I laid on the couch for 5 days, okay?), my husband was sodding the yard and working on our bathroom.

My dad was a huge help with the wiring. Huge. Though our bathroom is pretty small, it is nice to have 2 people work at once.

This is what the bathroom looked like after the demolition:


Then Adam built a knee wall:


the plumber came, and the shower pan man.


With any home project, there are lots of surprises and small things you have to do, that you never considered. Here are some of those things for us so far in our bathroom renovation adventure.

Unexpected task #1:

Repair the subfloor in one place. It was uneven and unsupported over the duct and my handy husband fixed that.

Unexpected task #2:

Replace the old insulation

Unexpected surprise #1:

An empty bottle of corn whiskey



That might explain this random hole in the floor.


Our home builder was under the influence. Nice…

Everyone that sees it thinks they cut the hole for the toilet in the wrong place.

Back to the insulation, I replaced it while wearing my gloves, safety goggles and mask (recommended on the packaging).

Expected task:

We framed out the knee wall between the plumber’s visit and the shower pan man. This is the half wall that will separate the shower stall from the vanity like so:

half wallImage courtesy of

The placement of the knee wall took a lot of hemming and hawing, me waving my arms around to make sure I could still wash my back and shave my legs, all while making sure the shower wouldn’t be too small. Professionals we are not.

Adam used two by fours and nailed together a nice frame. Since the floor isn’t quite level, we had to shim it. We also placed tar paper underneath it for moisture protection since it would be against the shower. Then Adam secured it to the floor joists and wall studs.

Then our shower pan man came to do the base.

Expected task:

Once the base was dry, we were ready for electrical – specifically wiring our new vent fan and can light over the shower. That’s when my dad came to help. He’s an electrical engineer and knows all about this stuff.

Unexpected surprise #2:

We were sidetracked when my dear husband went into the attic to run the wire and smelled something funky. He smelled something funky after I heard high-pitched squeaking for a week. And then he saw them.

batsImage courtesy of

This is not our house, but we had bats roosting in our gable vent. BLECH! and EEEEEEE! A call to the wildlife removal people and $500 later, we’re bat and guano free. Sometimes it blows being a homeowner. Unfortunately we had to smell the guano in our master closet and bedroom for 2-3 days before the bats all went out their one-way door. Then the crew came to vacuum and disinfect.

Luckily, Adam was able to run the wire through the walls without having to go into the attic.

We purchased a new vent fan because the other one was loud and not very effective. This one is 90 CPM and a lot quieter. The vanity light was the only light in here before so we decided to install a can light over the shower and wire it to the same switch. We installed a double switch with the lights on one switch and the fan on the other. Big deal, right? It is when your switches looked like this before:


Two switches, on either side of a stud, crooked and offset. Fun times.

I would explain the wiring to you except I have no idea how to do it. Sorry.

Unexpected task #3:

Once the wiring was complete, we had to figure out how to build a shower curb because we weren’t too gung-ho about the one our shower pan guy built. I thought he put the 2 x 4’s there as a temporary curb so he could have them to build up the mud pan. At least that’s what he told me. Then when he was done, he said he screwed them into the floor, glued them together, and attached the liner to them. What? Yeah. So we had to go back and re-do it because it wasn’t up to our expectations. That’s the dilemma with home projects. You feel like you need to hire out for certain things because you’re paying an experienced professional to do it, but the only way to ensure that a job is well done is to do it yourself. Live and learn.

Basically, the curb’s dimensions were dictated by the width of the knee wall (adjacent to the curb) with cement board plus the height of the marble skirting tile we got for the sides. We wanted everything to be flush – or on the same plane.

After some diligent research, Adam decided to build the curb with a combination of bricks, mortar, lathe, and construction mud. It’s a lot more water resistant than wood – obviously. First he had to disassemble the shoddy curb the shower pan man made:


It took forever because the professional we hired stripped all the screws he used. The irony was not lost on us. You can tell how happy we are with his work, right?

First Adam laid down tarpaper, pulled the liner to the floor, used one row of bricks and mortar. He waited for the first row to set up and went back to do the second row. Once the second row had set up, he took the liner that was under the curb and guided it to the outer edge of the curb. Then he bent metal lathe over the bricks and used u-shaped nails to affix it to the mortar. Adam mixed the mud in a 5 gallon bucket and created a form with shims and 1 x 6 boards to keep the mud square, smooth, and the correct thickness. Then he filled in the form with mud, on the inside first and then on the outside. The lathe is used to give the mud something to stick to. The mud will stick to the bricks on the inside, but not to the liner we guided underneath and around on the outside. That’s where the lathe helps.

We allowed the curb to set-up for 24 hours before touching it.


Whew! God bless home renovation projects and the can of worms that accompanies them. Or in our case, the attic full of bats.

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Our Quick, yet Grand, Adventure

Posted on August 19, 2013. Filed under: Purdy Things, Travel, Wellness |

Long story short (believe me, it’s a long one), I won 2 free round-trip flights anywhere in the contiguous United States last year. We decided to go somewhere a good distance away to get the most out of our freebies:



We flew direct to Phoenix from Atlanta and arrived midday. We picked up our rental car and headed to the Hilton Squaw Peak Pointe Resort. They have a lazy river. It’s the only reason I picked them. We spent a nice relaxing afternoon by the pool, playing some miniature golf, and got ready for dinner.

We ate at the St. Francis. Guy Fieri has been there on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We figured we couldn’t go wrong. We didn’t.

Adam got a burger. I got a pig dip. It was a French dip with a lot of pork: pork loin, prosciutto, cheese. It was delicious.

The next morning we woke up early since we were still on Eastern time and spent a few hours at the pool. Then we showered and packed the car to drive up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

On the way, we saw lots of cacti, climbed up mountains, saw the beautiful Verde Valley

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and detoured up 89A, the Red Rock Scenic Highway, to see Sedona

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and Oak Creek Canyon.

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We stopped in Sedona for lunch.

It was another 2 hours or so up to the Grand Canyon. We stopped in Williams, AZ to use the facilities and it looked like the small town from Cars. It was so cute. We got on Route 66 for our bathroom break. That was exciting.

The Grand Canyon was predictably indescribable. It was my second visit to the canyon and Adam’s first, but our reactions were the same. We were awestruck.



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We stayed inside the park at Yavapai Lodge. Here’s the sunset over the canyon our first night.





We also saw a ton of elk. Tons of them. They were more common than squirrels. It was crazy.




For our second day at the canyon, we hiked 1.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail to the rest house and back.



Our elevation changed by 1200 feet. It took us about 2 hours in total but we were booking it. It was pretty easy on the way there. Hiking back up out of the canyon was a work out! It was a really interesting hike because you get to see the layers of rock change as you descend as well as the climate and vegetation.


It was a great experience. As a public service announcement, we each packed 2 big water bottles, 2 bags of trail mix, and Adam brought beef jerky. We were pretty well prepared for a 3 mile hike in mid-July.


Despite this, we had to stop a few times on the way up to catch our breaths and my bearings. It was hot, our altitude had changed significantly and we were truckin’ it uphill.

The park rangers say it’s supposed to take you twice as long to come back up. Well, it took us an hour to get down to the rest house and an hour and 10 minutes to get to the canyon rim. We’re bosses.

We decided not to go any farther down than the rest house because there wasn’t much shade remaining on the trail below us, hardly any water available, and we had to think of the increasing heat of the day and the increasing heat as you get lower in the canyon. We would’ve loved to go all the way to the bottom, but the park service strongly recommends hiking one way on the first day, camping by the river, and hiking back out the next day during the summer. It’s just too hot to do it all in one day.

That afternoon, after showers and rest, we drove to the east end of the South Rim and climbed the Desert Watchtower. From the top you can see the Painted Desert to the east and there’s a great view of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.


Our last night at the Grand Canyon, we ate at the historic El Tovar Hotel. It was yummy. I think Adam had filet mignon and I had lamb chops. Yum.


And our stay at the Canyon was capped off by this beauty:


Too bad it wasn’t arcing over the Canyon… It was still gorgeous.

After the Grand Canyon, we headed south and back to Sedona. We decided to hike up Cathedral Rock with no idea what we were in for.


It was an amazing hike – extremely strenuous as you are literally climbing up steep rocks.


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Once you reach the top – the saddle of Cathedral Rock – you feel like you’ve conquered something. If you’re in relatively good shape, you can definitely do this hike. It’s tough, but very rewarding.

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What a view.



the Century Plant


After our hike, we were able to check-in to our hotel early for a shower and a change of clothes. We had a late lunch at a local pizza place and hit up downtown Sedona for some shopping.

We got a Christmas ornament for our tree. It’s a tradition of ours to get ornaments from the places we’ve been and some gifts for family, particularly for my parents since they had Mason while we were gone.

Our final dinner was at the L’Auberge Resort Restaurant.


Image courtesy of

I wish I had our own pictures to share but it was too dark. Our table was on a platform over Oak Creek. It was an amazing end to a whirlwind of a trip. We got to sip wine and eat great food while we listened to the water run over the rocks. We chose to have 3 courses – you can choose a 3 or 4 course meal. Adam had the pork belly with compressed pineapple, the corn chowder with lobster, and the halibut. I had a salad with cranberries, goat cheese and candied pecans, the corn chowder with lobster, and scallops with grilled Brussels, corn, chanterelles, and pork belly. It was delicious.

I’ve been a little discouraged by the slow progress on our bathroom and the fast pace of life in general. It was great to get away, recharge, see our beautiful country and spend time with one another without any distractions, no cell phones (I left mine at home accidentally), to-do’s, and renovations.


“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – Rumi

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The Shower Pan Man (and the Plumber) to the Rescue!

Posted on August 12, 2013. Filed under: Home, Master Bath Remodel, Real World |

Remember Nasty McShowerson?



Yep. Mr. Nasty. Disgusting. It’s a miracle there wasn’t any mold underneath.


You saw in my demo post how Adam went about destroying practically everything in here. It was cathartic. We eradicated the nastiness.

And a little side story… The junk removal folks took most of the old bathroom debris to the dump. They’ll stop by and give you a quote and you have two options: 1) accept and they’ll haul everything away, or 2) decline and no charge for the quote, but you’re still left with your junk. We accepted.

We did salvage a few items for recycling:

1. Hutch – we plan to list on craigslist

2. Vanity – ditto

3. Shower doors – we are going to try to recycle

There is so much glass; it doesn’t feel right throwing them away. Once this bathroom adventure is over and I have some time to research, I’ll let you know if we recycled and how you go about it.

Back on topic… Before we could address our shower pan, we called in a plumber to check everything out while the bathroom was down to the studs. We’re all about DIY, but we know when to fold ‘em. It was worth it for us to have an expert assess our 49-year-old pipes. We actually got 2 quotes from 2 different plumbers so we could compare. The first plumber told us we needed to replace our shower p-trap (the old one is lead and gross… and OLD) and the galvanized steel water lines. We asked him to move our shower head higher, convert our shower fixture from 2 valves to 1 valve and lower our toilet flange since we were afraid it would be higher than the new floor.


I liked the first plumber a lot and thought they gave us a pretty reasonable quote. They knew what they were talking about and they gave off good vibes. I’m all about good vibes. Then I called in a larger plumbing company for the second estimate and was underwhelmed to say the least. First of all they wanted $100 for an estimate. I got out of that by telling them I already had another free quote from a plumber and I’d just hire him if they couldn’t waive the fee. It worked like a charm.

The second plumber wanted me to tell him what we wanted done. Excuse me? I know nothing about pipes and drains. That’s why I called you in here. I basically told him I wanted him to tell me what we should do. Let me tell you, I was not impressed. He didn’t bring up our old galvanized steel water lines and told us our p-trap needed to be snaked, not replaced. He didn’t even recognize that it was lead and no snake could tackle 50 years of build-up. After all of that, his estimate was $250 more expensive than our first quote and it was for less work, work done by a moron.

Once we decided on the plumber (easy decision), he came out to do his work before we put up the backer board: he raised the shower head, changed the shower fixture to 1 valve, replaced the galvanized steel pipes with copper, replaced the p-trap and the entire shower drain with PVC, etc. He’ll come back again once we’re finished tiling to lower the toilet flange and install the sink fixtures. He was amazing. If you ever need a plumber in the Atlanta area, message me and I’ll get you the contact information. He even went to Lowes to get another pipe because he didn’t like how one of them looked. That’s dedication.

Then we called in the Shower Pan Man! True story. I was pretty disappointed he didn’t have a cape when he showed up. Yet again, we’d rather pay an experienced professional to slope the base and install the liner for our shower floor since waterproofing and drainage are so crucial. I figured he knew just how to slope the mortar and still make it look right. I know my husband could’ve done this portion of the project, but I reasoned it was worth it to pay someone more experienced to do it. Plus, if the shower leaks, we can go back to him.



So this is what the shower floor looked like pre-tile. Lots of sloped concrete. There’s a rubber liner in there too to keep the moisture from seeping to the sub-floor. (This was a phone picture and I have no idea why it’s so small.)

shower pan

The next step is building a proper curb with bricks and mortar and installing cement board.

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