Shower with Praise

The White House

Kurt has been spending the last few weeks creating a praise-worthy walk-in shower in the upstairs bathroom.

You remember the old bath tub with the pink plastic tile walls and the tiny walkway? This picture was taken after the sheet rocked column had been removed, so it was even less spacious and bright than it appears here. Ugh. (The new walk-in shower basically encloses the whole back portion of the bathroom that the tub had occupied; roughly four feet wide by five feet deep.)

Bathroom Before

But after Kurt pulled out the tub, removed the faux tile walls, had the whole room re-plumbed, replaced the spongy portion of the floor, added a bath fan that vented all the way outside and put in new lighting fixtures, it’s now pretty much unrecognizable.

Last week, he built the sloped shower pan with a rubber liner, the soap/shampoo holes, and the curb, then waterproofed the walls with some black rubber-like stuff.


Then he and I spent a few hours in his workshop, picking out the perfect combination of Italian ceramic tiles he has stored there. At one point, I lost track of him among the shelving, but a few minutes later, he reemerged with several boxes of matching tile!

Lost in the Pallets

For the floor, we decided to use this 1″ tile (Magica Micela Mosaic) that has five or six different colors.

Shower Floor Tile

Then we found some large 10″ x 16″ tiles made by the same company. We picked two primary shades (Queen Red and Keshi Gold) and decided to accent it with a couple of complimentary tiles as part of the randomized pattern.

Tile Arrangement

Once we had picked out all the tile colors and matching grout (Light Buff), Kurt took them over to the White House and got to work. Here are a few of his progress pictures.


When we visited last Saturday, he had only two more rows to complete.

Touring the Shower

I will be sure to include some final pictures once he has grouted it and added the shower head, control valve, and glass shower door.

Stay tuned.


Slow but Steady

The White House

Holy moly! How is it possible that my last blog post about the White House was in August?!? That seems like a lifetime ago. You might think that Kurt has been lounging around, watching television, and eating potato chips… but you’d be mistaken. He has been working steadily, even if I’ve been tardy about documenting it. And luckily, he also took a few pictures that I can share with you to show his progress.

In August, he put some structure and plumbing into the upstairs bathroom. Here is where we left off (with a big hole in the floor). Since then, he built a large walk-in shower area, closed off the door to the storage room, and moved the vanity plumbing to the back wall, next to the toilet.  He also installed a bath fan that vented through the attic to the outside.

I think it looks so much better with clean, white sheet rock walls instead of pink plastic faux-tiles. Don’t you agree?

He spent most of October and November patching up cracks in the walls, repairing baseboards, and scraping flaky paint off the trim, to prepare for a fresh coat of paint (coming soon).

In the upstairs front bedroom closet, he removed the cracked ceiling and discovered a colony of bats living in the rafters! After watching them all exit through a 1″ hole in the roof flashing at sunset one evening, he sealed the hole from the outside before installing new insulation and sheet rock in the closet. Now it’s nice and cozy, and 100% bat-free!

In early December, Kurt repaired the stair treads in the front entry. When he took them apart, he was hoping to find some buried treasures in the dead space under the stairs, but unfortunately, the only stuff in there was debris from the original construction.

Stair Treads

He tore through the pantry wall to adjust the huge sliding door that opens off of the dining room. When we bought the house, it opened slanted and only about 90% of the way, but that wasn’t good enough for Kurt’s high standards. Now it slides the whole way with ease (or at least as easy as a 200-pound antique door can slide). In the coming weeks, we will take off the handle hardware, clean off the layers of paint, and restore its original function and style.

Sliding Door

In the week between Christmas and New Years, he headed back to work, this time building shelves in the pantry and next to the basement stairs. He also installed a new door on the pantry and a refurbished antique door to the basement.

In the first week of the new year, he added the vintage trim and rosettes to the doors and window in the kitchen. Now they match the rest of the house! We also found matching hinges and door knobs, which will go into the kitchen and bathrooms soon.  (Thanks to Guilded Salvage Antiques in Minneapolis for all the new/old materials that are helping us make the White House perfect!)

Doors and Trim in Kitchen

We have ordered new flooring for the kitchen, but he won’t install it just yet. The rest of the house will have the hardwood floors refinished in the next couple of months.

Still to do… repaint everything inside (probably grayish walls with white trim); pick out tile for the new walk-in shower upstairs; choose flooring for both bathrooms; new counter tops and appliances for the kitchen… I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t remember right now.

Stay tuned.

More Adventures in Flooring

The Berg

It has been a week since the carpet came out, and with the girls at Grandma’s once again, Kurt and I spent another eight hours working at the Berg.

Our primary goal was to pull out the vintage vinyl flooring that was uncovered in the upstairs when we tore out the hideous carpet.

We started in the back bedroom, where the old carpet pad had completely turned to dust. After we vacuumed, we found an old vinyl floor. (Fun fact #72: According to neighbors, this room was actually used as a kitchen once, when the second floor had been rented out as an apartment. That would explain why there is no closet in this ‘bedroom’.)

When we rolled up the vinyl, we discovered that they had used newspapers to level out the floor. Hello Post Bulletin from the summer of 1967. (In fact, we found a lot of newspapers, dating between 1955 and 1967, so stay tuned for another blog post with details and lots of pictures!)

Vintage Newspaper 1967

Once the vinyl was rolled up and the newspapers were collected, we were delighted to see that the hard wood floor was nearly unblemished! Thank goodness their kitchen hadn’t been plumbed!

Rolled Vinyl in Back Bedroom

Next, we moved on to the bathroom. Remember the beautiful carpet that was in there?

Bathroom Carpet

When that came out, it left behind the rubber-backed portion, in a fine black dust, that was stuck to a layer of vinyl and more newspapers. But once that was removed, look at the amazing wood floor! It has a fantastic weathered gray color. I just love it!

Finally, it was time to tackle the master bedroom at the front of the house. Under the carpet and pad, we found a huge sheet of vintage vinyl. It was nailed down in a few places so Kurt had to work himself under it to get it to let go. It was pretty hilarious to watch him disappear under a blanket of old floor.


Once we started rolling it up, we found buried treasure! Another layer of vinyl, and this one was much more colorful!

So, we carefully rolled that one up to. And look what we found under that layer! A lovely wood floor with fantastic old vent!

Front bedroom floor

Now look at all our vintage vinyl flooring! We carefully carried it downstairs and stood it up in the garage. (My next project is to find someone who would like to buy it.)

But tearing out vinyl wasn’t our only accomplishment yesterday. We also removed all of the tack strip that was used to hold the carpet down around the edges of the rooms and on the stairs.

Tearing out tack strip

I also pulled out all the carpet staples from the stairs, and gave the whole place a nice vacuuming. Kurt even checked out the attic. There weren’t any big bags of money or hidden pieces of fine art up there so he decided he didn’t want to explore further.

Instead he and the shop vac headed to the basement for an hour and a half of clearing cob webs and sucking up dust and who knows what. (Better him than me!) I spent that time in the dining room, scraping off wallpaper.

I was happy to see that the old plaster is in very good condition!

So, activities at the Berg are moving right along. It’s starting to look like somewhere people might want to come visit. After a little more cleaning and fresh air, we should have all the creepiness out of it.

Stay tuned!

A First Look Inside

The Berg

The Berg officially became ours last Thursday, so we took our girls over to get their first look inside.

Upon walking in the east side door which leads into the kitchen, I asked Maggie (age 3 1/4) what she thought. Her first words were “this house smells bad” followed almost immediately by “hey, this is the kitchen!” She was not wrong. (Just like the White House, our first job will be to open the windows and remove the very old, very dirty, very smelly carpet.)

I’ve sketched out the layout of the house, to give you some basic bearings. (Obviously not to scale, but close enough for now.)

Berg Floorplan

While the rest of the family was exploring the empty house, I snapped several million ‘before’ pictures. Here are a few to give you a sense of the house (without subjecting you to the scents of the house.)

There is so much more floral wallpaper than I remembered! The upstairs isn’t any better.

The basement is a bit of an eye-sore: crumbling walls, knob-and-tube wiring, old pipes. Kurt (and a handful of professionals) will have a lot of work to do down there before we’re through with this transformation.

Outside, the yard is large and full of nice plantings. And the garage has a ton of character, with different bricks from a century of repairs and renovations.

But let’s end this quick tour with a little natural beauty… Mr. and Mrs. Berg were avid gardeners and even though they have passed, their flower gardens are still lovely.

I can’t wait to get into there and take out that nasty carpet. The transformation begins this week!

Stay tuned.

Bye Bye Bathroom

The White House

May 19th ~ After getting rid of the dirty old carpet, our next major demolition was the upstairs bathroom.

We inherited an awkward L-shaped bathroom with an access door to a storage area under the eaves. There was a lot of work to do in here. You had to walk around the sink to get into the bathroom, the floor around the toilet had become spongy due to an old water leak, and there was an impossibly narrow walkway to get to the bathtub. The shower had been rigged above the tub and there was an unfinished wall in the middle of the room. And don’t get me started on the pink plastic peel-and-stick tiles on the walls.

Kurt took out the vanity first, which made it possible to remove the toilet and bathtub.

Next, he removed the pink tile by cutting the sheet rock wall out, exposing the original lath and plaster walls.

Then, he removed a large portion of the floor to get rid of the spongy section and to provide access to the plumber.  In early June, the plumber spent a day putting in a drain and supply pipes for the new-and-improved walk-in shower, a new outgoing toilet pipe, and he moved the vanity supply pipes to the adjacent wall. We are going to remove the door to the storage space and put the vanity along that wall instead. (More on the closet another time.)

With the floor nice and open like that, I had day-dreams of installing a laundry chute that would deposit dirty towels to the first floor, only ten feet away from where the washer and dryer will be. Kurt tried four or five different configurations but unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough room between the floor supports and the pipes. Darn those pesky joists, but I’d rather have a solid floor and a flush-able toilet than a super-cool laundry chute. (Maybe in our next project house.)

I’m looking forward to putting things back together and designing the new and improved bathroom!

Stay tuned.