Holey Moley

Our attic conversion, what can I say, it’s been an uphill climb. Ya think you’re ready to check something off the list and then BAM. There it is laughing you in the face again. Take our insulation, or our drywall, and now, our built-in. It just wasn’t quite ready to depart from it’s moment in the sun, so it decided to stick around a bit longer and become a problem child. Oye. See what I’m talking about?

Fixing Gaps with Trim

A bit too gappy don’t make Mary happy. Since we had so many otherΒ problem areas in this room, we really didn’t even notice all the jankiness on said bookcase until we started our final round of close up painting and started scratching our heads. Yes, that will not do.

Don’t believe me? How about a close up …

Adding Trim Around Bookcase

Mmmhhmmmm. Now that is a gap if I ever saw one πŸ™‚ The good news was that we had a lot (a LOT) of spare pieces of wood left over from all the other constructing we’d been doing upstairs so we were able to repurpose a few pieces to help with our little problem.

For the gap above, we found some quarter round that we used in the bathroom.

Installing Quarter round trim

Well lookey there. By George, that pretty much fixes it! We still had to slap some white paint on it, but for the most part, the quarter round and some caulk fixed our first problem area.

On to the second.

Adding Trim to Bookcase

Whomp. Whomp. We fixed this section in no time flat with some extra trim as well. It still needs a bit of caulking to smooth out the lines, but it’s well on its way. It’s pretty tricky to get back there to paint, since your arm is at such an odd angle. This area will be choke-full of books and accessories, so those back angles will be harder to see any way. Or at least that’s what I’m telling my self. πŸ˜€

Adding Trim Around Carpet

Remember our closets? Now take a close look at the photo below. Do you see how the closet on the far left has some extra space up above. Believe you me, this was a big aaaahhhh sshhheeeetttt moment in the Sell household, cause quite frankly, your closet framing is not supposed to look like that. Not at all.

Adding closets to knee wall

Here is a close up shot of all that loveliness to refresh your memory. This photo was taken during our initial construction phase, but I think you get the idea. One of these things is not like the other …

Adjusting Bi-fold door

Truth be told, when you have an old house and old walls pretty much nothing is straight. So, you roll with it and you try to improvise enough so it looks like “character” and not like “jankiness”. Our solution? Some hunka hunka crown molding. No weenie stuff, chunkcalicous stuff. Go chunky, or go home.

Putting Crown on Top of Closets

Since the crown was so large, we were able to essentially bend it up toward the ceiling in order to cover up the problem child area. We used our nail gun to get the piece installed initially, but because we were twisting the wood up so much to cover our gapalicousness, we had to also come back through and screw a few spots in for added support. Not ideal, but we made sure to “sink” the screw in so we could come back through and cover everything up with caulk after.

Adding Crown Above Closet

Here is how the crown looked after the install. So. Much. Better. Not perfect, but waaayy better.

Adding Closets to Knee Wall

And here is another shot of the front before caulking and painting the top section.

Board and Batten on Doors

Even after we’d fit the crown as tight as possible to the ceiling, there was still a decent amount of caulking that had to be done to help fill that ginormous gap. You can see in the shot below that we still had an eighth of an inch or so that had to be caulked after the crown was installed.

Caulking Top of Trim

Our last trimming detail pre-carpet install was adding a section right along where the stair banister and the wall meet. This was uber easy – one cut at the base of the steps and another for the corners and we were ready to get these bad boys installed.

Adding Trim Around Stairs

Here is how the stair trim looked the night before our carpet installation. Umm yeah. That’s right. I just said CARPET INSTALLATION!! Stay tuned for the big old reveal on Friday!

Adding Trim to Top of Steps

Drinking Up Some Drywall

Man alive, amigos. This drywall shabang has been a lot more painful than initially anticipated. Overall moral of this story and hard lesson learned? Never, ever, go with your lowest bidder. Care to hear my sad tale? Sit down, it might take a while πŸ˜€

So …. flash back a few weeks ago, and we were going through our normal looking for someone to assist us routine via craigslist. Although we do almost all the work in this joint ourselves, every once and a while you just have to call in the support troops. Drywall happens to fall into that category for us. We got (3) quotes. at .70 a square foot, $1 a square foot and $22.50 an hour. We went with .70 a square foot, and landed up paying $22.50 an hour. Do you hear that, it’s me, wailing in the corner. Loudly.

After a few days of drywalling (with the first guy), our attic was looking like this.

Adding Drywall To Attic

The status of the room didn’t change much after oh, day 3, cause the dude just stopped coming. Like I don’t know if he’s in jail, or hates our guts or moved to Tahiti but this guy seriously went awol. We tried contacting him for 3 days straight, and when we only heard crickets talking back to us, we bite the bullet and had to hire another guy to come in and finish the gig. Β Go figure, the only guy available was the one that charges $22.50 an hour. Ouch. He also (kinda smugly) informed us, it would take 4 days of labor to do the job, when we’d already PAID the first guy who disappeared on us. Nope, sorry, I don’t have another $700 sitting around that I can burn hand over to you. GAH.

On top of the crap sandwhich of a reality that the first guy just up and left us, he also did the poopiest job possible on the initial work. POOP. The new guy also (kinda smugly) informed us of this reality and kept telling us how we should have hired him first. Thanks for the memo, Sherlock.

That being said, there is finally a light at the end of this tunnel. Although we paid up the nose for it, we finally got a guy in that can actually help fix our little situation. We’ve got one more day of sanding ahead of us, but right now our space is looking like this.

Drywalling Attic

Some of the problem areas for the first installer included our ceiling joints. He used WAY too much mud on them and basically just tried to fix all his bad hanging skills by slapping on tons of mud. We had (3) full buckets of drywall dust from the first pass.

Too Much Mud on Drywall

Overall, I think that the ceiling will be able to be moderately camouflaged since it will all be the same, matte white color. So although the seems are not perfect, they’ll at least be under some cover with the paint job.

You can see our wee little bathroom bump out, too. This room is going to be small, but ya know what, it’s still a bathroom so that’s a value add to an old house like this where you typically only find one bath.

Half Bath Attic Knee Wall

Speaking of bathroom’s lookie what landed on our doorstep this week. Color me PUMPED to get this beauty upstairs! It’s my new motivation – just get this babe of a vanity upstairs where it belongs πŸ˜€

Marble Vanity

Moving on to some areas I love … check out these skylights. The corners look nice and crisp, and they add so much light into the space, too.

Skylights in Attic

You can also see how nice the closets look now that they have a drywall surround as well.

Adding Closets to Knee Wall

Everything is starting to feel much, much closer to being done now. In all honesty, I’m just really excited to be at a point in the reno where we don’t have to depend on someone else to do the work for us.

Overall, hiring out has been such a pain for a control fa-reak like me. I can’t manage any of the timeline, how much it will cost me, anything. After our super awful experience with this first craigslist dude. we’re feeling a bit sour about the whole shabang of an experience. Especially when they come through and leave messes like this throughout your house, kinda adds salt to the wound (umm – drop clothes, ya heard of them?)

Contractors Leaving Mess

For reference, our total cost with supplies will be around $1,400 for the drywall. Way WAY more than we had initially anticipated largely due to our little mishap with the installer. At the end of the day, it was a valuable lesson for us and being so dang tired from the entire process, I think we’re just glad to finally see light at the end of this tunnel.

Has anyone else had a bad experience with a contractor? Any good hints or tricks to keep these things from happening? Bestow your knowledge!!

Beat the Heat

It’s been a very exciting weekend here in our house as far as the attic is concerned. Probably the most exciting part – a plumber we got a quote from had an opening pop up – which means we can get crack a lackin’ on the bathroom in the next week or so. Squeeeee!! Things have been looking like this the past few days with the plumbers coming in and out.

Contractors in House

Messy – but progress isn’t always squeaky clean my DIY friends. While we had a plumber here installing the nitty gritty for our bathroom fixtures, we were working on equally exciting things, like our HVAC. πŸ˜€ See, once we got to configuring the furniture arrangements, we realized that the back end of the bed would be smack dab right up against our one heating source in the room. No good.

Changing HVAC Location

So after scratching our heads for a bit on the best plan forward, we figured that extending the venting over to the left would help solve some of our problems. We figured, how hard can it be, grab a few extra little metal venty things and pop everything over a few feet. For the most part, that’s just what we did, with a bit more HVAC tape than anticipated πŸ˜€

Here are the tools of the trade:

Beginner's Guide to Installing HVAC

1. Adapter piece that get’s installed on the existing HVAC vent stack

2. Front facing vent, mounted to wall

3. Corner piece, curves to wall

4. Long extension piece

All and all, these parts set us back around $50, if helpful.

Just like the trim job we had to do with the kitchen renovation, we used a pair of scissors made specifically for HVAC, which was very helpful to cut in to the material. This part took us about 20 minutes. After we had everything cut and ready to go, the real fun began. πŸ˜€

See this?

Fitting New Duct Work to Old

That’s about a 3 inch gap between the size of our new HVAC and our old HVAC. Ah carrumba! Normally, these two pieces would fit together like a puzzle piece, but apparently they’ve updated these vents since the 40’s when our little abode was built. Since we had such a significant different between the two pieces, we had to do some creative gerryrigging. It involved tape. Lots of it.

We knew we’d have to essentially wrap the new piece up around the old one, so our first call to action was to snip a section of the new HVAC line, in order to bring it down flush with the new one. Kinda like wrapping a present.

Retrofitting New Duct Work

After snipping with our HVAC scissors, we mounted the new line back onto our existing HVAC and screwed it into the side with some special HVAC screws.

Installing New HVAC

In addition to buying special screws for the HVAC, we also had to purchase a specific socket adapter, which fit the special screws. Even with all these specific tools, I’m not sure what the deal was, but these screws just didn’t want to cooperate in any fashion. It probably took 10 tries each time to get a screw in since they would fall off every time we tried to attach the HVAC. Oye.

HVAC Socket Adapter

One thing I absolutely didn’t realize was how fragile the HVAC metal is. We actually had a bit of a boo boo when we were installing a fitted piece to one another when the connecting joint snapped right off. Ekk!!

I tried to get some solid pictures of the action but my hubster went all Brittany Spears with the umbrella vs. the camera paparazzi and told me to split. I think his exact words were – “Would you stop taking pictures of me?! Don’t put this on the blog. I mean it!” Let’s just say, after a long day of slaving over the attic, he snapped along with the HVAC. πŸ˜€

This it the best shot I could get, but essentially the lip on the duct work snapped off. That’s bad, since the only way you can attach the duct work is via said lip. (See that locked jaw on the Jay bird? My gentle giant was as mad as a hornet) πŸ™‚

How to Install HVAC

We figured out a work around that involved Jay essentially pressure fitting the piece in and then taping the H-E-L-Lo Dolly out of the thing. After he took a few lamaze breaths he turned around and confidently told me that we just needed to prevent any air from leaking out – and if tape could do that – then by George he was ready to employ it’s forces.

How to Install New HVAC

No seriously – I wasn’t kidding. πŸ˜€ But ya know what, a few more pieces later, we were donzo and the new line was officially installed. The biggest learning curve we had was recognizing that 1) they don’t make parts for old HVAC duct work (i.e. you’re going to have to gerry rig something) and 2) this stuff is as brittle as a 99 year old Grandma – especially at the joints.

He even did a feel test to make sure there was no air leakage. Apparently, Jay feels best with his face since he insisted that he could tell it was leaking better by put his schnoz right up to the thing.

Finding Leaks in HVAC

After wrapping the HVAC with some insulation, our lovely little heating unit looked like this. Nice and toasty πŸ˜€

Insulating HVAC Line

Getting Vain

If you came to our little abode to visit me right now, you’d find me sitting in front of a clock and staring down the days, minutes and hours until our plumber arrives. This lady is ready to bust a move and get some b-room action a-happening. In the spirit of getting this boat out of the harbor, I’ve started some serious vanity shopping. Actually, some serious everything shopping. Our rough-ins are getting installed on January 6th, so our main game objective is to have all of the fixtures purchased before hand so that we can get right to the installation after the plumbing work is done.

Just thinking about how close we are to actually installing the finishing touches upstairs makes me want to do this.

Crazy Dance

For the vanity, in many ways I’d love a nice deep gray or charcoal. Yum. But in all honesty, the most affordable options I’m finding have almost all been white. Le sigh.

See I really, really want the top to be marble. If I can’t have it in my kitchen, then by George, I want that beautiful stuff adorning the walls of our bathroom. The thing about a marble top vanity, is that 1) they are a bit harder to find than your average run of the mill variety and 2) turns out, they’re also more expensive. Go figure.

Right now, my top vanity contenders look like this.

Marble Top Bathroom Vanities

Hard to decide when there are so many delicious options. A few things helping me my choices down is that big fat bottom dollar.

  1. Hamilton Vanity: $593 (granite top)
  2. Amelia Vanity: $850
  3. Hampton Bay Vanity: $519
  4. Smithfield Medium Gray Vanity: $750

Of these options, I’m liking #3 the best right now, since the final price is a bit more manageable. Although I LOVED the last one, is just north of $1k, for a fa-reaking vanity. Ya hear me, fine brothers and sisters?

In the name of getting things all ready for our very exciting installation (Yes, I’m still dancing like crazy man above every time I even think about thinking about it), we decided to put on our big kid pants and commit already and buy it. To save some mollah, we went with option #3. Done.

Now onto toilets. πŸ˜€ Ready for some fine looking porcelain potty’s? Annnd GO.

Dual Flush Toilets Once we started our search for the almighty throne, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually overestimated the cost we’d be looking at for the new addition. Which is good, cause I underestimated the cost of this whole shabang in general, so I’ll take any extra casho I can get.

  1. Glacier Bay Dual Flush: $158
  2. American Standard Dual Flush: $199
  3. Glacier Bay High-Efficiency Dual Flush: $98
  4. Kohler Memoirs: $349

Initially, I had budgeted $300 for the toilet, so Β we were pretty happy to find the majority of our options comfortably fell within that. We immediately ruled out the cheapest option (Choice #3, it just looked chincey), and moved on to some of the other dual flush johns. Just sounds swanky, doesn’t it?

We landed up jumping for options #1 on the list. It seems to be a good mix of function, price, and looks.

So right out of the gate, we were able to decide on the two most important fixtures that we’ll need to get this bathroom up and running. Bam. That feels good. Now onto some of the trickier parts.

Slanted Ceiling Bathroom Mirror

This is the wall that the vanity will be going on. See that slant action happening? Yeah, that makes mirror and light shopping a wee trickier. A light above is definitely out, since that would be way too tight. Right now, we are thinking we might be able to squeeze in two side mounted lights flanking a mirror, but we’re going to have to get creative.

When we were out and about at HomeGoods this weekend, I snapped some pictures of a few possible contenders. Like this one.

Gold Sunburst Mirror

And this one.

Gold Round Mirror

I thought I should give y’all a nice smile, sinceΒ I’m chilling in the picture, too πŸ˜€

Although I lurrrve the first one (hello sunshine!) I’m concerned that 1) the mirror part is a little rinky dink and 2) that the sunburst part may interfere with our side mounted sconces. Tricky thing with HomeGoods, if ya don’t snag those goodies, next time you walk in you risk the last Joe Schmo snagging your treasures away. So, in the name of playing it safe, I may just cart my bootie back there and snag the sunburst options and return it if it lands up not working. πŸ˜€

So, now that we’ve got au toilet and the vanity ordered, our bathroom is at least (starting) to take shape! Once they are installed, the layout of the room will be like this. Cozy, but I think it will work!

Adding Bathroom to Attic

Want to see more bathroom renovations? Here’s how our newest bath turned out!


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Insulation Round Three Hundred and Fifty Seven

Yes, yes, it’s true. We are still insulating our attic. The good, we are o-fficially on our last round of insulation and after this is up, we’re onto DRYWALL. Drywall, people. That’s like prime time wham-a-bamma we’re almost donzo. The bad, well, ya know. 3-months later we are still insulating the attic.

As a reminder, this was our system for insulating the space.

How to Insulate Conditioned Attic

In the end, we landed up deviating just a bit from the plan above, mostly since the hubby had some big plans about creating a barrier between the drywall and the studs to make the heat transfer a bit less. So we decided to add another layer of foam to meet his grand plan vs. the foil wrap.

How to Install Foam Insulation

The final layer of insulation set us back $225 (15 boards of 1″ foam), so our total cost was just over $1,000 and we have the same effective R-value as the spray foam option, which was quoted at $3,400! Sweetness. Here is the cost breakdown:

  1. 800 sq. feet of foam board: $375
  2. 1,000 sq. feet of fiberglass bats: $400
  3. 3 cans of spray foam: $15
  4. 3 rolls of HVAC Tape: $30
  5. Extra Foam Board: $225

Since Jay is the engineer in the family and he seemed pretty confident about the path forward, I took a whatever floats yo boat approach to this DIY. I’ve been moderately persuaded by seeing a recognizable difference in temperature at the bottom of our steps where the attic meets up with the rest of the house, too. Here is what the side wall looked like pre-install.

How to Insulate Attic

The extra foam made the biggest difference on our end walls, where we just had room to add R-13 before. Although that’s technically code, we noticed that there seemed to be more airflow vs. the portions of the attic that had the foam installed for the baffle.

After adding the foam, we noticed a significant increase in temp in the room so that’s a good sign that the insulation is working!

Adding Foam Insulation

The great part about our second round of foam was that it was not nearly as time intensive or difficult as the first set. Since our original round of foam was put in to keep air flow out, we had to cut each piece to fit in the ceiling rafter exactly. That was a legit pain in the rear end.

This round was just a matter of adding some extra R-Value, so sealing and making sure each piece fit in like a puzzle, was just not on the radar. Slap it up, grab another piece and call it donzo. We just screwed in the foam directly onto the wall joists.

Foam Insulation Installation

The best part (other than noticing a significant bump in the heat retained in the room) was that we took down the partial side wall, which opened up the room so dang much. To date, I think removing this wall helped us really envision the space and see how open and large this room is going to feel. Here is how it looked before, completely closed off as a narrow and hard to navigate closet. Oh, and the PINK carpet. πŸ˜€

Master Suite Attic Conversion

And here is how it looks now. A whole lot messier, but I think it also looks a lot bigger!

Attic Conversion Master Suite

I was worried before that the built-in side of the room would feel too tight when you’re walking down along side it but taking down the wall made things look pretty darn spankin’ spacious. I’d gander to say there’s enough space to show off your chicken dance moves if the mood struck. πŸ˜€

Our final step will be to add some fiber glass insulation up into the top triangle above the pots lights. Since most of your heat escapes through your roof, we are trying to make sure the ceiling is as insulated as possible. We are hoping to get R-30 up above the ceiling (in addition to the R-23 we already have lining the walls) , which should keep everything nice and toasty.

Insulating Attic Ceiling

Probably the thing we are MOST excited about with the next stage of the process is that we are hiring this one out. We’re in the process of getting quotes right now, but it looks like we will have someone coming it to install all (or most) of the drywall. YIPPIIEE!!!

Even though in many ways, we’d be happy to do it, it will be nice to see something get done quickly, vs. having to scrunch in a few hours after work each day. Wham bam alacazam.


Skylight Skybright

Something we noticed pretty much out of the gate on this Master Attic retreat o’ ours is that this room is DARK. Like lights are on full blast and you’re looking for the switch. It’s got two wee little windows that cap off each end, and although they’re nice to have a cross breeze blowing upstairs, they really aren’t sufficient by themselves to light up the space the way we’d like it to be lit up. So instead of going out and buying 52 CFL’s, we decided to cut a hole in the roof. Piece of cake. Problem solved.

Installing Skylight in Attic

Now, normally we’d consider tackling this little bad boy ourselves, but a few small details held us back. First, Jay has an immense (immense) fear of being on the roof. I mean, it’s bad. Mostly because all I can muster up the will power to do is laugh at him, and he’s like, I’m going to DIE why are you laughing you lunatic! And second, it involved cutting through some of the structural trusses on the roof and since we didn’t want the walls above us to come caving in one night while we are peacefully slumbering, we figured that this one was best left up to the pros.

So we did the normal round of inquiries via craigslist and came back with a quote for $750 to pop two bad boys into the roof. Not awful, also not amazing. So we had a little pow wow over our dinner one night and decided that for a few hundred bucks, we wanted the natural light that the space was currently lacking so we decided to go for it. Get er done.

Installing Attic Skylight

Lucky for us, our local lumber yard actually had two of the skylights we had our eye on in stock. They even price matched the Home Depot ticket price, so it brought the total out of pocket cost down $40 bucks. Cool beans, yo.

We opted to go with the brand Velux. After shopping around a bit, the distributors basically told us this is as good as it gets for glass holes in your ceiling. In Ann Arbor, they have a code that you have to buy the special upgraded glass, which I guess prevents the stuff from shattering over your face if a tree limb falls in the middle in the night. Since we live in Tree City USA (literally, Ann Arbors nickname), that is a good thing.

Also, the only way that Velux will warranty the seal on the window, is if you agree to buy their flashing kit as well, which is an extra $70 dolla billz. Oye. Good news, it provides a 10-year warranty against leaking, no matter who installs the unit. Bottom line, they sound pretty confident in their product to we were willing to fork over a few extra dollars.

Velux Skylight Review

In the attic, we knew that we wanted to bump the right side of the wall out so that we had a bit more room as you walk around in the space up there. To get the room ready for both the spray foam, and the skylight install, we opted to remove some of the wall that was previously running down this side of the attic. Since this was the back side of the house, we decided that popping up the sky lights on this side made the most sense (least visible from the street, nice view of the tree canopy outside, etc). Once the room is finished, this wall will be a big old built-in, stretching from one side of the room to the other. Lots of storage!

Knee Wall in Attic

Here is a shot of how the room looks the morning after the skylights were installed, hello sunshine!! The room faces east, so we get lots of morning rays, should help to motivate us out of bed each morning. πŸ˜‰

Β  Velux Skylights Pricing

In addition to the 10-year warranty on the skylights, we also have a 10-year warranty on the work done by our roofer. Sa-weet! He even took a birds-eye view of the skylights before he left the job site. The skylights are a tad higher up on the roof than I thought they would be, but overall I think they look mighty fine.

Velux Skylights in Attic

A few things we learned along the way with this one. First, there are many parts of the installation process that we would feel comfortable doing ourselves. Jay helped the installer for most of the process, and learned that he can definitely do the interior work in the future, i.e. cutting the window holes, but that he just doesn’t feel comfortable getting his booty up on the roof. If we decided to do something like this on any future houses, we think we’d do the cutting portion ourselves, to trim back the costs a bit. Live and learn.

Installing Skylights in Attic

For now, were pretty happy with all the extra light that comes pouring into this room post install. It’s really just an incredible difference. It’s kind of hard to tell on the pictures, but the difference is so noticeable in person.Β Long term, I’m pretty pumped to have these little babies up in the attic space. Pretty sure the orange tabby will be pleased with this new development – virtual bird hunting just got a whole lot better. πŸ˜‰ When everything is said and done, we are hoping to have the back wall look like this.

Β  Skylights Over Built In

So, ya wan’t us to spill the beans and tell you how much this home renovation set us back? We were able to snag the skylights for $222, with a price match to Home Depot at our local lumber yard and we found a roof installer on craigslist that was willing to pop these guys in for $750, including a 10-year warranty. With the flashing kits, the total cost for installation for (2) skylights was $1,372. Not cheap, my friend. For comparison though, we found quotes as high as $2,500 for just installation when we were shopping, so keeping a grand in my pocket always makes me a happy camper. πŸ˜‰