New Powder Room and Hall Closet

Hi – this is Karen again as guest blog editor while Mike continues to slave with the interior remodel.  I’m sure he will re-appear again very soon with some great detailed information.   In the meantime, I’ll update you with just a few details about the new powder room.

The original first floor bathroom is almost completely torn out and is being converted into a master bath using additional space from the old hallway to the kitchen.   A new powder room has been built out located at the front part of the old hallway where the door to the cellar is located.  The challenges with using this area were that this was a small space and that the cellar door would be located inside the powder room.   To overcome theses challenges, we knew that the right fixtures selection would make the difference of being able to squeeze in comfortably.  A tiny, narrow wall-mounted sink was used and we plan to add a narrow wall mounted cabinet for extra counter and storage space.  We like the idea of a wall mounted cabinet since this will give a feel of more space along with the ease of cleaning under the cabinet.


This is view as you walk in from living room into old hallway. Now instead of hallway, there is a bathroom (door on right) and stairs to the right. To the left of the powder room door are home controls. From left to right (hot water heater control, bell to upstairs, Nest Thermostat).

The original closet at the bottom of the stairs outside the new powder room was re-configured with a pocket door.  Also, some of the original closet space that is now behind the new power room will be used for a flush to the backsplash appliance garage in the kitchen (more about that later!).


View on right of power room entrance door. Photo take from stairs.


Powder room before drywall installed showing where toilet will be set. This was originally the hallway from front of house leading to back of house. The door to the cellar is opposite the toilet (not shown).


Powder room after drywall, toilet and sink installed. Small hanging cabinet will be hung to the left of sink for storage.

French Door Replaces Old Kitchen Window

Hi, This is Karen again filling in for Mike who is slaving away with the interior remodeling.  It’s a cold January day here in Virginia Beach; in fact, we actually had a few big fat snow flakes today!  So, I sat here today with a hot cup of coffee in hand trying to catch up with documenting all the work that has taken place this past year.

With the old kitchen demolished, we were ready to take out the kitchen window and replace it with a French Door.  Because the garage is in the back of the house as well as homeowner parking space, this back entrance will be the main entry point from the garage to the house.  Additionally, the french door would provide a wide entry to the house and will be most beneficial as we continue the interior remodel with the requirements of carrying in large construction products, cabinetry and appliances.

After removing the old window, we than had the job and mess of cutting  through the concrete wall to enlarge the opening.  The bond beam above the doorway was broken so we had to put steel lentil beams to span the opening.

Before. Kitchen window was removed and new french door put in.

Before. Kitchen window was removed and new french door put in.

Opening for new french door. Previously this is where the kitchen window was located.

Opening for new french door. Previously this is where the kitchen window was located.

French Door

French Door


New Ceiling for Kitchen and Living/Dining Room

IMG_3376 IMG_3375 IMG_3377 IMG_3383


Hi blog readers.  This post is being written by Mike’s girlfriend, Karen.  Mike is busy working on the house, and doesn’t need his trusty helper today (me), so I have time to catch up  with the remodel blog.

This post highlights the new ceiling in the kitchen and living room/dining room.   I’m sure Mike will fill in the gaps with another blog entry detailing work completed between tear out and this post!

The first challenge we had to overcome was how we could create a flat ceiling when we were dealing with studs and joist that had sagged and bowed since 1917.   The ceiling was majorly our of level.    Because of this situation, we had to ensure that we found the ceiling’s low point (which would be the new ceilings hight point).  The technique we used was to set up a laser to find the low point as a reference line and then set the level for the ceiling.  Next, we installed a series of blocks and battens  at the new ceiling height to establish something to screw the drywall into.  An advantage was that we had a gap between joist and batten which makes it easier to run electric lines.  Additionally, when we put the drywall up, we put 1/4″ foam board as a sound reducing technique between floors.


Interior Fireplaces – Living Room Resurfaced and new Hearth in Kitchen

IMG_0009 IMG_0012 IMG_0013 With demo completed and luckily my mason contractor between jobs – there was no better time than now  to IMG_3502tackle some fireplace projects.  The first project was  resurfacing the living room fireplace.    Because the hearth was flush with the floor, the front of the fireplace had been blacked over the years with smoke.  The mantel was the original custom 6″  thick concrete including the concrete molding on the bottom (the guy who made the mantel concrete form really knew what he was doing!).   We wanted to ensure that the fireplace would be an incredible focal point for the room.  I had worked with the mason contractor previously and had come to admire their skills and eye in keeping the 1917 period design.  Craftsman houses are a mixture of Asian and Mission influences.  The fireplace, in it’s current condition, was brick with a colonial look.   It just didn’t fit. I will let you be the judge.

For this project, my instructions were simple:

  1. Cover the fireplace brick with stucco.
  2. Whitewash the stucco (leaving intact the mantel which was painted in green).
  3. Raise the fireplace hearth 4”.
  4. Finish the fire box in Blue Stone and the hearth floor with one large piece of stone.
  5. Use a template I had made for the keystone piece.
  6. Embed in the face of the mortar some Virginia Beach seashells I had collected.

IMG_3086 IMG_3087From the time I purchased the house in 1997, I was aware of a chimney that was once used for the kitchen cook stove but it had been covered up behind walls.   After the demo, I was excited to finally see the chimney!   For nine days in June (2015) I had a trip planned to Kansas City to see my new grandbaby.  While I was gone, I let the mason’s expertise and creative juice’s flow with the design of this fireplace.   My only instructions were: Cover fireplace  in stucco and make it look good with blue stone trim.

How do you think it looks?  It is very small and I plan to put a small gas log in it.  It will add warmth and unique beauty to the kitchen.


Demolition of Interior First Floor

For the last couple of months, remodeling has been focused on the interior first floor demolition.  I am fortunate to have recruited a  neighbor to help with the labor – an enthusiast, smart, rock-solid,  6’4”, former Marine – who also happens to be interested in learning all the tricks of the trade(s) from me!   A neighborhood boy,  home for college summer break and eager to earn  money, helped with the clean-up work.

We started demolition in areas affected by the relocation of the new kitchen, new master bath and new powder room.   We soon decided that while we were stirring up dust and to make electrical work easier, we would go ahead and demo the ceiling in the living room and dining room.  Of course, this meant moving and sorting through furniture and knick-knacks (treasurers or junk) into storage bins and donation bins.  We were then eager to get the living room and dining room furniture back in place to provide a little bit of normalcy (even if the ceiling was down).

The ceiling was a challenge because it was actually two ceilings in one.  The first, original ceiling was plaster and lath.  Clearly it had seen better days!  The second was the result of remodeling on the cheap.  Previous owners had put 1×2″ battens on the original ceiling and then installed drywall over it.  It was an easy quick fix and looked great.  You can imagine however the pain when trying to put in new wiring and light fixtures!  It all had to come down.IMG_2943 IMG_2949

Before - Kitchen. View opposite kitchen window. This wall was removed.

Before – Kitchen. View opposite kitchen window. This wall was removed.

Before - Stove wall was removed. Door to master bedroom will be entrance to master bedroom. To right of new door will be new laundry room.

Before – Stove wall was removed. Door to master bedroom will be entrance to master bedroom. To right of new door will be new laundry room.

Before. This wall stays. New refrigerator goes in "hole". Desk area will be behind refrigerator with access from new kitchen.

Before. This wall stays. New refrigerator goes in “hole”. Desk area will be behind refrigerator with access from new kitchen.

Before. Kitchen window was removed and new french door put in.

Before. Kitchen window was removed and new french door put in.

A new project page is up for the Addition and Garage project

In trying to get up to date, it is much easier to make a project page than a bunch of posts.  Therefor I have added a project page for the Addition and Garage project. Click here:   Addition and Garage

It is pretty lengthy and has lots of recent pictures.  Enjoy….

The work has not stopped!

So the holidays are past and it is tax time again.  In the true spirit of procrastination I have decided to catch up on the blog rather than work on my taxes!  I think I left off with the preparation of the front porch for stucco.  In addition to the stucco, I wanted to have a french drain on the side of the porch.  The back of my lot is the high ground and the left side of the house has a concrete dog run which becomes a gutter in a heavy rain.  Around here we are sensitive to the runoff that gets into the nearby (across the street) Lynnhaven inlet.  With a nice 4’x4’x4′ french drain at the end of the dog run, any runoff will go into the french drain and be absorbed by the sand rather than hit the storm drains that feed into the inlet. The pictures below show Marice digging the drain and filling with gravel and landscape material.  Finally covering with some more decorative rock.


Now here is the bit about stuccoing the front porch.  It turned pretty cold which is not good for cement based products.  It’s not so much fun for the masons either.  The solution was a giant tarp making a tent over the entire porch which blocked the wind and allowed a small heater to fight off the cold.  The picts below show the stucco proceeding inside the blue tarp.  Kind of looks like it’s under water.  It also allowed a kool unveiling for the neighbors when the tarp was removed and revealed the finished stucco.  Now we just need to get the blankey blank soffit and facia completed!

Oh yes, it takes some time for the SBC to cure and weather in to a final color.  On the front of the house I plan to use whitewash just as I did on the front dormer to even out the color and make the front really pop.  That will have to wait for warmer weather however.


Update on the roof

Well, its been a long time coming but the roof is almost finished.  The field tiles are laid on the front, back and dormers.  The rake trim detail got worked out and all but one rake are complete.  The answer for the rake was to put a heavy gauge aluminum flashing on all the rakes and then use barrel tiles to overlap the tile as it reaches the edge of the roof.  Due to vagaries in the squareness of the roof, tiles meeting the edge have to be trimmed to different widths.  This is covered nicely with the barrels since they can be overlaid over a barrel or valley and hide the variation.  The flashing just makes it look very clean.  Here are some picts:


A little side project.

The lot is kind of tight on the north side of the house and has been made more so for the last several years by my tool trailer parked next to the basement stairs.  Yes, tidewater, I have a basement!  With the floor 1.6 feet above sea level, this is not a good thing.  Hence the tool trailer.  Plans for the basement are to fill it with sand and convert it to a crawl space later.  After the wiring and plumbing are finished for the first floor remodel!

Anyway, I need to clear the side yard so I needed to move the trailer.  The most out of the way place is the rear northwest corner of the yard but I have a terrain issue.  The yard drops off steeply in this corner.  The answer was a retaining wall to make a level parking space but how to do it quick, easy, cheap and good.  I know, you only get to pick three out of that list!  However, I believe I have found an exception.  It took about 50, 50 lb. bags of concrete and about an hour to build the wall.  Y0u can read all about this technique on the quickcrete web site.  Rip-Rap wall   Basically, you dig and level a trench, lay the bags in running bond pattern, drive in rebar through the bags, wet with hose,  and backfill when hard.  I used crush and run to fill the parking spot.  There is actually an entire duplex built on a 7 foot high rip-rap retaining wall on the water across the street from my house.  It has been there over 15 years and doesn’t show a crack or settling at all.  My wall is only 16 inches tall so I think I’m ok with this!

Here are some Picts:


The Front Porch

First I have to say that, like most Craftsman houses, the front porch is the most awesome feature of the house.  All craftsmans are characterized by big front porches with columns and frequently a dormer above.  The craftsman ascetic is a fusion of asian and mission.  With my porch you can clearly see this.  The massive posts of the porch are very asian in look with tapered bases, a base cap with a smaller post above.  Check it out in this picture:


If you look closely (blow up the photo) you can see the mission influence with the arch that covers the whole width of the porch.  The walls of the porch and the base of the posts up to the base cap are poured concrete about 13 inches thick!  Massive!  The porch wall caps and column caps were cast on site and are solid concrete.  The post above the cap are block.  L shaped and mortared together just like the walls of the house.  On top of the columns is a massive 25 foot 6 x 12 inch wooden beam treated with creosote. This is hidden by wood framing and wooden lath that is covered in stucco. This can be seen in the following picture which shows the dark beam partially revealed by removal of the stucco and lath.

Arch above stairs with lath removed showing massive dark beam

Arch above stairs with lath removed showing massive dark beam.  Note wiring in the soffit for down lights to come later.

The stucco showed the wear of the years and storms.  It had been frequently patched and in some cases just fell off with a tap of the hammer.  We removed all of the stucco and lath from the wooden arches.

North end of the porch

North end of the porch


South end of the porch

South end of the porch

Then we covered all of the wooden structure with cement board and removed the ceiling of the porch.  It had apparently been replaced in the past and was in reasonable condition but it had to come down so we could really inspect the area above for roof leaks (we found a few that the roofers repaired).  It also offered the opportunity to install can lights for the porch which I did post haste.  Finally, we pressure washed the stucco, hammered and patched all loose stucco, parged the caps with cement to fill small erosion pits and installed sheathing for the ceiling.  Whew!  All of this took three days with a full crew.  Here is a picture of the porch ready for stucco.  I have a surprise later for the porch ceiling.

REady for stucco and all lit up!

Ready for stucco and all lit up!

Finally, finally we addressed a long standing (and I mean standing) water problem.  The floor of the porch is beautiful, multicolored tile but the person that did it did not correct the grading of the porch slab before laying the tile.  Therefore, water pools in each corner of the porch.  In order to save the tile, which I really like, and avoid the expense of leveling the porch I decided to install drains in each corner.  This involved core drilling 2,  4 inch holes through tile and the 6 inch slab for the drains and cutting 2, 16 x 16 inch holes in the front of the porch walls. Did I mention that the walls are 13 inches thick?  The large diamond saw the masons use only cuts about 6 inches deep so the rest was drilled and hammer chiseled out.  This allowed pipes to be placed to carry the water from the drains.  Once the pipe was set, the holes were back filled with sand and closed with brick.  You can see one of the drains inside the porch in the first picture below and outside in the second picture.

New Porch Drain, notice the beautiful tile

New Porch Drain, notice the beautiful tile

The patched hole for the drain

The patched hole for the drain




Now cleaning the porch with a hose will be much easer!








The porch is now ready for new stucco and paint for the caps.  I can’t wait till its finished!!