Saturday, December 13, 2008

At Last!

In Etta James' song, At Last she uses a phrase that, with some license, works for us at the completion of this project.  She sings, "A dream that I can call my own."  For us, it's simply the plural variant indicating "our" dream.
In these next few posts, I'll show a sequence of various views, providing some indication of the transformation that has just taken place.  The final product is wonderful, but it is the transformation that has impressed and given us the daily "wow" factor.

As we went from what was quite familiar, to demolition, and then to the rebuilding, the dream truly was coming into view.

As the finished product started to come into view, the excitement grew for two reasons.  One, for sure, was that we were to get our bathroom, a new and improved version, back.  But secondly, to see just how close the final product would match "our dream."

It is hard to believe it is the same space.  A second sink, more usable cabinet space, a larger shower and considerably upgraded surroundings - all in the same footprint.  An efficient project, based on the early La La Land expectations we held at the beginning.  Money well spent, for an appropriate level of benefit.  A combination of reality and choosing the right contractor.

Early indications: we have a winner!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Close, But No Cigar!

Today was supposed to be the shower door installation day.  Nope.  Installer had a family illness, so we're still on hold.  Sorry for the delay, but the wait will be worthwhile.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Starbucks at Gresham Safeway

It's often said that it's one thing that brings you in to a merchant, but it is something else (sometimes many things) that keeps you coming back.

I'm a frequent flier, so I have the affinity program gene.  If I can get points or some sort of credit for a purchase, I will.  Tying my United Airlines Mileage Plus program to my Safeway Club Card made a lot of sense to maximize the benefits of my daily Starbucks fix.  Sure, Starbucks has their own program now, but I don't want to pay $25 per year for a Starbucks Gold Card.  So, Safeway it is.

If my need for "loyal customer" points brought me in (way back when), it is the service that keeps me coming back.  Two stories are needed to explain why.  First, Jalyssa.

When my wife Margaret noticed a particular mug style being sold on the retail shelves, and we did not snatch them up at the time, Jalyssa came to the rescue.  When we finally decided to buy them, they were of course, gone.  On one of my regular morning visits, I asked if they had any "in the back."  Nope.  Jalyssa and I kept our eyes peeled for new ones if they came in.  Very much like Costco - you just never know what comes through the retail channel.

After some time passed, Jalyssa took it upon herself to shop the Sandy, OR store and found them!  Not only did she find them, she bought them with her own money.  My next morning visit found Jalyssa handing over the prize.  Not only did I reimburse her, but I crafted a letter to Starbucks letting them know the "over the top" service received.

There are two ways in which I appreciate and respond to service.  One is in going far above and beyond basic responsibilities.  The other is the day in and day out, steady, trusted, and now anticipated "attitude."  Most times, "attitude" is connoted negatively.  Here, "attitude" is a sense of pleasant demeanor, compentence and energy.  Enter Angela.

When Angela arrived some time ago, I could tell she was different than the rest of the people who are sometimes there for only a short time.  (You either get it or you don't.)  She got it.  Soon, she was training others.  Then, she became the assistant manager.

When you take care of customers - and train your employees to do the same - a culture of customer appreciation - and appreciative customers - develops.  Sure, there isn't the Starbucks "ambiance" there that comes with a regular store with couches, chairs and cool music, but my Safeway Starbucks has all the comfort that should come with a $3.00+ cup of coffee.  Angela simply packages it differently.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

End of the End (Almost)

This marks the end of the "construction" photos.  The final bits of touch-up and details.

Here's a first and only look at the windows above the mirror.  Simply a good opportunity to touch up some trim that was in marginal shape.

A final look at that backsplash area that had some challenges, solved by artistic sheetrock mud, texturing and paint.  You'd never know.

Standing in the tub (something I don't often do,) this shows a variety of details:  caulking around backsplash, trim tile on tub against cabinet, accent tiles around tub deck and a placed, sealed and plumbed sink.

I'll leave you with a tease for the rest of the cabinets.  The drawers are in, but the doors are next on the agenda.  This is a great shot of an audible we had to call midway through.  Notice the new cabinet/sink on the right: no vertical piece.  Existing cabinet on the left: yes vertical piece.  In the nine plus years since our home was built, they changed the cabinet style.  Sure, same manufacturer since we were able to contact the developer and ask for some information.  But a different style.

Solution: new doors on each side so they match.  Previously, the left side (originally, the only cabinet) had doors that came together with about a 1/2 inch space.  No problem, since there is the vertical piece.  The doors on the new cabinet close up tight to one another, since there is no vertical piece.  The new doors on the old cabinet now close like the new ones on the right.  No one knows except us (and you of course!), unless both sets of doors are opened simultaneously.

If you're tired of the left/right/left/right description above, I apologize for the tennis match play by play. 

The last posts coming next will finish out this project with a final, "pre-shower door" view and then a tour of our new master bathroom. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

983 - Changing Professional Perspectives

My Retirement Countdown continues to be a transformational, professional journey.  When the countdown started, I was in an environment of hard work, positioning for that next promotion, seeking and taking advantage of opportunities - the typical professional ladder climbing attitude.

Then, in 1588, I talked about landing my dream position.  While the hard work part is still a daily part of my life, the posturing for that next position (at least for now since I love what I do) isn't quite as important.  In case my boss reads this, I of course would entertain any opportunity to grow - it's just not a high priority right now.

But professional perspectives can change for many reasons.

Many of you know son Jake has been a producer for Good Day Oregon at KPTV Fox 12.  Recently, he was asked to help initiate the new 8:00 PM news program on sister station, PDXTV.  Having your son sought after for a specific position is pretty cool.  But the suspender snapper for me was when he told us he is now the producer for Fox 12's 10 O'Clock News.  This is a significant show of faith in his abilities and we are very proud.

My reason for the story is not to brag about my kid (well, maybe just a little), but instead to make a point.  As parents, we all take pride in our children's accomplishments in school, but we keep focusing on our own careers and that next jump on the ladder.  However, when our children's accomplishments begin to take place in their "profession," well... it has altered my professional perspective forever.  A leap-frogging of importance has just taken place.

Yes, the rest of my career is still very, very important to me.  But, it pales in comparison to the importance (and remember: PRIDE!) I now feel for the accomplishments he is enjoying in his profession.

Middle of the End

Trim, paint and hardward make a world of difference.  First, tiles were cut into strips to make the edge trim.  Then, a small square piece was cut at an angle across one corner.  Finally, paint pulled it all together.
These final touches are subtle, but oh so defining.  They mark the migration from work to play. 

Remember the niche?  It took vision, design, engineering, testing, manufacturing, and even finish detailing.  Sounds like we're building a truck, doesn't it?  After all that work, it is the wash cloth rod that makes me smile.  I have successfully avoided Margaret's repeated suggestions to ditch the messy wash cloth in favor of her poofy scrubber thing.  Nope.

Not many steps remain.  Baseboards, tub faucet, final paint touch-up.  When those are complete, the shower door goes in.  We're almost there.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Beginning of the End

For weeks, we've been excited about the buzz of activity around here.  Prior to that, it was all about the hunt; the hunt to find the right person to transform our space; the hunt for the right materials; the hunt for the right accessories.  That hunt was successful, (the end of the beginning!), we got our buzz, and now beginning to see the end of the process.  Bitter/sweet.  It has not been torture, but rather a slight inconvenience at the bottom end, and intensely satisfying and rewarding at the top end.

As this post's title suggests, there won't be too many blog posts remaining.  A few more to wrap up the construction, then one with the shower door installed, and finally - the completed look.  I may throw a few "transformational" photo sequences in there for good measure.  I so enjoyed "Fun With Before and After" that it might be interesting to devote a few posts to before/during/after shots.

You've probably noticed that I'm halfway through this post and I haven't mentioned any of these photos yet.  That's because we've arrived at a point where there's not much "action."  A quick point about the base pieces installed on the cabinets' kick plates: each small finishing touch adds a great deal, but yes, not much else is happening.  The grout's down and we're waiting for it to cure so the sealer can be installed.  Just like a dog who can't quite get to his bone...

The hinges sitting on the tub deck above play into the final picture, so don't go to sleep on me quite yet.  Remember the access hatch cut into the tub deck frame?    

Well, we now have a beautiful new Lucent Blue door!  Don't you love the color?  Right.  It's all the rage just like the grout treatment previously.  Of course not.  Simply a protective coating.  But we now have a matching cabinet door (really, it's white!), newly engineered to allow easy access to the valves.  Look closely, and you'll see the same old handles, one installed backward, waiting for the new set.  Stay tuned.

It's been an amazing transformation, but the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Molly Lee Cards

If you ever have the need for the most unique, personally designed cards for a special occasion, this is the only place to go.  Molly Lee sells interactive cards on her Etsy site, which is a cornucopia of handmade items.

When we moved to our new home, Molly designed a housewarming card that had all the look and feel of a moving box.  Complete with a packing tape seal, when opened, the envelope unfolded like the top of a box.  Removing the invitation was like unpacking.  I can't tell you how much fun we had sending them - and how many enjoyable comments we received from guests.  I only wish I'd kept a sample for myself.

Creativity, talent and oh, yeah - customer service!  For all occasions that need that special flair, I'm simply going to give her the theme and let her create the perfect piece!

Grout Everywhere!

Wow!  Isn't this great?  Tom says this effect is all the rage!  Ahh... no.  Grout is a bit of a messy animal.  Fortunately, for people who know how to work with it, it sure cleans up nice.  What's the adage?  Something about breaking some eggs to make an omelet?

It is amazing just how much of a difference some well-placed goo makes when the right color is selected and applied by someone with skill.

The best way to see the impact of the grout in any of these photos is to click on a picture and see a zoomed version.  The detail is impressive.  You should see it in person.  For those of you who can, you have an open invitation.  
From a distance (these photos), not a lot seems to change on a daily basis.  I have to admit, I've been challenged trying to select photos that show some progress.  Progress is taking place each day - a significant amount - but without being up close, it's hard to see the details (click to zoom.)

Here's one that comes with an apology.  Sorry, Tom.  I couldn't resist capturing a shot of the guy who's making this transformation take place.  Thanks, Captain Grout!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fun With Before and After

It's not clear if Dick and Jane would have fun with this, but I think this is fascinating.  No, not the fact that I figured out how to use the MACRO setting on my camera, but that the grout makes such a dramatic difference in the project.

In the before state, the tiles are aligned, affixed and admired:

In the after, they are surfaced, smoothed and sensational!

Next is a more completed look at the furnace vent.  In Turning the Corner with Tile, I stressed the importance of tile placement planning to ensure all the right edges were in all the right places.  In that post, it was a picture of a roughed-in opening for the vent template without even a tile set in place.  Here, you can see the tile carefully cut to accommodate the template.

But wait, there's more!  Notice the individual pieces cut to fit across the vent.  Again, plenty of art on Tom's part to go with the science.

And here is the final piece, grouted and looking as if it was easy.  The mark of a craftsman.

With the grout down, the remaining work is to pull all the remaining puzzle pieces together.  We are beginning to accelerate to the finish.  Even Dick and Jane would have fun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sanks for zee Sinks

This was one of the many defining moments for this project.  Going from a cutout to having the sinks and faucets installed, all in one day, was a thrill.  We were a bit nervous anticipating how our "square sink" selection was going to work, but I'm thinking we make a good choice.

No, the Bosch Power Box is not part of our design, but I now want one.  Once connected to power, it provides a good sounding radio and CD, extra outlets, and probably a lot more gadgets than what I've been able to discover from snooping.   

Ah, the square sink.  Since it is a bit larger than we anticipated, there is not much clearance between the back of the sink and the backsplash.  Fortunately, it fit just fine - just closer than we envisioned.

And a final look at how it seats to the granite.

This confirms the end of the project is indeed in sight.  More to go, but grateful for where we are today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Devil is in the Details


The visible part of any project, as opposed to the underlying structure, is what gives it the excitement.  Of course in a construction project, the strength and quality of the unseen structure (the bacon) is equally as important, but it is what you see (the sizzle) that seems to matter.  The sizzle has indeed begun.

The tub has been getting considerable attention due to it's own special needs.  A new access door, a lot of trim work, and a completely new valve set.  (Hence the need for an access door.)  Notice again the screwy handles, one of which is installed backward.  The tub has it's own set of details that is making it sizzle.  Below, you see more of the artistic work to feather the sheetrock mud out to meet the tile.  Yes, another wall that wasn't... well... perfect... when it was built.

But perfection is in sight.
Next, is a nice "during and after" shot.  In "But Wait, Don't Take the Counter for Granite," (I just love that pun), I showed the "before" shot showing a gap from a straight piece of granite to a not-so-straight piece of wall.  Here, the sheetrock mud has been built up to meet the granite and feathered widely to that any sort of slope is imperceptible.

Next, you can see how it looks with the wall textured, painted, and caulked.  Sizzle that supports the bacon.

At this stage of the project, there is a lot happening - quickly.  There may be more opportunities to show a progression of photos.  The before, during and after perspectives should be a lot of fun and will be a great way to see how it is all coming together.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

989 - Last in a Series

With 989 days to go, it is still somewhat premature to begin looking at the last day of work, or the last annual review, or any sort of final events.  However, it has occurred to me that I am today experiencing a "last" before a certain retirement - from the school board.

As a school board member for 8 years (currently in the last year of my second, four-year elected term and have chosen not to run again), I have participated in many professional development opportunities related to public education.  This week-end is the Oregon School Boards Association annual convention.  School boards and education service districts from around the state get together annually to learn about trends in education, hear about best practices in a variety of areas and forge colleagial bonds with fellow board members from across Oregon.

And this is my last one.

This is somewhat sobering in that it is an example of many "lasts" I'll be experiencing as I get closer to retirement.  Some lasts will be a relief, but most will be a need for a reluctant good bye.  This week-end has put me on notice that it is time to celebrate areas of life as if they will be the last time to enjoy them.  Not meaning to sound morbid, but isn't that how we should enjoy life anyway?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nameless Contractors No More

It has occurred to me that through this entire project, I have consistently called Tom and Jeff our "contractors" in my blog postings.  Maybe subconsciously, I didn't want the world to know that I had screwed up on my choice, in the event they didn't work out.  Boy, that couldn't be any farther from the truth.

As I'm sure you've read by now, we've been extremely pleased with our choice.  Not just because of the early firings of the other candidates, but the consistent manner in which Tom and Jeff have added to our confidence through open communication and thoughtful actions.  You've already read about that - no need to go into it further.  The point is that in this particular case, there wasn't any screw up on my part.  Collette, this is for you:  "No reading on the Bozometer Scale!"

It is high time these guys get a name and not just a title.  They have already had conversations with some friends in the neighborhood, but I can't resist promoting their work further.  I'm tagging this in Memorable Merchants since they more than qualify.  In Memorable Merchants, I generally write a bit about why I'm pleased, but you know where you can find those comments.  If you are considering any sort of work around your home, do yourself a favor and call Tom at 360.772.1540.  Don't risk a reading on the Bozometer Scale.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jig-Saw Puzzle: Do You Start Around the Edges?

In the very first Bathroom Remodel post, "Welcome to the Bathroom Remodel," I cited a line from Alice and Wonderland.  "Start at the beginning... and when you come to the end, STOP."

The shower pan calls for a slightly different strategy.  Starting a jig-saw puzzle around the edge is as universal as dunking an Oreo.  OK, for you connoisseurs out there, I'll mention twisting it and eating the middle.  But I digress.  Instead of stopping at the end, I think we'll stop at the middle.

Here, planning is what it's all about.  Pencil lines and initial tile cuts give some dimension.

Then, continuing to piece together the ultimate puzzle causes the final image to begin to come through.

There are two other items that merit a mention.  First, never underestimate the value of blue painter's tape.  It is inexpensive, can be removed easily and does a great job of holding tile in place long enough to allow the mud to set.

Secondly, here's a look at the trim pieces, cut from full tiles.  The edges are rounded in the familiar bull nose manner, giving them a very nice finished appearance.

In the spirit of full disclosure, many of the trim pieces are additional pieces of tile our contractor had to "acquire."  You see, we ran out.  And when we checked with the supplier, the source had run out.  In our contractor's defense, it was I who guesstimated the amount we would need when measuring to finalize the order.  Rookie error: I didn't plan for the extra tiles needed due to the waste that comes with the diamond pattern in the shower.

Pulling in markers is another art.  Our contractor went to one of his regular suppliers and not only got a few pieces that were plenty close enough in color and pattern, but he (we) didn't have to pay for them.  They just comp'd him.  It gets better: one of the pieces was ripped from a sample display board.  I just wish I could claim this as a strategic move to keep our costs down.  I know: Bravo-Sierra.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

But Wait, Don't Take the Counter for Granite!

OK, so I took a bit of license with that one, but we can't take the granite for granted.  With all the focus on the tile, and all the beauty it has been holding, the granite is like the frosting.

Backsplash is in and the sinks are ready to be cut out.  (Yes, my challenging and inconsistent lighting is still with us.)  Look carefully at the differences in thickness between where the sink will be cut out and the bull nose edge.

To provide the appearance of a thicker piece of granite, the front edge is rounded and then a small piece is laminated on the underside.  Don't ask me!  It must be magic glue, special cutting, voodoo - I have no idea how they do it.  The slab is plenty stout at the actual thickness, but this effect gives the appearance of a much thicker piece.  I call it "visual value."

The photos above and below are great examples of how the finish work will bring it all together.  Above, this is another example of existing walls not being what you could call plumb and set at 90 degrees.  Notice the gap between the countertop and backsplash edges and that of the wall.  The pieces were cut exactly 90 degrees, but the wall didn't want to cooperate.

My late father was a carpenter and his forte was finish work.  The part you see, and in particular, the part you see that ties pieces together, is what makes or breaks a project.

The great equalizers: sheetrock mud, a can of texture and an artistic eye.  More on those later.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Tile-Saw Puzzle Begins!

If you've ever worked a jig-saw puzzle, you know that the pieces must be placed together exactly so to create your masterpiece.  Here, the artisans are using a tile saw (not elegant, but very cool), to create the intricate and precise pieces that are causing this puzzle to take shape.

In Turning the Corner with Tile, I hinted at the cascading effect of moving one piece.  Look closely below at the precision needed to keep all lines straight.  There's the tile spacers, the sticks of wood acting as braces up and down the edge, and there's even that little red shim used to get the spacing exact.  Now think about doing that on a vertical surface, with adhesive mud backing the tile, with many sizes and shapes -- and -- not offering four letter words in front of the homeowner.  Very impressive.

Our niche is one of the more interesting creations.  Since we couldn't find the style and size we wanted in a prefabricated unit, we decided to design our own.  (With our contractors' help, naturally.)  Remember, this is the place for shampoo and other bottles, a soap dish and a wash cloth (when the bar is installed.)

But the most intricate of the entire process will be the floor.  It's not vertical, but it does hold four unique planes, draining to the center, that must have lines, slopes and patterns align perfectly.  Not for me... Check Please!

One more level of detail that might seem insignificant, but is equally as important: keeping track of the baseboard trim pieces so they can be touched up and reinstalled.  By replacing only those pieces that can not (and should not) be repaired, we are saving considerable money.  The final product will look just as good - but without buying, prepping, and painting a fairly detailed molding.
I've always said that when a final product looks flawless on the surface, it's a signal that considerable planning and execution went into it.  We're seeing that unfold daily with a great deal of detail work being invested that is beginning to hint at what I expect to be a very spectacular finished puzzle.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Shower as a Continuing Science/Art Project

Tile may have been the corner-turner in the last post, but it is the shower stall that will be the jigsaw puzzle.  How hard can it be to put tile down on a big, flat floor?  (Remember, if it was easy, I'd be doing it!)  The shower is a complex space with slopes and multiple surfaces that must all work together.

The first step of course, is to get it covered up.  With the sheetrock on the walls, it is beginning to take shape.  The niche has been defined and the increased depth is beginning to become obvious.

From this angle, the two thicknesses of 2x4s is clearly shown.  Previously, the wall went just to the edge of the painted area.  It doesn't seem like much, but it will be a great enhancement.

Oh, yeah.  The toilet is still in the garage...

The shower will continue to be the focal point for several more days.  Plan, measure, cut, fit, adjust, glue, adjust again... you get the idea.  Art or science?  It's anybody's guess!