Home Improvement Part 3

Home Improvements, Part 3

This is part 3 in a sequence. If you want to begin at the beginning, you can go to Part 1. The following shows the contents for this and adjacent parts.

Part 2 (separate page)
  • Outdoor interlude
  • Painting: Phase 2
  • New carpets
Part 3 (this page) Part 4 (separate page)
  • New Mailbox
  • Master Bath Renovation (continued)
  • ...

(initial section posted 4/3/10)


It's been quite a while since I posted anything here. It's true that activity has slowed down a good deal, mainly because of the sluggish economy. But it's not true that nothing has been going on. After all, the house is 25 years old and there are things wearing out all the time. For example, in the last year or so I've had to replace the refridgerator and the water heater, among other things.

There has been been some other, more significant activity, but I've been lax about posting it here for various reasons. So I'll be going a bit out of sequence here, and I'll start with the most recent thing, mainly because I have the pictures for it right at hand...

Fence Repairs

You may recall (from back in Part 2) that after Hurricane Wilma damaged the fence, I had patched it enough to make it functional, but there was still some damage. Here's a picture of what the problem area looked like:

Because the fence was functional, it had been low on the priority list for repair. But I decided this winter I was finally going to get around to fixing it. At first I'd thought it would be easy to just get a couple of new fence panels, but when I saw how big and heavy the pre-made panels were, I figured it would probably be easier to just fix what was there. So, I started getting the lumber (a friend picked up a couple of brand new 4x4s at a construction site that were going to be discarded, but I bought the slats and 2x4s) and nails, and borrowed a post-hole digger, and a couple of weeks ago we got to work.

It went pretty smoothly. There was just the one post that was broken and needed to be replaced. We put in 6 new 2x4 horizontals. 4 had been clearly damaged and needed assistance, and 1 split when we were trying to nail it into the post; the other might've been OK but we figured we might as well do them all at that point. Then we replaced all the broken or split slats. It only took a couple of hours; here's the result. Doesn't it look SO much better?

(next section posted 7/12/10)

Hurricane Doors

OK, so let's go back to late 2007. (As mentioned, I'm a bit out of sequence here.) In the Autumn, I get my house insurance statement again, and am (again) disturbed by the high cost of wind insurance (it's like, over $4000 a year!) And again, I notice that I'm not getting a credit for my hurricane shutters. (I'm not sure why the insurance company wasn't notified when we first got the shutters, but that was a long time ago. Regardless, I've tried since then to "self-verify" that I had the shutters, but the evidence I had wasn't sufficient, and I found I needed to get an inspection to get the credit... which had been on my list of things to do.)

But this time, the insurance statement mentioned a state of Florida program called "My Safe Florida Home" that would provide windstorm inspections for free, and then possibly help you pay for certain hurricane-protection improvements for your home. So, I pursued that lead and got the inspection. They found that my roof was attached extra-strongly, and when I sent that info to my insurance company, it saved me about 30%!

But, oddly, I still didn't get my hurricane shutter discount. I inferred this was because of some issue with my back door (pictured right), which leads from the master bath out to the pool area, and had a window in it. I actually did have a shutter to cover the window, but I'd been wanting to replace this door anyway, and now I was thinking that the My Safe Florida Home program might help me pay for it.

The problem with the door was that it was wood, and exposed to a lot of Florida rain, critters, and humidity. So it was in pretty bad shape. You can't see it so much in the full shot, but you can see in the more detailed "before" views below: a closer view of the outside, and the jamb and threshhold on the inside.

When we first moved in, all the doors in the house were wood, including the garage door, and I thought that was really nice. But that's not always practical here in Florida. Years ago, we'd had a similar issue with the side door (leads out of the garage) and replaced it with a hurricane-rated steel door. We'd also replaced the bottom panel of the garage door some time back, but it was still all wood, and I was getting really tired of having to refinish/reseal it all the time to keep it in decent shape. The front doors, however, were fine, because there's an entryway that protects them from the elements.

So, My Safe Florida Home would help me pay for a new hurricane-rated garage door, which sounded like a good idea. It would also help pay if I upgraded "all" the regular doors to hurricane doors. That meant the back door (which I needed done), and also the front door (which I didn't really need, but figured it would probably be worth it for peace of mind). They also included the sliding glass doors among those "doors," but I figured those had shutters so were OK. I knew the side door was OK already. So I went ahead and signed up with one of their approved contractors (The Doorman) for a new garage door and front and back doors. (By this time it was the summer of 2008.) Alas, I didn't get "before" pictures of the other doors.

Hurricane Doors - Garage Door

The garage door went in first. The pic at left shows the inside (the doors at the far side are my old front doors). This is a Miami-Dade compliant steel door. It's actually pretty funny-looking on the inside--those bars across the door stick out almost 6 inches! The pic at right is the outside. It looks a lot like the original door, which was my goal. The old door had had a wood frame around it; the wood was of course getting kinda ratty so I'd asked the installer to remove it before putting in the new door (which had a narrower, plastic frame). Alas, the process of removing it pulled of some pieces of the underlying stucco, as in the picture below. Sigh... I was expecting to have to paint where the wood was removed. Now I needed to get the stucco patched first.

(next section posted 7/13/10)

It wasn't high on the priority list, though, because I didn't know a stucco guy offhand, and besides the problem was aesthetic, not functional, and it was a low-visibility item at that (the homeowners' association never complained!) But in October 2009 a friend happened to notice it and mentioned that he had a friend who did that kind of work. So, I got in touch, got a good estimate, and the stucco got done.

I still had to do the painting, though. And while the stucco was drying (I needed to wait a few days before I tried painting it), I got to thinking about other places on the house that also need some touching up, and decided it would make sense to get some additional paint to match the house, because I wasn't sure that the amount I had (leftover from when the house was painted) would be sufficient for it all. And this particular section, because of the way it was around the garage door, would be fine if it was a less than perfect match with the rest of the house. So what with one thing and another, it took me a while to get the paint and get around to actually doing the painting. But finally, yesterday, I finished it. Below are some photos showing before the painting (but after the stucco patching) on the left, and after the painting on the right.
Right side of garage door

At left, before painting (with garage door open)

At right, after painting (with garage door closed)

Left side of garage door

At left, before painting (with garage door open)

At right, after painting (with garage door closed)

(next section posted 7/14/10)

Hurricane Doors - Front and Back

It was a couple weeks later, on two separate days (back in that summer of '08), when they installed the front and back doors.

Here's pix of the outside (at left) and inside (at right) of the new back door, which I learned is called a "cabana" door (which typically is pretty narrow). Look at how nice it looks compared to the old door as shown above. I really wanted to get a door with a window. Besides it being nice for letting light into the bathroom in general, I thought it would be really helpful to combat SAD when the hurricane shutters are up. (The shutters totally cover all the other windows in the house, and they're all aluminum, so they block all the light. Because this is a hurricane-rated window in the new door, it doesn't need to be covered in the event of a 'cane.) I might've preferred just a half-window like the old door, but they didn't have that option. This window is really cool, though... it's got miniblinds pre-installed inside the glass.

Below is an "after" pic of the jamb and threshhold, for comparison with the "before" pic.

And here's the outside (at left, seen with the screen door open) and the inside (at right) of the new front doors. You'll note these, like the back door, are a light-colored mock wood (actually the doors are made of fiberglass). The door guy said they could be stained like real wood, and I was planning to do that to make them darker... The trim around both doors is raw wood and needs painting, also. And some of the wall paint around the front door also needs touching up, as shown below:

Those were not high-priority items, though, and as of this writing they still haven't been done. But jeekers, it's no wonder the list of things to do never gets shorter... each time you cross one thing off the list, you add 2 new things.

Addenda: By the way, although the My Safe Florida Home program did help pay for the new garage door, it wouldn't help with the front and back doors. The problem was I needed to protect "all" doors, which included the sliding glass doors. And the shutters I have for the sliders are old and were never tested for compliance with current hurricane codes. I would have had to get new shutters, and I didn't really think that made a lot of sense. I have confidence in my old shutters. At least I got my new back door, and now I have some peace of mind knowing that all my doors are secure in a hurricane.

(next section posted 12/29/10)

Master Bath Renovation - Tile

I've mentioned previously (back at the end of Part 1) that I was planning to do a master shower remodel. For years there'd been various water issues in the area around the shower in the master bath. We'd fix the (apparent) cause, and it would seem to help for a while, and then the problem, or something like it, would come back. The wall right next to the shower door eventually developed some bad water damage (see pic at right).

So I'd been thinking that it might be a good idea to get the shower done over with one of those acrylic things. But then the economy went bad, and I decided I would try just patching what was there. So late last year, I hired a guy to do that, and he did a nice job fixing the wall and tile, and re-caulking the shower.

But... it wasn't long until even the freshly redone wall was showing water marks again (first pic, below).


Plus the (somewhat) newly-installed hurricane door was also showing water marks (2nd pic, above). So, I finally became convinced that there was something fundamentally wrong with the shower. And I figured an acrylic shower would not fix whatever the issue was, it would only cover it up. So, I contacted a guy who does bathroom renovation (actually the same guy who fixed the stucco around the garage door) and asked him to completely tear out the old (faux marble) shower and rebuild a new tile shower. And while he was at it, might as well re-tile the whole bathroom floor too.

He was just going to do the installation; I'd have to purchase the tile myself. That turned out to be a process, partly because all I'd really been thinking about was getting the problem fixed; I hadn't really thought about what I wanted the result to look like. I quickly decided that I didn't want the "beige all over" bathroom I had before (pic at left). I visited a few places looking at tile, and saw some that I thought were nice. But nothing was particularly exciting... until about the fourth place I went to. They had a several samples of their tile installed right on their floor, and one of them really caught my eye. It was a smooth tile, but had the look of natural stone. I took a sample of it home, along with a couple others, and sure enough, the ones I liked best in the store also looked best in my bathroom, next to the fixtures I was going to keep (separate bathtub, toilet, countertop). So the decision was made: the bathroom floor would be the stone-look tile, and the shower stall itself would be a beigey-marbley tile, similar to the existing fixtures.

So, it took a while for the tile to be delivered, and for me to get the shower fixtures and door, and to schedule with the installer guy, but work finally started on Tuesday, December 7. Here are some interim pictures (note the lighting was kinda funky when I took these, so the colors aren't very good).

Floor tile, before grouting. Back right is step up to separate bathtub. On the left you can see where the old tile "baseboard" was removed; new one hasn't been put in yet.

Floor tile where the toilet has been removed. Again, you can see where the old tile "baseboard" was.

Shower stall. Walls have been tiled (but not grouted). Floor is in process of being rebuilt and has yet to be tiled. You can see how the "curb" in front of the enclosure is being rebuilt.

The other side of the shower stall, the side that had all the worst water damage, in the process of being rebuilt.

Here's some pics when we're almost done (and the color is better):

Toilet area, ready for the toilet to be replaced. "Baseboards" and grout done.

Shower stall, with shower floor tile in place, and "curb" completed. Ready for shower door.
Top of shower enclosure area, showing shower wall tile going all the way out to the door frame. I thought this was actually a nice way to fix the damaged bit of wall that had been there.

All the tiling was finished on Friday. Here are some pics showing the finished floor:

Corner near step up to bath. (Compare with earlier pics of same basic location.)

Floor, bath, and current cabinets, with Mimi checking it all out. (Compare with earlier "everything beige" pic.)
Toilet area with toilet replaced (obviously :-)

And the shower door was installed Saturday. Here are some pics of the basically all-new shower:

Inside of shower.

Shower floor.

New shower door on the rebuilt "curb."

Outside of shower, showing door, etc.

And at right is a pic of that spot that had the really bad water damage.

So everything looks great! Of course, I knew I was going to have to paint after this was done, because of the rebuilt wall where the water had damaged it. But now everything else looks so fresh and clean, that the old paint looks REALLY bad. So I'm anxious to get that done next. I've already done some prep work; for example, the bit of wall showing in that last photo has already been primed. But I'm still working on picking out a new wall color, something "not-beige"...

(next section posted 12/29/10)

Master Bath Renovation - Back Door Paint

So, I've been working on painting the master bath. I've completed painting the ceiling. That was awkward, but it needed doing. (Alas, the work doesn't show for photos.) I've been doing prep work around the doorways (this bathroom has 3 of them), including priming the jamb around the hurricane door. (Refer to the door section above for pictures of the new back door before painting.)

So although I was working on the inside, I got to thinking about how the outside wall/jamb of the door still needed painting. And because that required very little in the way of prep work, and I had the paint and everything, I just went ahead and did it (pic at right). I think it looks pretty nice now, so maybe I don't need to stain the door itself.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to pick out a color for the wall. I am really glad they sell paint in the little sample sizes.

Continue to Part 4


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