Category Archives: house

A Guide to Converting a Tub to a Shower

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My husband and I both renovated houses before we knew one another.  In fact, when we lived in Houston, we were both doing it at the same time, within 3 blocks of one another, without any knowledge of the other person.  We didn’t meet until years later, when he taught a Shakespeare class that I enrolled in at the University of St. Thomas, where I did a lot of my undergrad work.  Anyway….we are both into do-it-yourself home projects, so I wanted to share some information about that with you.

It can be a fun project to convert an old bathtub or tub/shower combination into a nice walk-in shower. A conversion of this nature can come in handy for people with mobility problems, or for anyone who would simply like the convenience of a shower rather than a tub.

Each tub-to-shower conversion offers many different choices, such as the type of shower door that will be used, if any, and whether to use a fiberglass unit or to waterproof and tile the walls.

Generally speaking, the following steps are entailed, but may differ from job to job:

  • Removal of the original tub
  • Removal of faucets and other plumbing, adjustments to supply lines and wastewater drains
  • Shower base installation
  • Wall repair
  • Re-installation of plumbing fixtures
  • Waterproofing of wall installation
  • Shower door installation

    I  have put together a handy guide to converting a tub to a shower to help owners make all the right decisions.

Relocation

The job of completely tearing out a tub in favor of building a new shower is not necessarily an easy task, but it is one that can pay off later on by increasing the value of the property.

Ideally, a professional contractor should be called in initially, to help assess the space, to devise potential solutions and to determine the best place for the shower’s location. It is also advisable to get a formal bid this time for price comparison purposes if one is considering a do-it-yourself project.

The main issue with relocating a shower lies in the underlying drains and pipes. Even doing something as simple as relocating a toilet by only a few inches can entail a major plumbing overhaul. There are also very specific physical limitations dictated by local building codes.

If the conversion is to take place in a ground floor bathroom with a raised foundation, new pipes can be run under the floor joists. The joists are easily accessed through the bathroom’s crawl space or basement.

If the conversion is to take place in a ground-floor bathroom that is built on a concrete slab, things can be moved around. However, the concrete will have to be broken up in order to install the new drains. Doing this, of course, will incur additional costs.

Second-story bathrooms are a whole different ballgame. New pipes can be run under the floor joists. However, this entails ripping up sections of the first floor ceiling, which will then have to be rebuilt, again, incurring additional costs.

In the majority of cases, the place where the tub stands originally will provide plenty of room for a shower. However, a solid surface curb will have to be built to prevent the water from splashing out onto the bathroom floor.

Another thing to consider is the choice of a shower door. If a door is to be used, there should be room for it to swing open without hitting something like a sink or the toilet. There are many types of shower doors, but having one is not necessary.

There are also partial  panels made of glass that can keep the water contained. They have the disadvantage of letting in cold air, however, so should only be installed in a bathroom that has a good heat source.

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A real disadvantage to tearing out a bathtub to replace it with a shower is the house’s potential resale value. Many prospective homeowners prefer a tub for bathing their small children, especially if the room being remodeled is a space shared by the whole family.

A retrofit of the existing plumbing is the less invasive remedy for creating a shower. The wall will need to be opened up (typically from the adjacent room) and plumbing will have to be brought up to code. A water-resistant, concrete dry wall, Hardibacker or Wediboard will need to be bought, along with tiles for the walls.

Regardless of the chosen solution, the conversion of a tub to a shower also affords the perfect opportunity to upgrade venting, lighting and other built-in amenities that improve the area, such as shelving, a bench or built in niches for shampoo and other shower items.

The conversion of a tub into a shower involves many variables and a lot of planning, regardless of the size of the bathroom, but especially if the room is a small one.

The preliminary stages of a tub-to-shower conversion do not begin by ripping out tiles and buying paint. This type of project should start by writing all the proposed changes on paper. This is one of the most crucial steps, as this information will be referred to time and again throughout the process.

The area to be converted should be measured, the final design decided upon and research conducted before anything else happens. Then, a to-scale blueprint should be drawn.

Costs

When planning a renovation, the costs of a tub-to-shower conversion can be tricky. Generally speaking, the fewer changes made, the lower the cost will be.

A plumber may charge up to $3,000 to remove the original tub and associated plumbing to install new wall surfaces and a new receptor. The cost will be considerably higher if the homeowner decides to upgrade the shower enclosure material to a ceramic tile or solid surface.

DIYers with carpentry and plumbing experience can dismantle and tear out the original tub and fixtures and purchase a receptor and wall surround kit for around one third of a plumber’s cost. The installation, in this case, is free, saving a considerable amount of money.

The size of the bathroom can be a major determining factor in figuring costs. Fixtures come in a wide variety of prices, as do tiles, dry wall and other things needed in the conversion. Roughly speaking, a shower installation can cost as little as $250 and as much as $10,000 or more.

One-piece, curbless shower enclosures cost between $2000 and $4000. Shower kits with fiberglass sides and hinged doors average from $250 to $2000.

Hiring a plumber tends to be the more expensive option. However, doing so can be the more economic plan, time-wise. An experienced plumber is also much less likely to make costly mistakes. However, the costs of raw materials and the sweat equity involved in producing a do-it-yourself job will cost, in most cases, considerably less money.

The decision on which way to go should depend on the homeowner’s level of remodeling expertise, and the amount of time he or she wishes to take working on the project. The homeowner should also check local building license requirements. However, his is an area where a professional plumber is most knowledgable.

Tips Before Remodeling

What to measure

In most cities, building codes dictate that the shower floor should measure at least 30″ x 30″. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends, at minimum, a 36″ x 36″ shower stall. Using these standards will probably require a tub alcove modification. For example short wall partitions may be added to result in a shower space that is 36″ deep.

Other important measurements:

  • A ceiling height of at least 80″.
  • The distance between the center of the toilet to the wall should be at least 18,” and the distance from the toilet’s side to the shower wall should be a minimum of 15″.
  • Calculating the distance from the front of the toilet to the shower or any wall should be a minimum of 21,” and ideally, at least 30″.
  • Calculate the swing of the shower door, making sure that it is clear from all obstructions. Pay particular attention to the vanity cabinet and toilet. If there is a problem, sliding glass doors or the simple addition of a shower curtain and no door can solve the problem.

Types of Showers

Showers are available as full showers or as shower-tub combinations. If the resale value of the house is a consideration, the latter choice is the better one for a house that only has one bathroom. This compensates for the possibility of a family with children eventually buying the house. This demographic tends to lean toward having at least one tub in the house. So long as there is another bathroom that has a tub, the choice of a shower alone should be fine.

A regular shower is the better choice for a small bathroom. They are more room efficient and can look quite impressive with only a few simple upgrades. A tub/shower combination is easier to replace with a shower, since the shower uses less space. The other option costs more because of the extra plumbing requirements.

Curbs or No Curbs

The shower floor makes a definitive statement about the style and cost of a tub to shower conversion. Showers with curbs tend to be simpler and less expensive to install than curbless installations. The common curbed shower has a 6″ step at its entrance. People who are seeking a more sophisticated, streamlined bathroom seldom take into consideration how that curb will stand out when the job has been completed.

People in wheelchairs can have great difficulties getting in and out of a curbed shower. A curbless or “zero threshold” shower was once thought of as a convenience for people who had mobility issues. Today, they are considered stylish additions to any home.

A zero threshold shower is a fairly easy project for a new home. However, it can be less simple when remodeling an older home, as structural issues often come into play. In some cases, the floor structure will need to be reworked to achieve the needed recess for proper drainage. This type of shower can improve shower accessibility considerably.

Do I Stick it in the Fridge?

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Some foods need to be refrigerated.  Others don’t.  This is a list of  foods that do not need to be chilled.

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1. Bananas – Storing bananas in the refrigerator can actually disrupt their ripening process.  Once refrigerated, a banana may never be able to resume the ripening process even if returned to room temperature.

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2. Yams and Sweet Potatoes – When exposed to cold temperatures, starches found in potatoes will turn to sugar, disrupting their flavor and texture. If you prefer tasteless potatoes that cause weight gain, however, please refrigerate.

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3. Tomatoes – Have you ever tasted a really amazing tomato right out of the fridge?  Nope, Me neither.  Tomatoes LOSE their flavor and become mushy when refrigerated.

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4. Apples -Apples  lose their texture and flavor when refrigerated.  If you want a cold apple, just stick it in the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to eat it.  Otherwise, store them at room temperature.

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5. Onions – If you love soggy onions while also causing the rest of your food to taste and smell like onions, then you’ll definitely want to refrigerate your onions immediately.  Otherwise, try storing them in a paper bag (within a cool, dark cabinet) for maximum shelf-life.  And by the way, did you know that storing onions with potatoes will cause the potatoes to ripen too quickly and to spoil sooner?  The onions give off a gas that causes this, so be sure to separate them for storage, m’k?

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6.  Avocados – Much like the banana, refrigeration shuts down an avocado’s ripening enzymes.  If you want guacamole next month, this may be OK, but if you’re like me, you probably want guacamole today.

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7. Coffee – Contrary to popular belief, coffee is best stored at room temperature to allow the natural oils within the coffee beans to activate its pungent aromatic scent. Refrigeration can actually cause coffee to absorb odors from other foods in your fridge.

Speaking of coffee…I haven’t had mine yet this morning, so off I go.  Have a happy day everyone!

It’s Official! 

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There is no greater feeling in life than accomplishing a goal that one has worked hard to achieve….well, maybe seeing my daughter receive HER masters degree was a greater feeling, but this is a significant personal milestone and I’m feeling pretty good about it today.  Congratulations, me. 😀  

Day #28 – Looking In

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Lavender for Migranes

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Lavender has been studied recently for several purposes including treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, as well as a number of other things. Its analgesic effect, however, its painkiller effect, is one of the widely studied properties. Surprising, then, that there hasn’t apparently been a single documented clinical trial to study lavender for the treatment of migraine headaches that affects tens of millions of Americans every year. Until now: “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.”

Migraine sufferers were asked to—at the early signs of headache—rub 2–3 drops of the lavender essential oil onto their upper lip and inhale its vapor for a 15-min period of time and score the severity of their headache for the next two hours. In the control group they did the same thing except they used drops of basically unscented liquid wax. Neither group was allowed to use any painkillers. In the lavender group 74% of patients had an improvement in their symptoms, significantly better than placebo. Though in the study lavender wasn’t directly compared to more conventional treatments, lavender appears to stack up pretty well compared to typical drugs. Lavender helped about three quarters of the time, high dose Tylenol only works about half the time, and Ibuprofen 57% of the time. The #1 prescription drug, generic imitrex, is effective 59% of the time, and then the hardcore treatment they use in emergency rooms where they inject you under the skin, 70%. All of these work better than the original migraine therapy, known as trepanning, where doctors drilled a hole in your head to let the evil spirits escape.

Conclusion: The present study suggests that inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.

You can buy pharmaceutical grade lavender for $21 HERE.

Day #21-Wet

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Day #28-Pink

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Day #20 – Equal

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Day #16- Clean

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Day #9 – Peaceful

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Day 6 – 10 o’clock

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I was asleep at 10:00.  This picture represents my worst nightmare.

Day #27- In My Bedroom

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Day #18-Fluffy

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Bow Ties for Dogs??!! (Straight out of Portlandia)

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Bow Ties for Dogs??!!  (Straight out of Portlandia)

I have written about the food cart “pod” that is a couple of blocks from our house.  It is an amazing gathering of carts that serve gourmet quality international food selections on the cheap.  We love it, both for the food and the low prices, as well as for the diversity of the crowd that gathers there.  In addition to the food carts, there are also a couple of cool shops, one in a double decker bus.

My daughter, Sarah, her daughter, Ingrid, and I took a stroll there over the weekend just to see what was going on.  They usually have music on the weekends and sometimes jugglers or acrobats or other types of free entertainment that Ingrid loves.  This week, we met a nice guy named Josh who had his sewing machine set up at a little table and was making bow ties for dogs.  Said he makes enough to support himself, which you have to admit, is very cool.

See?  This is what I love about Portland.  When people are broke, they don’t just sit around and complain about the economy.  They invent ways to make money.  This is my own way of thinking.    Here is a little video that I shot of Josh.  You’ll probably get a kick out of it.  Looks like a scenario straight out of Portlandia:

 

The Magical Power of Lemon Water

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I felt emotionally exhausted and physically drained after my trip to another state week before last.  Saying goodbye to loved ones is always so hard, but in this case, it was absolutely agonizing.

Four funerals of friends over a 10-day span was just too much.    On the flight home, I asked the airline hostess for a glass of water with lemon.  Upon drinking it, I noticed that my mood was lifted rather instantaneously.   It was as though I’d just consumed a magic potion.

My mother has always extolled the virtues of lemon water.  For years, it has been my “go-to” drink.  I love it, and I choose it over soda every time.  If I want something bubbly, I will drink either San  Pellegrino or Perrier with a squeeze of lemon.  I love the stuff…so light and refreshing.  Little Ingrid now loves it, too.

None of us drink sugary soft drinks.

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Among many other things the advantages of regularly drinking lemon water include:

  • Preventing  the growth of pathogenic bacteria and the decomposition of tissue
  • Cleansing the system of certain impurities, and also helping prevent certain diseases and infections
  • It is amazingly effective at dissolving uric acid (often the cause of pain and inflammation in joints) and other poisons in the body
  • It can help reduce symptoms of malaria, rheumatism, gout, rickets and tuberculosis…not that I have any of these diseases…

And I think it simply tastes good.

I keep a lemon half in a small glass container right inside my refrigerator door.  Each time I pour myself a glass of water, I grab the lemon and give it a little squeeze into the glass.  Doesn’t take much to impart a truly delicious flavor.  Although, in the summer, when mint is fresh and ripe, I might add a sprig or two of that as well, I never add sugar.   I’m sweet enough already.  😉

People with liver damage often turn to lemon water because its healing power is an excellent stimulant for the liver.   From what I understand, it helps liquefy bile and helps control excess bile flow. For liver complaints, it is recommended that one drink warm lemon juice one hour before breakfast.  Drinking it as a “tea” and drinking it in a cold glass of water provide different benefits and different taste sensations.

One of the most important benefits of imbibing lemon water with some degree of regularity, is its effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Lemon water assists in the process of digestion and elimination.  It also has an alkalizing effect on the body. Increasing body alkalinity is what you should be going for.  It is one of the key benefits of drinking lemon water.

Other benefits include:

  • Helps purify the blood and will also control a tendency to bleed
  • Assists in lowering high blood pressure
  • Reduces the amount of phlegm in the body
  • Relieves symptoms of asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems
  • Nourishes brain and nerve cells due to its potassium content
  • Helps dissolves gallstones, calcium deposits, kidney stones, and pancreatic stones

Basically, as we get older, our bodies “rust” (sort of).   Rust is, of course, the oxidation of metal. And scientifically, aging has been considered the slow oxidation of our bodies. Like those brown age spots on the back of people’s hands?  That’s just oxidized fat under the skin. Oxidant stress is why we get wrinkles, that’s why we lose some of our memory, that’s why our organ systems break down as we get older.  How do we slow down oxidation? By eating foods containing anti-oxidants. If you want to know if a food has a lot of antioxidants in it you slice it open, expose it to air—expose it to oxygen and see what happens. Does it oxidize, does it turn brown? Think about our two most popular fruits: apples and bananas. Turn brown right away—not a lot of antioxidants inside there. How to do you keep your fruit salad from turning brown though? Add lemon juice, which has vitamin C in it, an antioxidant, which can keep your food from oxidizing and can do the same thing inside our bodies.  Lemons are good for you and help slow down the aging process.

I also use lemon juice for countless other things around the house.  For example, I boil a few slices of lemon in about half a litre of water. Let it cool. Pour it in a spray bottle and voilå!   My own homemade air freshener!  I use it as a glass cleaner.  I use it to polish my silver.  I toss a lemon into the garbage disposal to make it smell good.  I use it in my homemade furniture polish.  I just love how it smells.

Lemons.  They’re a good thang!

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Using Diffusers to Get Rid of Mice the Humane Way

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Using Diffusers to Get Rid of Mice the Humane Way

You may recall the post I made the other day about using diffused essential oils to aid in concentration.  I promised to write more about diffusers, but today, my friend  submitted this story about her own experience in getting rid of mice without killing them.

Getting Rid of Mice the Humane Way

This is my first autumn in this century-old cottage, which I am renting in a woodsy area in the middle of the city. One of the agreements I made with my landlord was that I would accept the house as it was, including the formerly mouse-infested basement.

I agreed because I love this little house a lot.

This was the most disgusting job I’ve ever had to do and I wasn’t sure that I had the gumption to tackle it myself. I thought about hiring someone to do the job for me, but I was only procrastinating… I had to clean this shit up myself.

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With the help of a borrowed shop vac, gifted steam cleaner, shop towels, bleach, and lots of elbow grease, I thoroughly cleaned that basement so that I finally felt safe enough to start moving my basement stuff down there.

The wooden shelf above the utility sink was the first shelf that got scrubbed and then covered with contact paper. Perfectly clean and easy to wipe down.

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The nice contact paper shelf at eye level also made it easy to spot mouse droppings one day last week, when the temperature dropped down into the 50s. A mouse! I must get rid of it!
I knew there must be a natural way to repel this mouse so I did my research and learned that mice hate the smell of peppermint. I happened to have peppermint oil in stock and so I put some peppermint oil drops on some cotton balls and shoved these into crevices and corners near the site of the mouse-dropping.
It worked for a couple of days… then on the third day–rats! He was back. Not as many mouse droppings as before, but still… I want him entirely gone.

I pondered to myself… “How can I keep a perpetually consistent smell of peppermint going in this corner?
AHA!

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The SpaRoom Aromafier that my friend gave me to try!

The diffuser is about the size of a computer mouse (how ironic!) and it comes with a USB adapter. I happened to have an AC adapter on hand (it also runs on batteries), so I plugged it into the wall near the dryer vent (where I think the critter sneaks in), and I aimed the diffuser fan at the suspected entry point. I put about 8 drops of peppermint oil on the pad, and it’s quiet as a whisper so I’ve been running the Aromafier 24/7 and great news…. no more mouse droppings! It’s been over a week now, so this method works.
I found that I have to replenish the peppermint oil about every other day (every 48 hours). It smells nice and no more mousies!
The Aromafier is around $25, which includes a bottle of peppermint essential oil. You can order it here.