Be humble to see your mistakes, courageous to admit them, and wise enough to correct them

Our story so far: In the finishing phase of renovating the 126-year-old Methodist church into a home, a quarter inch—or foot—made the difference between something fitting or not. We found out the hard way missing steps meant going back to retrace them.

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The upstairs bathroom was particularly vexing.

When the lights I’d ordered months ago were delivered, I unpacked the fixtures for the vanity, and a knot formed in my stomach. What I had unpacked was beautiful, but I knew instantly the wiring—around which had been drywalled and painted—was in the wrong place. The electrician did the best he could with the direction he got—from me—but I was wrong. The wall would need to be ripped into, re-drywalled and repainted.

upstairs lighting fufu
In order to get the lighting fixtures in the right place the second time, I made templates of the mirrors to show exactly where they would hang. No more by guess or by golly. Note the exposed two-by-fours that should be behind drywall.

We had invested in a standard shower stall for that bathroom, and a standard glass door. Both had been delivered in March so the stall could be installed before we built walls around it. When You-Can-Call-Me-Al got to installing the door, he realized it was too tall. After rummaging around in an inches-deep pile of receipts, we remembered we’d purchased it at Lowe’s. Tyler made a phone call. Thank goodness, the Big Box store had a lenient return policy. I boxed the door back up, drove a half hour to Lowe’s, stood in line twenty minutes to return it, purchased a new door with Tyler’s specs and drove back to the church. You-Can-Call-Me-Al set to installing the new door, and he determined it was now the correct height but the wrong width. Back to Lowe’s. Apparently, “standard” comes in a variety of sizes.

On the last day of our plumber Glimfeather’s work, he brought two helpers and powered through a lot of plumbing details. In the last hour of his work, he announced he was nearly done; he had only to install the bathtub faucet. Where did I want it to be installed again? We surveyed the tub, and I fixed the point. I went about some other task, leaving him to his work, only to be called to the tub a few minutes later. The faucet—a beautiful one we’d coveted, ordered and paid for in April—was designed for a vanity sink, not a tub. “It’ll take forty minutes to fill your tub with that faucet,” Glimfeather said. “The water will be cold before you’re done.” Alas, the plumber’s work was not done after all. We’d have to track down the correct faucet, and he’d have to come back.

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Today’s headline is a quote from author Amine Ayad.

Tomorrow: A litany of little snafus pops up.


Make time for planning; wars are won in the general’s tent

Our story so far: Early on in our church conversion project, our wry son-in-law joked he was going to start a competing blog called “Everything Wrong With the Church.” This chapter is for him.

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We had been cruising along, making a lot of decisions by hook or by crook, and we had arrived at the point where our lack of design plans exacted a price. In time or money. Or both. The finishing phase was where the rubber hit the road.

The size of the refrigerator nook, for example: We measured incompletely and ended up having to re-drywall the nook so the fridge would fit.

This would never happen to a house builder who built the same five house plans over and over again. Key word: Plans. Same for a custom home builder. An architect would have determined measurements for everything before a single nail was driven. We weren’t home builders, and we were arrogant enough to believe we could do an architect’s work (we had a floor plan—what more is there?). As the saying goes, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. If we had a written plan, we still might have ended up with a crooked wall here and there, and we might still be making decisions by the seat of our pants, but we wouldn’t be redoing work. Now, in the finishing phase, a quarter inch—or foot—made the difference between something fitting or not. Missing steps meant going back to retrace them.

On top of our lack of plans, we were making the final push towards occupancy, so Tyler sometimes had a half dozen men working in the church at once. If the street in front of our house didn’t look like a construction zone before, it did now. Timing issues—this task was required before that task could be finished—were bound to arise.

Vehicles belonging to contractors and to us lined both sides of the street in front of the church on many days during the push for occupancy.

Someone—we’re not pointing fingers here—screwed a hole in the electrical wiring behind the beverage bar. When the electricity didn’t work, we pulled out both beverage fridges and performed trouble shooting. Two hours, gone. While we had everything torn apart, Tyler added some insulation to the plumbing running up an exterior wall. Maybe in this way, a mistake prevented a future problem. This was how we had to think in order to keep frustration from outrunning hope.

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Today’s headline is a quote from author Stephen Covey.

Tomorrow: The upstairs bathroom … uff-da. Read about it here.

Everything wrong with the church

Our story so far: My husband Tyler and I bought a 126-year-old Methodist church, and we spent nine months transforming the first and second floors into our dream home. We began to see the finished results of our efforts.

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Chapter 39

Chapter 39As the months wore on, and we encountered challenges small and big, we talked about them. Constantly. We were a one-note two-man band.

Early on, our wry son-in-law joked he was going to start a competing blog called “Everything Wrong With the Church” and reveal all our mistakes we didn’t want to share with the world. Then I think he realized how little I left out when I was broadcasting our every move to the world. This chapter is for him.

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Tomorrow: Another one bites the dust. Read about it here.

Playing dress up begins at age 5 and never truly ends

Our story so far: Phase Five of finishing details had arrived at the old Methodist church we were turning into our home. Chapter 38 concludes.

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Besides installing shelving in all the various cabinets we’d installed in the church, we needed closet rods before we could start moving in.

We reused the closet rods that came with the hall closet, and Tyler hung a standard closet rod in the upstairs closet in a matter of minutes. The master walk-in closet, with nearly twenty-five feet of horizontal hanging space, required a bit more effort.

Tyler was inspired to use half-inch steel plumbing pipe for rods. It was strong, cheap and eminently customizable. I liked the industrial vibe so much, I’d chosen cabinet pulls and closet light fixtures to match. I spent one evening researching standard closet measurements in order to achieve the most efficient use of space. One morning, Tyler operated his measuring tape inside the closet and dictated measurements to me. He ordered pipe fittings online, and he called up the nearby Big Box store to have pipes cut and threaded to size.

When everything arrived, we laid it all out on the bedroom floor, a bit confused about where to begin. Which pipes were forty-two inches long and where were the forty-four-inch ones? Is this one a vertical pipe or a horizontal pipe? Which pieces do we screw together first?

After the first attempt, we realized we needed more five-way pipe fittings. Oh, and the ceiling and floor weren’t perfectly parallel, so we’d have to have some of the pipes shortened a bit (which the plumber handled for us on site with his pipe cutter-and-threader—his tool probably has a different name, but this was its function). As with all construction projects, this one also required a bit of grunting and sweating, but the stud finder and electric drill came in handy. As far as items on the Honey-Do list went, this one was pretty easy. Presto, change-o, the plumbing pipe turned into closet rod.

pipe flange
That thing used to attach the pipe to the wall is called a flange. The thing a girl learns in a construction project.
closet rods
If you think the size of this closet is extravagant, wait until you see the size of Tyler’s TV.

I had lived for two years in a camper or a tiny rental house, neither of which had more than a few feet of clothes hanging space. I had been pretty proud of myself to downsize like that. In truth, I had gotten rid of a lot of out-of-fashion and ill-fitting items, but several boxes of really nice clothes had been packed away, waiting patiently to be worn again. I was in heaven, admiring something as simple as closet rods.

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Tomorrow: Chapter 39 begins: Everything that’s wrong with the church. Read it here.

The shower: A place for deep thoughts, musical performances and cleaning up

Our story so far: After months of preamble, the vanity in the master bath of the converted Methodist church came together in a matter of about forty-eight hours with tradesmen practically crawling over each other to get work done.

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While he was there, the glass guy spent several hours installing our coveted glass shower door. The one we drooled over so many months ago when we were trying to make the numbers work. And the rainfall shower head. Oh. Oh. Oh. My brother-in-law installed a rainfall shower head in his and my sister’s home. It was divine (and theirs wasn’t even in a church), and I knew what I was missing. How I longed to stand under those water drops for an entire afternoon.

shower before
Just to remind you how far we’ve come, that corner on the right is where our master shower is now. This room had been used mostly recently in the church as an office. The window in the center of the picture is in our new bathroom, and the wall on the far left was moved to where the beam is; the window on the left is in our bedroom.
shower pre construction
Here’s that corner post-demo with two walls of the shower framed in.
shower after
And here’s the tiled shower with the fixtures and the glass walls installed.

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Tomorrow: Chapter 38 wraps up with a look at the master closet. Check it out here.

How a double-sink vanity can save a marriage

Our story so far: We crossed things off our list as we finished some details on the old Methodist church we were turning into our home.

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Glimfeather, our plumber, returned. He still was a fan of strange hours (Sundays, Friday evenings) but he didn’t linger until 2 o’clock in the morning anymore.

It was so odd for me to see a man washing his hands in one of my sinks. For months, I had no sinks. Then for weeks, I had no faucets. And for days, I feared running the water (was the drain connected yet? Did I dare find out?). When I witnessed the plumber washing his hands, I knew: The system was operational. Glory be.

The plumbing in the kitchen was nothing particularly special (unless you consider a pot filler special) though I was inordinately excited about having a garbage disposal and a dishwasher again. It was the master bath plumbing that had me singing like Carly Simon: “An-ti-ci-pa-yay-tion … is making me wait.”

Coincidentally (if coordinating multiple tradesmen is ever coincidental), the vanity in the master bath came together in a matter of about forty-eight hours. You-Can-Call-Me-Al installed the tin ceiling and flanking cabinets, Low Talker painted the tin, Glimfeather installed the faucets and the glass guy installed my elegantly arched mirrors. We weren’t quite done—primarily, we needed lights, outlet covers, towel rings and knobs like an apothecary cabinet maker—but we got mighty close. That double-sink vanity made me want to brush my teeth. I would never have to share a mirror again!

bathroom faucets
Mirror, mirror, mirror on the wall.

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Tomorrow: Do you see what I see? A shower, a shower, dancing in the water. Read about it here.


Cuban accent

Our story so far: The trades were working hard on the finishing details of the old Methodist church we were turning into our home.

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The day You-Can-Call-Me-Al put up the backsplash in the kitchen was a banner day. I adored how it turned out, tying together so many different colors in the kitchen all in the rustic style of Paramount Flooring’s Havana.

The feature area above the stove was laid out ahead of time with deliberate placement of the Deco Mix. I wanted You-Can-Call-Me-Al to use the 4-by-8 Sugar Cane and Havana Sky tiles randomly, but he wanted a bit more direction than that, so he laid them on the countertop first and let me reorganize them “randomly.” I used mostly white with the cream-colored cabinets and mostly blue with the blue ones.

At first, You-Can-Call-Me-Al warned me he might not have enough tiles. I popped into the church every hour to check on his progress—I think You-Can-Call-Me-Al suspected I was checking on him but I was just admiring the tile (and his work). In the end, I had ordered exactly the number of boxes we needed. I chose white grout, which coordinated beautifully with the trim color elsewhere in the room. When he was finished, I swooned. I was in love.

kitchen back splash
Here’s how the backsplash in the kitchen turned out. Stove coming soon. (Sharp-eyed viewers will see we have a faucet!)
backsplash original
This was the backsplash that appeared in the kitchen when it was on display.
bev bar back splash
Here’s the heavy-on-the-blue backsplash on the beverage bar.

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Tomorrow: More plumbing fixtures. Check them out here.