Mudroom Details – it’s the little things

Greetings and salutations my fellow renovators. Sorry for the late posting, it’s just that the things I’m working on are not so photogenic. I did get around to finishing up most of the mudroom.

These are the three steps that go from the mudroom into the kitchen. You can see the old brick foundation and original floor framing members. I have a toe kick installed for a HVAC vent.

Adding the risers and cut out the vent opening. This is a 2 1/2″ X 14″ toe kick vent.

The door to the right goes to the woman cave. The textured glass lets more light in the stairwell. It matches all the other glass doors.Up the steps to the kitchen you see that pesky shoe storage bench and coat hooks.

I am obsessed with little details. I like everything to be precise and finished. Here I milled small trim pieces to finish off the tile edges. The thin strip under the window ledge is made from of PVC, to make sure there’s no water damage from a wet counter top.

Instead of getting an expensive plugmold power strip. I cut a piece of wood at an angle and used this power strip. At 17.00 it’s a lot cheaper.

The Leland Single Handle faucet works well.  The small soap pump and the electronic garbage disposal switch has an auto turn off after 20 seconds.

I used very simple polished chrome knobs on all of the cabinets. These were 2.80 at Menards.

So there you have it – a nearly finished mud room. Sure I started building it in 2010, but hey, a guy has to take his time.

I promise better posts in the future. We’re just getting started.



Steep Bungalow Stairs #3 The Search for 7 – 11

Sounds kinda like a B movie, don’t you think? I have to admit, trying to explain this stair project is more of a head scratcher than the project itself.  I’ll do the best I can –

The 7-11 reference is to a 7″ rise and 11″ run. My goal for a nice usable staircase. For your notes most stair builders figure R (rise) + TW (tread width) should equal 17″ to 18″.

The very first thing you should do is take a look at  the SMA (Stairway Manufacturers’ Association) Visual Interpretation of the International Residential Code for stairs. If you’re going to modify your stairs, you might as well do it to code.

Here’s  a link

There are lots of resources on the web for stair building – this Stair calculator will  help a lot.

There are some basic terms that you must know and they are always going to be with you – like them or not.

Rise = this is the elevation from the 1st finished floor to the 2nd finished floor. It will not change – you can’t make it change – unless you add inches to your 1st finished floor. I say finished, because you must know the measurement of the total rise. Not a guess, not an estimate – the exact measurement. We want a good staircase that won’t hurt us, right?

Run = This is the length of the staircase. It’s the problem that most of us old home renovators struggle with – the longer the run the more options we have. We like to have an unlimited run – we would be free to have that stairway to heaven. Well, almost.

Headroom = This is the other obstacle that old houses face. People must have been really short back then. You need a minimum of 6′ 8″ clearance.

So let’s see how I solve this puzzle.

Let’s start with the basics of my problem stair case.

Rise 117″ or 9′ 9″   Run 117″ or 9′ 9″ these are measurements you really don’t want in a staircase. This gives you a crisp 45 degree angle of incline. Can you say stairmaster? Remember we have got to find more run to make the stair work. We can’t do anything about the rise. It’s 117″ and will always be.


The bottom of the stair is in direct line with the only finished room in the house – the bathroom. The landing requirements by code are the width of the stair tread, in my case that’s 36″ The yellow level on the floor is at 42″ to the bathroom door, so we should be able to gain a few inches for the run here. Let’s put 6″ in the “New Run” bank.


This is the original layout at the top of the stairs. We have 45″ for stair to closet wall. It’s adequate now – but we need like 30″ of additional stair up here. Yikes!

bedroom door

You can see that the pocket door entering to the bedroom is at the top of the stair run. To the right you can see the closet wall. We will have some major changes to make this a workable staircase.

top of stair

So let’s get a saw out and cut something! A little investigational surgery to see what we can do to get more “Run”.

looking into bathroom

This is looking into the bathroom. Of course I had just finished the walls for this area – new closet pocket door and reconfiguration of the bathroom layout – then I decided to tear it all out and put in the staircase. As I have lamented many times – freestyle renovations has its  consequences.


This was the second layout of the upstairs. Again, before the staircase decided it needed a new look.

Yes, this was finished – and yes I tore it all out and did it a third time. More on that in a later post.

Let’s say just for giggles we can steal 30″ or so up here – That’s what we need.


Time for some comparative calculating. Using the above calculator here’s the possibilities. I think we have enough room to get our 9’9″ run to something more like 12′ 10″

landing wall

We’ll start on the easy part first. Here I’ve stripped drywall and the casing from the door and removed 7″ from the left side of the opening.This will allow for shifting the opening to the left and gaining the 6″ for the bottom of the stair.

header detail

Sometimes I hear people comment “They don’t make em’ like they used to”. That may be true for some but not this particular ‘carpenter’ in 1935. Looks like he used a beaver to shave this “header” down to size.


You can see the additional framing members for extending the wall at the stair landing.

The top will be much more challenging. This is why.

ceiling angle

Here’s a side view of the upstairs closet looking into the bedroom with the door wall facing the staircase to the left. The problem is this is a 1 1/2 story Bungalow and there are height limitations at the top of the stair.  You can see the angle of the roof encroaching on the headroom. This will be tricky indeed. We will have to move the closet wall back 30″ or so and deal with the angles of the roof.

stair stripped

Let’s give it a rest and strip the stairwell.

Time for some more doodling to make that staircase be all it can be.

Stay tuned.

Basement Renovation – the reasoning

1st let me say I’m sorry for the delay in posting, as I was in Atlanta for the past week, looking for some new treasures to offer in our retail store. This is the first post on the basement – it is approached just like the rest of the house, structure first. I learned a long time ago that adding the pretty stuff before the underlying elements are corrected only adds to the cost of the project.  So let’s highlight the problems of why we need to address the basement structure.

Bang you head!

Yep, like many basements built in the 1930’s, the basement stairs seem to be an afterthought. Steep angles, tall rises and narrow treads are used to try and gain headroom.

In this particular stair they still couldn’t quite make the headroom – so just hack out a floor joist – a double joist at that.

This is a view looking up the stairs at the back door. You can see at the top of this photo that the floor joist has been removed. It was done years ago – and is directly below my fancy new bath renovation previously posted. It’s amazing the floor remained flat. We’ll beef this up later.

Here’s a quick shot of some of the ‘before’ plumbing of the renovated bath. The home inspector said this was just ‘fine’. Yikes!

Here’s what you see when you walk down the stairs. In this photo I have replaced some of the ‘Fine’ plumbing. The cast iron pass through on the wall will be removed later – as will the sump pump that you could fall in at the bottom of the stairs.

Here’s the other side of the same room – there is another room to the right of this wall.

Now comes the reasoning part.

This is the typical entrance to these kinds of old houses. I know, as my current house was built in 1927 and has the exact same layout. You enter through the back door onto a landing that allows you to go straight down the stairs through a door to the basement, or turn right and go up three stairs to the kitchen. Simple and effective – except for that basement headroom issue.

So here you can see some of my freestylin’ handiwork. I patched up that plaster wall, removed the wallpaper and put up a new drywall ceiling – sweet! All I need is a little paint and I’m good to…er, well – I was just not feeling the right vibe. I wanted something a little more welcoming when you entered the house from the back door – which we would do nearly 100% of the time.

So let’s get out the hammer and trash cans and make a mess! I just can’t help myself.

So a few minutes later all my wallpaper removal and patching efforts bites the plaster dust. I warned you I was obsessive.

So at this point I had made up my mind that I was adding an entrance – sort of a mudroom. Not big, but big enough to allow me to remove the landing at the back door to allow three more feet of stair run to the basement to get some needed headroom. Of course I have no drawings, no plan – that would be cheating, wouldn’t you say? Oh, just rip it out now and worry about the plan later – that’s my motto.

Of course, this makes another mess. The walls are filled with blown-in insulation too.

So this will be the opening I’ll create in the exterior wall for the new mudroom entrance.

Looks like I have some doodling to do this evening.