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September 2021
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Bathroom Fan Upgrade

Bathrooms are the wettest rooms in your house. You installed those new fixtures, cabinets, lights, floors and tiles. You probably didn’t think about the fan. Proper ventilation of your bathroom will go a long way toward keeping down mold, mildew and other moisture related problems from shorting the life of your bathroom and its fixtures.

Fans come in a wide range of sizes and performances. The two most important are the CFM, (Cubic Feet per Minute) and noise level rated in Sones. The Home Ventilation Institute[1] (who knew) recommends a minimum of 8 air changes per hour. A lot of older bathrooms are 5×8 to about 8×10. Calculation of size is width x depth x height divided by 7.5 to get you a minimum CFM rating. There is a quick table here[2].
A 5×8 bath would need a 40-45 CFM fan. A 8×10 bath would need a 85-90 CFM fan.

Sone[3] Ratings are a little different. 4.0 Sones is the sound of your TV. 1.0 Sone is the sound of your refrigerator. The smaller the Sone Value the Higher the cost.

A real good indicator of needing an upgrade is having to wipe down the mirror when you are done with your bath or shower.

Now that you are on the upgrade path, the other important part of the ventilation equation is a timer. Just because the water is off doesn’t mean the moisture is gone. Remember wiping the mirror?
Here are two products that I installed recently. A 140CFM Fan and a Timer.
This is a Broan Elite Series Fan. About 140 bucks. It has a 2.0 Sone rating making it one of the quietest fans available. Bought at Lowes. Quiet costs money.

This is a great fan but it is much larger than that small fan you will be replacing. More on that later. One of the other nice features beyound the three year warranty is the fact that the motor unit is available separately, so if you ever need to replace it, you will not have to crawl in the attic again. Also included in the kit are some black plastic spacer blocks if your joists happen to be “I” joists. The one thing that is not mentioned any where in the instructions is the size of the unit. You will have to measure it, befor cutting your rough opening.
This is a Pass and Seymour Decora style 7 button timer. Around 30 bucks. It allows times between 1 minute to 1 hour. Personally I recommend setting it at 1 hour, turning it on before you start your shower/bath and let it run after you are finished.

The cool thing about this switch is once you decide on a time, you only have to turn it on, until you change the time. Very cool. The only odd thing is the led’s are lit when it is off and go off when it is running.

Okay now that you have the fan and timer, it is remodeling time. Here is a short list.

Location of breaker to shut off power.
Always a good idea when working with electricity.
Access to the old fan and vent.
Most fans have tabs outside the box that mount them to the side of the ceiling joists so you will need to crawl around in the attic. You will also need to disconnect the romex from the fan as well as disconnect the vent pipe.
If you are lucky you can reuse the romex connector. If not, put one on your list. Fans don’t come with them.
Screws to mount the fan(nails will work themselves loose)
4” metal vent pipe and elbow(s)
Metal tape to seal the joints.
Caulk to seal the perimeter of the fan opening.
Keyhole saw to cut new opening.
Save the piece to cover the old hole.
Drywall mesh tape and mud of you are moving the fan.
Dab of paint to make your repair invisible.

Moving on to project planning.

While you are up there, check to see if you can just enlarge the existing opening, if not and you need a new hole, you need to see if you have enough romex to move the opening for the new fan, or a place to run new cable if you are moving it a long distance. In most cases the fan wire is a switch leg from the old switch. If you are moving it a long distance you will need to be able to run the new cable.
You will also need to get a rough measurement for the vent pipe to join the fan to the roof vent. 4” steel pipe is recommended. The fan has a 6” option but it is extremely rare to see a 6” vent in a house. Don’t forget a bit of metal joint tape to seal all your joints. We want to eliminate the moisture and or mold problem, and not move it into your attic.

Here is a recent installation.

I have removed the old fan and vent pipe which was the wrong size. I made a mark on the ceiling to see if I could the existing opening. You can see that it is a larger fan.

No such luck. The fan is too close to allow a vent pipe. Plus there are some other challenges above. I have enough romex for a new location, but because of the existing romex I can only go so far.

Measure and cut your new opening, saving the scrap to fill in the old hole.
Here is the new opening. because of the vent outlet of the new fan I am attaching it to the next joist over. This gives me a straight run to the roof vent with only one elbow.

Here is the new fan mounted. Notice the flanges on the bottom of the new fan. You will need to measure the overall width and length and add a little bit to allow you to get the fan in the hole and mount it properly. Having the original hole allowed me to measure and assemble the vent pipe, attach and seal the joints (remember the metal tape on the list above?) from the bathroom rather than crawling in the attic which in this area is only about 14” high.

Fan in place and hole patched with scrap from new opening. See that there is a gap on the side from making the opening large enough to install the fan. This will be filled with a piece of mesh tape and drywall mud. At this point we caulk the perimeter of the opening to eliminate air leaks around the fan body.

Here is ceiling mudded with fan grille in place checking that we have covered the gap.

Here is our finished project.

[1]Home Ventilating Institute
[2]Sizing a Bath Fan
[3]Sones: the Psychoacoustic explanation

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 14 Done

The LSB is in the history books. Here is a recap.

Here is the view from the doorway into the bath from the master bedroom. Note on the left is the hinged door. In the case where someone might be using the toilet and someone else rushed in, it would give kneecapping a new meaning.6a00d8345237e469e201157245f42f970b-800wi

The tile is tired and the ‘tub’ is a sunken nightmare. Notice the window (single pane double thick tempered) in the back wall that looks out into the storage area that the client had enclosed sometime ago. That outside door faces east and the long wall faces south. It made this room hotter than hell most of the year and cold the rest.


Here is the view from the same spot.
We removed the tile, filled in the sunken tub area, installed a new glass block window, insulated, skim coated, installed a jacuzzi tub, surrounded it with solid surface, installed a Jeeves Heated Towel Bar,(which was the only item not obtained locally in either the Orange or Blue stores) installed grab bars in the shower/tub area, and with the extra space on the front side of the tub created built in shelving and a magazine rack for parking pleasure. Also with the installation of a pocket door, ‘kneecapping’ is a thing of the past. We also installed a tall mirror for last minute inspections. Just to the left of the tall mirror are two switches. These are to shut off the power to the jacuzzi when not in use. The controls are way too  convenient to small children.

Jacuzzi, Solid Surface and New Glass Block.

Jacuzzi, Solid Surface and New Glass Block.

Back wall and storage area


We also had the door to the sort of storage/dog area to address. Since the bathroom had so little storage and we knew early on that we would be installing a water heater for this room and the bath on this end of the house, we decided to parcel this space, insulate, drywall and tile it.


We installed a bi-fold door that closely matched the existing doors in the rest of the house.


Vanity Area Before

The only change to the vanity area was the replacement of the light fixtures, installing new faucets to match the brushed nickle finish of the new shower toys, and replacement of the cabinet pulls.




There it is.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 9 – Water Heater and Tub Prep 1

In our last episode I discussed blocking prior to drywalling. Since we are installing a water heater  to provide water for the Jacuzzi, and fixtures on this side of the house, which included tying in the hall bathroom (an in progress change that made sense and did not add significantly to the cost), next is getting ready for installing the water heater and setting the tub.

Coordination is important for running these projects especially when acting as your own contractor in terms of getting the professionals like the plumber and electrician to work with you. For example on this project we have an electric water heater and an electric bathtub (i.e. Jacuzzi) I choose to have both on site during this phase as if there is a problem it can be solved without everybody having to make extra trips. When the electrician installed the panel and was testing it, he discovered that one of the new breakers was bad.(It happens)

We had already partitioned the space outside of the bathroom proper to provide a space for the heater and some storage.
By Monday I had the door between the bathroom and the new water heater and storage area removed and relocated in its new location, and had three of the walls drywalled and first tape coat on.

Over the weekend I tracked down a light fixture for this area as well as some other materials. Monday I framed out the opening into the storage area, drywalled the ceiling and archway, as well as the tub area.


The tub area was drywalled with M/R waterboard(green board) and screwed off. The majority of the new construction is steel stud which can’t be nailed. The f;at seams are covered with mesh tape, the inside corners are paper tape and the outside corners are covered with metal corner bead.


This is the long wall with our glass blocks in place, and the soffit in the foreground at the top of the photo. These openings will be wrapped with solid surface. What you can’t see in this photo is the plastic wrap that I covered the face of the blocks with. This is to make clean up easier after the soldi surface is done.


Here is the back tub wall drywalled. Notice the archway for the pocket door has some narrow drywall at the top and along the right side. Because this is getting a bifold door, the rough opening dimensions are narrower that a standard framed door opening.


On the left side of the new archway are two electical boxes. We are
installing a Jeeves Heated Towel Bar. The bottom box is the power for
the towel bar, the upper is for the timer. They are sold separately, but if you go this route it is a good idea as it takes time to warm up and you don’t want it running all the time.

One last detail is the width of the soffit. It is 36” finished. This will provide a straight vertical line for the solid surface between the ceiling and edge of the tub when it is installed. The soffit was originally designed to carry the electricity and water lines for the tub. In discussing this with the plumber we eliminated the waterlines, which saved time and money. The electric lines are up there as it was shorter than alternatives.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 8 – Blocking

The key to any successful remodeling project is planning. Once you have your parts selected, and have made the various choices and tradeoffs, especially for DIY’ers, before you start the rebuilding process, review what you have and where it is going. This  will help you to have a successful project.

One of the most important aspects of any project is providing blocking for the various things that will be attached to your finished walls. Bathrooms are probably the most involved rooms in providing blocking for towel bars, grab bars, backing for various things that will be mounted on the walls. There are amazing anchors made for hollow walls, but since you have the walls open, providing solid blocking takes little extra time and will pay big dividends later.

Let’s take a quick tour around the LSB project.
This is the wet wall for the control valve, spout, and shower head. As I mentioned in Episode 6 I designed this wall to fit the new tub, and to get as much storage into it as possible. The studs are on either side of the water center-line to allow the plumber an easy way for connecting the shower. The fiberglass insulation in this wall was recycled from the long wall as it has been replaced with the foam board that you can see on the right side of the photo. It is a sound control measure, as bathrooms are second to your kitchen in noise.


The left side of the wall has a built up corner so that there is solid backing for the shower curtain rod that will be attached to the solid surface after it is installed. The outlet on the wall is for two switches we are installing to shut off power to the tub when not in use. One is for the pump, the other is for the inline heater. Despite the tub having a dry pump feature and the inline heater not operating when there is no water present, it is cheap insurance as the controls for the tub are at little hands grab height.

Moving along to the long wall, I left the original 2×2’s in place, because they were solid, and worked around them. The glass block frame I made out of 3/4” plywood and added a 2×2 to the top and bottom to act as a stop for the assembly and to provide nailing for the drywall. I added blocking below it horizontally to have an attachment surface for the drywall and to stiffen the wall so the solid surface does not come down in a few years.


That’s the top half. Let’s look at the bottom half. Here we provided blocking for the grab bars that we are installing on this wall. They seem high now but will be at a convenient height when the tub is installed. These blocks are attached to the vertical studs with 3” screws drilled in at an angle top and bottom. when the drywall is glued and screwed, the solid surface applied and the mounting brackets for the bars are installed, you will not be pulling these off the wall without a come along or a shot of adrenaline to the heart.

The framing on the glass block side is different as the two openings are made for specific purposes. The lower one will allow access tto the back side of the tub should it ever becomes necessary, The upper one is a future shelf unit for the other side of the wall.

Moving along.  to the glass block wall. We are installing a Jeeves Heated Towel Bar. This requires an electric outlet and solid blocking for the unit itself. The outlet for the heater is bleow this photo. The electric box you see is for the timer to turn the warmer on and off.


Everything that will attach to the walls will have a solid surface to attach to. A little planning now and you won’t have to investigate the wonderful world of hollow wall anchors.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 3 – Glass Blocks

Parts are stacking up. The new water heater, the jacuzzi, inline heater, doors and drywall.


Meanwhile demo and construction continues. This bath suffers from a spectacular lack of natural light. We will fix that.  Since we have this east wall and some glass block, we will bring in some morning light.  The original plan was to equally space the blocks across the long
wall. That changed to Plan B when I discovered that one of the filled
courses(a common technique in concrete block construction) was in the
middle of one of the openings. Also typical is the interior framing which is 2×2’s attached to the block with cut nails.


So now the blocks will be grouped together. The bath area has a soffit for electric runs and as a detail and the hole for the east glass blocks is open.


We are also installing one in the toilet area as well.


Next up Adventures in Plumbing.

Tall Cabinet Installation

Here are a series of tall cabinets I recently installed for a client who needed storage that could be moved later.
Simple storage units with oak face frames and panel doors with beveled frames so knobs or handles are not required. These are 18'' wide, 24'' deep and under 7' high. These were installed to corral the toys and stuff that the arrival of their first child spawned. Tallcabs

We also installed a fluorescent fixture to provide indirect lighting. The lighting allows them enough light for reading as well being able to remove the lamps that had graced the various end tables. This shows the light in action. The grey cabinet was an addition after the other cabinets had been purchased and painted.


This is a temporary placement. As the child grows, most of these cabinets will move to other areas of the house. Attaching these cabinets to the wall  requires some thought.  Knowing that most of them were moving at a later date and needing to provide backing for then, I decided to leave the base trim in place. This allowed us to install a spacer on the right cabinet to give us spacing for the trim detail to come as well as providing solid blocking on the wall behind them to attach them firmly to the wall.


Our first order of business is to determine the height and length of our wall cleat. Look at the back of the cabinet for backing that is installed from the factory. Having backing separates good cabinets from crap that will make you cry long after you spend the money you thought you saved.


Our cleat is going to be mounted horizontally, centered on the bottom of the upper cabinet base. The back of the cabinet itself has a backing board to hold the shelf in place as well as keeping the cabinet sides parallel. This will allow us to screw the cabinets to the wall with the screws just above the 'floor' of the upper cabinet opening, making then unobtrusive.

The laser line. Using an inexpensive laser we mark our horizontal. I love this thing. I used to use plastic tubing as a water level which required two people, and was a mess to work with.

Laserline The Chalk Line. Next I used a chalk line to snap a line for the top edge of the cleat. This gives you wiggle room to find your studs, and gets covered when you install your cleat. 


I found the studs, which in this case were 24'' on center, and attached the cleat to the wall with 2- 2'' screws at each stud location. I like screwing things together not only for the additional strength now, but for the ease of removal later on. Raise your hands if you have done demo where things were nailed to the wall, and you had to repair a lot of damage from taking stuff apart.


Attaching the cabinets to the wall is 'relatively' straight forward. You want to check that the cabinets are plumb in both directions. Side to side, so they will not look like they are either leaning into the wall or falling away from it. Front to back, plumb keeps the doors from swinging open or banging shut. It is the little details that make jobs well done.

Your floor is not perfectly flat. Trust me on this. In addition to getting your cabinets plumb, you want them level. Starting from the corner, you slide the next cabinet into position using shims where necessary to align the cabinet frames. Don't worry about the doors yet, as they are coming off and will be adjusted later. Attaching them to each other requires some clamps and some screws. Here I am using Irwin Squeeze Clamps to hold the frames together. Notice that I have removed the doors from one of the cabinets, to allow me to get the clamps in place. Next we use a counter sink drill bit to drill our holes.

Tech Tip: Screw the frames together in one direction. Right to left or left to right depending on conditions. If you anticipate moving them later, leave the screw heads sunk but exposed so you can find them later. Touch them up with a spot of paint and there you go.


For the most part there should not be gaps between the cabinets, but be prepared in case there are. Wood moves. You can now reattach the doors, lining them up as you go.

Here is the trim detail for this unit. The trim is simple door stop material. It has a light radius on one edge and a square corner on the other edge. The gap on the right side of the cabinet is equal to the top gap, it is just the picture and the idiot with the camera.


Not shown here is the 1/4'' plywood attached to the side of the left cabinet to create a finished end. The rest of the plywood was used on the roof of the cabinet as well as a solid kick panel at the floor.

Energy Efficent Housing

In the US regardless of how they spin it, lifestyle living, retirement community, planned community, (community as designed for the Stepford Wives) and so on, modern housing is what Malvina Reynolds wrote  about.

”Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same,

There’s a green one and a pink one

And a blue one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.”

I am not a strong advocate of new construction as it is for the most part characterless, wasteful, designed and constructed to minimum standards, besides there is no fun in living in a place you can’t remodel. I am however a fan of any technique that can make you comfortable and energy efficient. Less money for utilities, more money for movies.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is building 12 Project Homes to demonstrate Energy Efficiency.
Hattip to Design Shizen for the link

This is interesting as construction changes, you or your children may be remodeling these down the road.

A Cabinet Hanging Solution

 We have a number of cabinets that need to be hung. Cabinets are heavy,  not so much for  their size but they are bulky and awkward. There are a lot of ways to hang cabinets, depending on construction, location, and obstructions.

Here is a simple solution to hang cabinets. I have created a cleat system to hang them. This works well in areas where you do not have soffits. You need about an inch of space between the top cabinet and the bottom of the cabinet hanger. Note also I have taped the doors closed. Easier to hang. I am a fan of easy.
Here is a shot showing the cleats with a cabinet in place

It consists of three pieces of plywood. One  is cut on a diagonal to create the wall cleat and the cabinet hangers. The other is a small  piece of plywood acting as a spacer for the bottom of the cabinets.

This is how the cleat and hanger works. Gravity becomes your friend as the weight of the cabinet helps lock the cabinet in place.

The cleat attaches to the wall with the diagonal facing up with the high point away from the wall. Yes the wall is a little wavy, but not enough to cause problems. This is however typical.

The hanger attaches to the cabinet with the point down away from the back of the cabinet. We attach the hanger to the cabinet with adhesive like PowerGrab, and some screws through the cabinet back.

Note that we make the cabinet hanger a little shorter than the width of the cabinet. Makes lining them up easier. I am a fan of easy.

The wall cleat and lower spacer bar are continuous. I used a laser level to establish my level lines,I measured and checked my stud locations to insure that I have solid attachment points,  and used 3” screws to attach the cleat to the wall. I use two screws per stud, so I don’t think about them coming off the wall later. I used a pilot drill to pre drill my screw holes. If you don’t, you will break screws and swear or cry a lot.

The lower spacer is higher than the bottom of the cabinet for a number of reasons. The primary reason is to provide a surface for attaching the bottom of the cabinet to the wall.
Secondly, it allows you the ability to shim behind the cabinet if the wall is not plumb. This is important in keeping the doors closed as most cabinets do not have locking mechanisms.  It can also serve as a raceway for the wire for under cabinet lights.

You can use this system for rooms that have soffits, but you need to adjust your dimensions. Remember that you will need an inch of clearance to place the cabinet, and will need to cover the gap after mounting your cabinets.

Artroom Expansion 2

The forms are done. Next up is Termite Pre-treatment. This is Arizona, they are a problem. If a storm or act of god wants to destroy what I build, okay, but not little bugs.Here is the guy applying the pre-treatment.

NOTE: There are a lot of areas in remodeling that you can do yourself. There are areas where a professional is the best choice. Termite Treatment is one of them. It is poisonous, highly regulated, and is just one of those one shot deals.Not a do over project.

Here are the lads from Chayse Concrete placing the concrete. What you don't see are the four guys with wheelbarrows, trucking the concrete. There was no way to get the truck close enough to use the chute.


Here is the slab tamped and waiting for it to set enough for the finishers.


Here is Manny doing the final finish. We are having it finished smooth, as the flooring details have not been finalized.

Artroom9 We looked at epoxy yesterday, from a job I did a couple of years ago, for an auto recycler.

Ready for framing.


Have to order materials, finalize window placement, sink details, counters and electric outlets and circuits.

Guest Bath 4 Towel Storage

The Guest Bath is a little bit awkward, as they built a storage closet in the hallway, which ‘notched the floor in the bathroom. We decided to incorporate some open storage for towels, as a design element and to provide a soft surface for absorbing sound. Having folded and measured towels, we decided on a three shelf box whose top would be inline with the top of the cabinet, and wide as possible taking into account the sconce fixtures that would bracket the medcab.
We ended up with an 11 1/2” wide shelf.

Having framed the walls for the medcab, I opened the wall to see what was behind the drywall.

The closet side was already no mystery. It was a relatively useless space having too close deep shelving. I measured and plunged my trusty drywall keyhole through the wall to establish a rough cutting guide in the closet, and let me know how many shelves to remove.

I drew the lines on the bath side and cut the hole. This opening will be trimless so I will be using ‘J’ bead for the drywall opening. The shelf unit is made out of 12” poly shelving from the home improvement store. I could have made it out of raw particle board or plywood, but by the time you added in finishing, priming and painting, pre-finished shelving was faster and cheaper.

Here is a view from the closet side. the hole is larger as the front of the shelf unit will butt to the back of the drywall and ‘J’ bead.

Note: Because of the texture and the rough edge on the drywall. I am using 5/8” ‘J’ bead. 1/2” bead will not fit without more problems than you want to think about.

Here is the unit installed and bagged. I bagged it as we are bring the Anderson’s back to texture the walls. Clean up is much easier this way. I am all about easy….

I am not a fan of texture on walls, but Rich and Cody are magicians when it comes to texture. Folks in Phoenix can have their walls done, the rest of you are out of luck.