Renovations and Updates (Part 2: The Half Bathroom/Water Closet)

Fortunately, the half bath was in pretty decent shape,…at the time of the renovation (we’ll get to the tragedies that ensued later). The existing sink was falling apart, and oversized for that small space. Also, the awful and tacky wainscoting of the 80’s/early 90’s had to go. Apologies for putting the random chair in the shot! Also a missed opportunity to show the outdated recessed medicine cabinet.

The walls were painted with a color akin to robin’s egg blue. It seemed to brighten up the bathroom quite a bit. Replaced the light above the toilet with a brighter LED pull chain (the existing light was a pull chain too). My friend RR helped with filling up the exposed wall where the recessed medicine cabinet was, as well as route some electricity for a vanity light.

Once we spackled and hid the sheet rock where the recess used to be, onward with the wainscoting!

There was a lot of wainscoting on the first floor area, specifically the kitchen. I figured it made the most sense to continue the wainscoting into the half bath/water closet, since it was adjacent to the kitchen. Unfortunately, for some reason, whoever did the work the property ages ago decided to set the height of the wainscoting in the bathroom much higher than the kitchen. It was a little different, but again, there was about an 1/8 inch recess between the top half of the wall compared to the bottom half of the wall where the old wainscoting was. This was most likely done to make the chair rail sit flat between the wall above and the wainscoting.

And now…we have light!

Well…at least more light than before. At this point the vanity mirror and light were installed, and the chair rail, which may appear to be straight, but it’s a bit off. I didn’t use my laser level, but it’s close-ish. Hell, it looks straight in the photos.

We also removed the old electrical box and we added a new electrical box to include the GFCI outlet and new light switch for the new vanity light.

I apologize for not having more photos through the steps, but basically sourced a newer, smaller sink, to make the bathroom feel bigger. The drawer fronts were matched to be very similar in style to the shaker-style cabinet doors in the kitchen.

Installed an MDF radiator cover, and tiles as well, to complete the seamless feel between the kitchen and the half bathroom. Overall, the bathroom is night and day from what it was originally.

3-4 months after the renovation…

As luck would have it with these types of renovations, it always seems like once these properties get rented out, everything that COULD go wrong, DOES go wrong. Case-in-point…the 2nd floor bathroom was leaking down to the basement. After poking holes and finagling my camera snake through the walls, I eventually pinpointed the problem to be the sewage drain pipe which had a crack in it.

Had to cut the pipe all the way down to the basement.

And then there was the mess that was made during the replacement process.

And the main drain pipe finally cut out.

Needless to say, this was a setback that I had to get fixed. Fortunately, I got this fixed a month before the tenant moved in (at the time, this was a rental property, which; as of the date that this post has been published, the house is currently being sold). But that was an extremely painful experience to deal with.

Renovations and Updates (Part 1: The Kitchen)

I am pretty terrible with updates to this website. These past few months, I’ve been inundated with renovation work on a rental property, which I’m currently now selling. I figured I would also break this particular reno (my first reno!) into different parts.

When I purchased the property, the kitchen looked pretty dated, as you can tell from the photos. The cabinets were the crappy big box home improvement store-bought, which looked hideous. The recirculating exhaust vent was too far from the stove top to even be of any use at all.


The paint on the walls were several different shades of white. The old wood wainscoting was caked with varnish/urethane/lint/dirt, and it was falling apart. The flooring was flaking in some spots, as it was one of those peel-and-stick type of linoleum flooring. The lighting was  akin to a candle in a mason jar, as the dual-bulb halogens were complete garbagio.

I had my work cut out for me.

Enter the dragon.

So I made a quick mess of the house once I got my tools in. I quickly turned the tiny nook table into a work bench.

This is a photo from a different angle of the kitchen that I took, in case people were wondering about the microwave and fridge.

After deliberating whether or not I wanted to replace all of the cabinets with brand new cabinets (which would’ve increased my costs on the project that I didn’t want to spend time doing), I decided to paint the existing face frames semi-gloss white, and replace the cabinet doors and drawer fronts with some custom shaker-style MDF ones that I could paint the same color.

When I ordered the new cabinet doors and drawer fronts, there was a lead time of about 3 weeks. Because of that set back, I figured I’d start with prep and painting the face fronts. I removed all the cabinet doors and hinges off the cabinets, as well as the drawers. During the prep, and something I didn’t take photos of, was that I went over the entire face frame with wood putty and filled in the natural gaps of the oak veneer on the all the face frame surfaces.

Prep work is pretty important when it comes to the final results coming out really nice. You want to sand and make sure your surface is clean before you start any painting. Prep work is almost always the longest process and the most boorish task, because you’re mostly sanding and waiting for compounds to dry.


Paintin’ time!

For the face frames, I use a Fuji HVLP spray system. I used some water-based primer to lay down a few coats of primer onto the face frames. After letting it dry, I sanded back some of the primer with high-grit (220) sanding pads to give me a super smooth finish. If there were any gaps or gouges that missed, I’ll use some wood putty, sand, primer, and then re-sand back down until everything was uniformly smooth.

I did this for all the cabinets, on both sides of the kitchen. Note that I was only painting the face frames, so I covered the interiors of the cabinets so they wouldn’t get paint on them. I could’ve painted the entire interior white as well, but I thought the wood interior of the cabinets would be a nice contrast when the doors were open.

Here’s a close-up view of the semi-gloss paint that I sprayed onto the cabinets. This specific area had some orange-peel (notice how that the paint looks like the skin/peel of an orange), which I sanded down, cleaned, and resprayed.

In this shot here, at a remote location, I painted all of the cabinets on some flat surfaces. Look at how that semi-gloss paint pops!

Next up, painting the walls! I ended up painting the walls a medium gray, to give it that modern look.

After getting all the top half of the walls painted, I decided to stick with wainscoting, instead of painting the walls all gray. This mostly had to do with how the previous owner did the room, where the bottom half of all the walls in the room were recessed by about an 1/8 inch, the same thickness as the wainscoting panels.

So since the room was pretty much dead-set on having wainscoting panels, I got some plastic/vinyl wainscoting panels, instead of the wainscoting made from hardboard. It was a bit more expensive, but considering the durability of the vinyl, and the fact that it was rot-resistant, I figured this was a safer choice at the end.

Also, when I took apart the old wainscoting, I had damaged some of the base boards, so I had to replace them with some new ones. Nothing too crazy, hence why the photo on the left shows a bare wood baseboard.

Pretty much continued this process all around the kitchen, using some paneling adhesive and brad nails.

Next up was the chair rail installation process. Now the chair rail had to be done right. It had to be even ALL the way around the kitchen, otherwise someone would notice that the chair rail was crooked. This posed another problem, because when I installed all of the wainscoting, I was assuming the baseboard were all even, and that would mean the kitchen floor was even all the way around. WRONG!

The wainscoting that I had just installed was not level all the way around! This posed a huge issue, because I was worried that the uneven wainscoting was going to require me to do more work to flush cut high spots. Fortunately, I found an easier solution: use a super tall chair rail molding!

I think the chair rail molding I got was at least 4-1/2 inches tall, hence why they look so large and pronounced.

Here’s more shots of the chair rail up close. Not only was it tall, but it stuck out about 2-3 inches!

Tilin’ on up!

Ok, this section is going probably going to piss of the purist of the trade, but after 2 years since I installed the tiles, I’ve yet to have any sort of lippage or issues with the tiles.

That being said, here’s what I did. Since the floors were originally linoleum, and the sub-floor felt dimensionally stable (there were no creaks or significant dips when I used a straight edge along the floor, we grabbed some backer board and special screws designed to be used with the backer board, and screwed each piece of backer board over the linoleum.

I’ve seen most people pull the linoleum and scrape the glue off the sub-floor, which is time consuming and not necessary. Linoleum doesn’t expand or contract like wood does, and since we were screwing the backer boards to the sub-floor, this was fine.

The one thing I would’ve done differently, was probably stagger the backer boards. You can see in the photos that I pretty much lined them next to each other, which “they” say is something you should avoid because it can be considered a weak point.

Again, this was done about 2 years ago, and in the final set of photos, you’ll notice that there have been no issues with the tiles whatsoever. But in future practices, I would stagger the backer boards. Some folks also suggest putting mortar between the backer board and subfloor, which I did not do. And as I’ve mentioned, I have had zero issues with the tiles thus far. I suspect that this could be an issue with smaller tiles. The photo below shows the staggered pattern I chose to go with with the 12 x 24 tiles (they have a little weight to them!)…sort of a semi-wood grain look (not really, but everyone seems to comment on that they look like that).

Once I finished up the tiles and the grouting, I snagged some stainless appliances, had someone throw up the glass backsplash (mostly because I didn’t have the time anymore to do it), and tossed up some LED under-cabinet lighting. Also threw some nice window treatments as well, but what a transformation!

Also replaced the old dated countertop with a nice looking stone laminate countertop and new stainless steel sink basin. I couldn’t justify spending beaucoup bucks on a granite countertop.

And lastly, I covered up radiator by the doorway with an MDF radiator cover, that I had custom made. I felt like that it made the most sense to spend money on that instead of a granite countertop, especially after I threw a mirror above the radiator cover. It felt like an extra counter top space that could be used up, and it would hide the ugly old radiator.

Overall, not too bad for my first reno and picking up all my skills on the fly and countless hours of watching YouTube reno channels to get ideas and to learn how to tackle the job to get the outcome I wanted.

Air Compressor Mobile Cart

This was debatable as a “mod” or a “build.” I’d like to think of “builds” as constructing a piece of equipment from parts and scratch. “Mods” are more modifying an existing tool to suit a better need, such as a large drill press table, reinforcing cheap tool cabinets. Whereas “builds” are complete projects that do not necessarily modify a tool or a piece of equipment directly, such as this case, where I built a mobile chassis for a large industrial air compressor unit.

I managed to score an Atlas Copco SF2 from my buddy, GL. His company was literally about to throw a brand new air compressor, for the sake of getting rid of equipment! The downside, for most folks, is that this specific air compressor was a 3-phase compressor. Residential homes use single-phase. You rarely see a 3-phase home, since those are used commonly in commercial and industrial complexes.


Now, mind you, when I got this off of GL, there were no cables, hoses, gauges, or regulators of any sort. No manuals or paperwork, except for an electrical schematic that I didn’t find until much later in the process. All that I got packed on the back of the truck was the compressor unit (the gray rectangular box), the tank, and the condensate pump (little unit on the bottom of the tank, in the image above). Fortunately, this is 2016. After looking up the appropriate support centers, calling a few numbers, and a couple of e-mails letter, I got a very detailed instruction manual on how to use this thing. In situations like this, when you’re offered very little information with unfamiliar equipment, it’s always good to do your due diligence in properly doing the research. And in this case, the proper thing to do is to RTFM (hint to what RTFM stands for…the R is for read and the M is for manual).

The electrical disappointment.

Since I was already aware that the equipment uses a 3-phase power source, the question was what voltages are being supplied? There are 2 varieties of 3-phase power: wye (or “y”) and delta configurations (you can read up on all the goodies on the 2 types of configurations here). Since I’m located in North America (if you’re from other reaches of the world, it’s best to check your local standards), wye configurations are 120/208VAC. The 120/208VAC usually means that if you measure the AC voltage between two hot lines, they will measure at 208VAC; similarly, if you measured the voltage across a hot line and neutral, you would 120VAC.

Delta configurations are pretty simple. They either come in a 208VAC or 240VAC flavors. There is a “high-leg” delta configuration, which is not your typical configuration, where you get 3 different voltages. At the end of the day, it doesn’t exactly matter which type of configuration your 3-phase is set up for, but it does help identify how an electrician installed it. Knowing if you have a shared neutral and ground/earth connection will indicate a wye configuration, is definitely great for pulling any additional 120VAC lines.

IMG_1064So once I checked the circuit breaker, I determined it was a wye configuration (120/208VAC). The problem was that I needed 3-phase 240VAC (delta configuration), per instruction manual. This was not good. Technically, you can run a compressor under-powered, but this wears out the life of the compressor motor, as the power demands require a higher current draw. This in turn means the motor runs hotter and eventually wear out.

Enter the step-up converters.

I found a transformer that would step-up the voltage appropriately. I snagged one used and one refurbed Federal Pacific transformers. I wanted something cheap, and didn’t result in putting a lot of unnecessary costs on boosting the voltage for the air compressor.

Turns out I need two of these small transformers (the two totaled approximately $140 together) to boost the voltage from 208VAC to a nominal 230VAC, for the proper voltage to power the compressor. I got 230VAC from the good ol’ instruction manual.

IMG_1057After solving the voltage supply issue, I looked into fuses and an isolating switch. The instruction manual specifically stated that fuses on each phase (hot wires) was required, as well as an isolating switch. I could have killed two birds with one stone by using the fused safety switch box (that large, gray rectangular box with a red knobbed lever that you see below), but I decided to add an extra isolating switch for the heck of it (the white/gray box to the right of the fused safety switch box with two sets of cables going into it).

Again, I managed to snag some 15A fuses, fused safety switch box, and isolating switch off of good ol’ eBay, per usual. I’m not to worried with used parts when it comes to these types of electrical boxes and switches, with the exception of fuses (used, blown fuses are…well they defeat the purpose of what they’re used for, obviously).


IMG_1058Air pressure regulator and air filter supply.

After getting the majority of the bulk electrical hooked up, as well as hooking up the wiring connections for the 3 phase within the compressor unit, I decided to tackle the air supply out of the tank. I knew I wanted a pressure regulator and air filter supply. I did contemplate installing an oil reservoir, but I decided against it, since I had plans of using HVLP paint spray guns. It would be a bad idea to feed oil to the paint spray guns, as that would promote orange peel and surface paint quality issues on the final product that would receive the paint. However, it’s crucial to apply oil to all your air tools that are not HVLP spray guns!

Ideally, for the air hosing, you would want to use the largest allowable hosing. I went with a 1/2″ diameter hosing, as this was the largest allowable size for the air tank. I snagged a couple of 3′ hosing, a 6′ hosing, and a 100′ length hose. I would later use a step-down hose, to a 1/4″ diameter, at the end of the 100-foot 1/2″ hosing, for flexibility. The reasoning behind this was that I wanted to maximize the length of hosing, in case I need to run long lines, due to the awkward location of the air compressor. A larger hose diameter would maximize this.

The hose reel.

IMG_1061This massive hose reel was a pretty sweet build. It took a bit of time to acquire some of the parts, since I couldn’t regularly find some of the parts at the local hardware store. These “specialty” parts include a 1/2″ swivel, a 1/2″ tee, and 1/2″ quick connect fittings. Most hardware stores carry a 1/4″ fitting instead, which is no es bueno. Ideally, you want to max out the hose diameter size, to maximize the distance that you can effectively provide the same from your pressure regulator to the output (i.e. HVLP paint gun or air nailer). That’s why you see a ton of thick 1/2″ yellow hosing.

The concept behind the hose reel is pretty simple. The swivel fitting goes from the yellow hosing, coming from the pressure regulator, to the piping in the hose reel. The special swivel fitting helps prevent the hosing from twisting on itself, or twisting off the galvanized pipe threads.

IMG_1060Within the hose reel, the line is split by the tee, and the handle is simply a set of straight pipe fittings mated with angle fittings, and capped at the end. Yes, the handle itself is pressurized. To avoid accidentally twisting the pipe off, I used a 1″ PVC pipe to act as a free-rotating sleeve over the 1/2″ galvanized pipe.


All-in-all, this was a great build and having this brand new industrial compressor for free, and getting all the accessories and whatnot was pretty awesome. I figure if I ever did sell this in the future, the new owner can use my rig, and the ability to bypass my step-up conversion to their own delta 240VAC configuration.