Nov 24, 2015

Built-in Toilet Paper Holder (aka working with small spaces)

I've had some requests for more information on the built-in toilet paper holder we designed and installed in our ensuite bathroom, so I thought I'd try and put together a little tutorial rather than emailing everyone individually.

built-in toilet paper holder

Back when we renovated our bathroom, we had to decide where the new toilet paper holder was going to go. Now that we had a sliding glass shower door we couldn't hang it beside the toilet like it was before. There were three options - 1) attach it to the side of the vanity, 2) have a free-standing holder on the floor, or 3) attach it to the wall across from the toilet.

The first choice was shot down because it was too close to the toilet and I didn't want holes drilled into the vanity anyway. The second choice didn't have a chance because Tom hates those holders that stand on the floor. Not to mention that it would be in the way whenever we were entering or exiting the shower. So that left mounting it across from the toilet. Tom was concerned that we would still bump into it since it would stick out from the wall and the room isn't that large anyway, so he decided he would build a box and inset it into the wall.

built-in toilet paper holder

First we had to choose a toilet paper holder so that we would know how much space we needed for the holder and roll together. We wanted a holder that swung out a bit to accommodate any sized roll, and one that let you "reload" from one side. Once we had that we could build the box around it.

Below is a simple drawing of the dimensions of our box. You could of course modify it to suit h own needs. We used 1x6 boards, so the face of the box is 3/4" thick, but the rest of the board has been cut down behind to be slightly thinner. This gives a nice overhang around the edge that can be caulked so it looks like a built-in.
built-in toilet paper holder

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the box while it was being built and before I painted it. I have no idea why not. So I'll try to describe what was done to the best of my ability. Tom took a 1x6 board and using the table saw cut away part of the board, leaving a 3/4" inch lip along one side. Like this:
built-in toilet paper holder

He cut the board down to 4" wide (the width of a roll of toilet paper) and then into 4 pieces - 2 at 16" long and 2 at 8" long. When you fit the pieces together to form a box you can see that a notch needs to be cut out at each end of the 16" boards so that they meet up with the 8" boards correctly, giving a frame around the entire box. Tom accidentally cut the notch a little too low so that the wood behind isn't flush, but the pieces do meet on the inside where it's important. The 4 boards were screwed together and the joints visible on the front were puttied.

built-in toilet paper holder

A spare piece of 1x6 was cut down to 1x4x8 for the shelf in the middle. We used the toilet paper holder and a roll of toilet paper to determine the spacing above and below the shelf. The final step in construction was to add a back onto the box using a piece of plywood.

built-in toilet paper holder

Once it was all puttied and sanded, I painted the inside and all around the outer frame with two coats of white primer and 3 coats of white semi-gloss paint to match the baseboards and trim. There was no need to paint the outside of the box as it wouldn't be visible once installed.

Now for the installation. You'll  need to determine where you want the unit to be. We centered it between the edge of the shower tile and the door frame at a height that was comfortable to reach when you're doing your business.

built-in toilet paper holder

Tom held the box against the wall and traced the outline with a pencil, then cut out the drywall with a straight edge and utility knife, and made sure the box would slide through the opening. Make very sure you are only cutting the drywall and not through any electrical wiring or boxes! Also, if wiring needs to be re-routed, please make sure a qualified electrician does that for you.

built-in toilet paper holder

We had wiring behind the wall that led to the lightswitch on the other side, but there was enough excess wire that we were able to push it up out of the way and secure it to the studs without having to alter anything.

built-in toilet paper holder

Once the wiring was clear we had to determine how to attach the box securely. Since the spacing between studs is 12" and the box is only ~9" wide, we had to shim up the studs on both sides until they met the box. We just layered scrap pieces of wood, screwing them into the studs and then into each other until we had the right width. The box was then put in place and screwed into the shims from the inside using countersunk screws.

built-in toilet paper holder

The last steps were to attach the toilet roll holder to the underside of the shelf, putty and paint the screw holes, and caulk the seams between the frame and the wall. You don't have to caulk it, but I like how it gives the project a finished look, and makes it seem like an original part of the room.

built-in toilet paper holder

Most of my favourite projects are designs that we came up with ourselves, and this one is near the top of the list. When you're working in small spaces you have to improvise sometimes. This solution for toilet paper supplies in a tiny ensuite bathroom really makes use of an otherwise unused space.

Nov 15, 2015

House News - Out In The Sticks Y'All

Wow, Fall has completely gotten away from me. It was early September one minute and then suddenly - boom! - it's mid-November.

Sooooo, all of the repairs and updates we were doing to the house at the end of August/beginning of September were because.....we're moving! We've bought a house out in the sticks - about 20 minutes from where we are now.

Here's the story - every week or so we would casually look around on, just seeing what was out there. We've been wanting to move out of town for a long time, where we could have an acre or two for the dogs to run around on, and where Tom could have some space to play with his cars. The only thing holding us back was the price tag. Real estate prices are just out of control here. We could never find anything we liked that wasn't either far out of our budget or needed an enormous amount of work to be liveable.

We talked about it and decided that if we really wanted to move this year we would have to raise our upper spending limit. So we picked out 4 houses to look at that ranged from an acre to 27 acres and went on a tour one Sunday with our agent. We fell in love with the second house we looked at - a 3-bedroom raised bungalow on 15 acres. And the crazy thing was that it was within our budget - our original budget. I think it was meant to be.

My favourite feature is the deck - it runs the entire width of the house, so we'll be able to have multiple seating areas - covered and uncovered. We plan to install French doors off of the master bedroom (far right) and change up the sliders on the left to French doors as well. Eventually we may have a walk-out from the basement to the backyard.

Tom's excited because the property already has a concrete pad poured, ready for a shop to be built. We're going to extend the backyard lawn further out - closer to the shop - and plant a row of trees (cedar?) along the back edge to soften the view of the shop a bit. It will be part auto shop, with two bays and a hoist, and part woodworking shop, with room to get our DIY on. We're going to build it tall enough that we'll be able to have a loft above part of it for storage.

The property goes back another 3000 feet from the shop - there is a trail through the woods and several clearings.  I can't wait to take the dogs for walks back there. They love tromping through the forest, smelling the new smells and chasing each other. We even found a tree fort!

The house itself is in great shape - nothing needs to be done right away so we'll be able to take our time and plan our projects. I have so many ideas though. The basement is unfinished - I'm looking forward to having a blank slate to work with. I'll post photos of the inside once the current owner's belongings are no longer there.

It's on a nice, quiet road, just a few minutes from the highway. I'll have about a 30 minute drive to work, and we're only 20 minutes from the grocery store. It's going to be strange being back out in the country again, but it only took us a year or two of living in town to realize that we aren't urban people.

Once we finalized the offer on the new house, it was a mad scramble to get our house ready for market. Not that there was a lot that had to be done, we just wanted to present the best package we could. We have an awesome real estate agent - I can't believe the photos and the brochure she produced. It made our place look like a show home. We held off offers for a week, had over 50 showings (!), and ended up with eight offers. Madness. This was so different than our last selling experience where we listed for two months and only had two offers.

As soon as I take a break from packing (3 weeks to go!) I'll post a current house tour - it's amazing to look back on all of the changes we've made over the past six years.

Sep 8, 2015

Fresh Paint

While our neighbour was having all the fun laying sod in our backyard, Tom & I were repairing and then repainting the wood above and below the front bay window.

When we first replaced the wood and painted - almost 3 years ago (I had to look back) - we ran out of time to finish the area above the neighbour's window. We were using a 20 foot ladder at the time and the weather was starting to change - windy and rainy almost every weekend. Tom decided to retire the ladder for the year, and then it was a case of out of sight, out of mind.

But we would remember once in a while, so we decided to just get it done. Over the last three years the paint has started to peel a bit, so it all needed fresh paint anyway. Those windows are exposed to all of the elements, and we've had some pretty harsh winters these last couple of years.

This time Tom decided to rent a Genie lift instead of messing around with a ladder. Technically it's called a "trailer-mounted Z-boom." You can rent it on a Friday night, return it on Sunday (when they're closed) and they only charge you for one day. The boom goes up to 55 feet and holds two people, plus you can move it around while you're up there, so we were able to get the work done many times faster than we would have with a ladder.

Genie lift trailer-mounted Z-boom

Genie lift trailer-mounted Z-boom

Fun side note: Tom just parked the lift in our driveway the first night - with the support legs down of course. In the morning he decided to move it over so that he could reach both windows without having to reposition it. He engaged the parking brake, lifted the legs, and...the whole thing started rolling down the driveway into the street (and possibly up into the neighbour's driveway on the other side). Apparently the parking brake was just for show.

Tom was holding on tight, trying to slow it down and I'm running beside him asking, "What should I do? What should I do?" What could I do? He got it slowed down enough that it stopped in the street and didn't hit any cars, but I'll admit that my heart was racing for a good long bit afterwards. And you can be sure that the wheels were chocked at all times after that.

This is Tom bringing our little runaway back home.

Genie lift trailer-mounted Z-boom

So, on with the show. We scraped off all of the loose paint from below the windows, then I puttied and spackled wherever it was needed. Tom was the main painter so he spent most of the weekend in the air. I went up a few times to sand and to take pictures. We even went up above the roof to get an aerial view of the neighbourhood.

Tom gave the windows a good three coats of fresh paint and they look new again. Now I just have to touch up the garage door frames and we'll be done with the front (I think).


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