5 min read

A Heated Chamber Instead of a New Room

Updates galore.
A Heated Chamber Instead of a New Room
The new first-floor bathroom area as seen from the kitchen door looking into the new vestibule.

The framing in the back space on the first floor has come along nicely this week, so that we can now feel how wonderfully roomy the new bathroom there will be.

The photo above shows how it looks right now if you're standing in the kitchen doorway at the back of the kitchen. The side door (useful as a second first-floor escape egress) is at the right of the vestibule. To the left is the door to the renovated bedroom/office space. In front of you is the door to the new bathroom.

What I especially like about Lisa the Design Genius's plan here is that, when you're standing in the back kitchen doorway and the bathroom door is open, you'll be looking towards a fresh mirror over the vanity, reflecting light around and making the whole space feel even bigger.

I'm now convinced we should put a big mirror on the vestibule wall just inside the side door so that we get still more light reflecting around this space. (That's the wall where, on the other side, the toilet will now go.)

By the way, the entire vestibule and bathroom space will have a heated floor on a thermostat, bringing great comfort in the winter. We have a heated floor in our third-floor bathroom and it's the best.

In addition to the heated floor, we were planning to add baseboard heating to the new bathroom and office/bedroom space. That's because this space – an old addition onto the original house – is not connected to the house's HVAC forced-air system.

Our most recent plan called for the drain pipes under the new bathroom – pipes which will effectively be in the garage ceiling – to be enclosed in a new small storage room to be built in the garage. The idea was to put in an electric heater so that the drain pipes for the bathroom above would not freeze. The hot and cold water would be run through the bathroom ceiling, where it is warmer.

But all this did not satisfy the plumber who notes, correctly, somebody is going to turn off that garage room heater and forget to turn it on when it matters. He asked today:

Why can't we ditch the idea of a special new storage room in the garage – built simply for the sake of the drain pipes – and instead create just a heated chamber for the new drain pipes, connecting the heated chamber to the house's HVAC system so that the space stays properly heated?

Doing this would also allow the plumber to put the hot and cold incoming water pipes in the heated chamber floor space instead of having to do a complicated run through the new bathroom ceiling.

When I put this to the framer, he really liked the idea. Not only does it pretty much guarantee the pipes won't freeze – making all of us, including the plumber and inspector, happier – it also means we leave more room to park a car in the garage. It's a much more elegant solution.

Here's how the back space currently looks if you're standing in the office/bedroom area:

While the bedroom/office is now smaller by a few feet, it feels very much worth it because of the great new bathroom space. The whole space feels so much more logical and functional thanks to Lisa.

Meanwhile, if you've kept up with the news of 615, you know that yesterday around 3:15 p.m., the electricians accidentally busted into some vermiculite insulation that came raining down from the attic space into the second floor bathroom's bathtub. This caused a stop-work order from me in the second floor bathroom, because vermiculite can sometimes contain asbestos, and I don't want anyone having their health endangered.

According to the EPA, if you run into vermiculite insulation, you're supposed to treat it like it contains asbestos even though it very well may not. That's because you might test a little and find it has no asbestos, but some material a few inches away might contain asbestos.

I'm nothing if not persistent, so, yes, by 9 a.m. this morning, I already had a visit from an asbestos remediation expert who assessed the situation. He's a very nice man who inherited the family business. They seem to be the only folks who do residential asbestos remediation in our region, so I'm glad they're available.

The bottom line is that it's not that bad. Phew. The area where there is exposed vermiculite is only above the second-floor bathroom. That can be cleaned up and sealed up properly so that there's no more material out in the open where someone might encounter it. That's what matters.

Our plan is now all in accordance with what the federal and state governments require. The process includes a ten-day notice period with the state followed by a two-day job of cleaning it all out and sealing up the space properly. At the end of the process, the air will be tested by an independent third-party consultant to ensure that there is no asbestos in the air. Then we can proceed as planned.

In the meantime, all of our contractors can keep working everywhere except the attic and the second-floor bathroom. The rest of the house shows no sign of this stuff – everywhere else, we've run into only fiberglass and blown-in insulation. So, it won't slow us down except in one room and only for two weeks.

I know you want to know the cost, so I'll tell you.

The vermiculite remediation process will cost a total of $3,800. That's $3,800 more than I bargained for in this renovation process, but it is also one digit less than I was fearing last night. And, when we go to sell the house and sign the asbestos disclosure, we can honestly say that, to the best of our knowledge, the house is clear of active asbestos danger because we've followed all the safety laws.

The drywaller is coming tomorrow morning to measure for drywall in the new bedroom/office, new bathroom, kitchen, and heated chamber. (The heated chamber will need drywall in the garage to meet code.) This is kind of thrilling because drywall is a step close to the end of renovating, so the fact that we're measuring for it is a sign we really are moving forward.

This weekend, Lisa and her second-hand man Doug come up from Tennessee to spend Saturday through Monday with me figuring out what their crew will be doing on the tail end of this whole job. They'll stay at my house and get some of the best food available in the East Lansing area. (If you've eaten my cooking and tried dining out around here, you know I'm right.)

Their work will include installation of new cabinets including two custom vanities and a whole new set of cabinets in the kitchen, new crown moldings in the bedrooms, painting, and lots more. Depending on timing, they may even start on some of it this weekend with me. I'm so excited to be working with them soon!