Archive | July 2017

Dreams of Comfort

My master bath will be my luxury spot, even if I don’t plan to make it look too luxe. I had the bath in my Roanoke house remodeled into a very comfy spot: roomy, good fixtures, and convenient. Originally the dining room had a straight view of the toilet, so I had the wall moved back to take the closet space between the bath and a bedroom, with the sink and toilet moved back a couple of feet. It just felt so much better with more privacy and less tacky from the rest of the house. I kept the tub-shower combination, but replaced the old tub that was losing its glazing. I got a very well insulated Kohler tub that kept water hot for an hour. It made me like soaking. All-in-all, I brought forward those ideas for my new bath. The bathroom in the original dome is in a separate 12 foot dome that also houses the laundry, water heater, linen shelves. It is a toilet on one side, with sink and shower on the other with the full-sized washer and dryer. Pretty bare-bones shower, although spacious.

In my new master bath, I will have approximately a quarter of a 13 ft diameter circle, just slightly smaller than the bedroom. It will have one door from the bedroom, and one window on the wall between the shower and tub. There will be a wall-mounted toilet to the right of the door. This past year I had hernia surgery, then injury and surgery to my left rotator cuff. It really opens the eyes to the need for assistance at any age or disability. I had a grab bar installed next to the toilet, but if it had been my right shoulder that I’d injured, I would have had to bring in a shelf or table to help myself up. I plan to have a short wall at the toilet so I could use either or both hands if needed. In addition, I want it wired so I can turn on lights and fan, or charge my ereader. My friends laugh as we describe it like the Star Trek captain’s chair.

probable sink faucet

Along the wall with the living room, there will be a single sink cabinet and radiator. Then I will put a cabinet for linens against the outside wall.

Bathtub Size: 60″ x 42″ x 24″
Water Capacity: 85 Gallons
Back Slant: 25°

I will have a deep soaking tub to the left behind the door. It feels like my biggest splurge, but Sharon convinced me that I should not consider a hot tub on a patio, but put the money toward the bathroom tub. It will be jetted and have a heater to keep the temperature up. Until she gets her bathroom renovated, she has asked for visitation privilege. As hard as she works in the yard, of course. I plan to have a tiled deck around the tub, and a grab bar that will allow me to sit on the edge, swing my feet around, and safely get in or out.

Of course, with the need to fill a tub, I will need a decent water heater. I will have a gas on-demand heater. It is definitely more expensive than a standard tank heater, but with only one person demanding water on a regular basis, plus some for guests in the powder room, I think I will be saving a lot of fuel. The current heater is electric, and will continue to heat for the guest bathroom, laundry, and kitchen. It would be too far to run lines from the new one.

As I have been looking at the shower, I had planned about 3×4 with front corners cut back to allow 30 inches clearance around it. My budget might not allow me to finish everything right away, so I am presently considering (eventual) glass block walls for the shower, with a temporary rod and curtains to start. Or I may continue to shower in the old one. I’m still checking, glass block might not be much more expensive than ceramic tiles. I could have a curved wall, then open at the end with a curbless entry. It would allow a lot of light from the window over to the sink corner, and a curbless entry would be very good. Even if I decide against the glass, the shower pan could still be used with tiled walls. I plan to have a seat available to fold up against the wall, and of course a grab bar. The back wall would be tiled and hold these safety features. It would be an extra wall built for support, as the foam wall would not bear the weight of a person on a chair.

idea for glass block shower

This room will have a ceiling for privacy, and this means a loft area. By code it needs walls or railings, despite my not planning to use the area. Actually I will have a fan there to just keep the air circulating. The dome shape really helps this, but a fan will help keep it moving.

Lights for the master bath

I am not very fond of pot lights in the ceiling, so I have found three good-sized (24 inches wide) vanity lights at Ikea that will be placed around the room. I will want them on separate switches. Of course, I will have a timed fan switch, too.


Taking Shape

riser panels and support structure, view to north

view to southeast

The current work has been to get the temporary support structure into place. It is a dome shape made of 2x4s connected to metal hubs. It sits inside the dome, on the concrete and as the panels are moved into place on higher rounds, they rest on it as the steel mesh is connected and concrete is put into the seams. After all the panels are in place and the final concrete is cured, the support can be removed and inside will be one open space. From there interior walls can be added.

view from old front door to east

view to west

Connection between the old dome and the new dome is a hallway which also contains a powder room. The structure will also be of 7 inches of foam covered with steel reinforced concrete. It will be 17 feet long on one side and 20 feet on the other, as it is not straight out from the current front door, but angles to the back yard. This is to place the new dome behind the driveway instead of in it. The end at the old dome will be about 6 to 7 feet wide, and it will attach at the 12 foot entryway on the new dome.

There will be two single doors, one to back yard and one to the patio next to my parking spot. There will also be a window on this side. There will be no doors at the ends into the domes, just openings. The current front door will be moved to be the back door and the opening finished without a door frame.

The powder room will be simple, but large enough for a wheelchair, containing a wall-mounted toilet and a sink. I will also install a grab bar.

In the hallway, which will be an entry, too, I plan to keep the cat supplies. It will be nice to have litter boxes outside of primary human space.

This is also the area for a new electrical panel. There will be a radiator and an A/C unit. It will be a busy area.

I will have cabinets and/or shelves along the wall opposite the powder room, including a spot for electronic recharging. It is likely to be the best spot for a wifi router, too.

general idea of the layout for the addition

Walls and Doorways

View from SE, wall panels are up. The ones showing here are around the master bath and bedroom. Sharon’s house and the garden shed are in the background.

Wall panels are up. View from NE. Twelve foot openings for doors and windows, on left is bedroom window, right is living room front door.

I will leave it to Sharon to write a blog entry about her latest business (ad)venture, but it is going well. We had a rather busy week with her Goldendoodle, Dani, coming into heat. Yes, she is breeding dogs in addition to gardening.

That’s the good heat. On the site of the other house here at Soul’s Ease, the heat and humidity are really dragging on the crew. I suggested we could rent some of the construction lights if they wanted to come in before dawn and leave about noon. We’ll see what they want to do.

They are currently working on the entryways, which is a bit awkward with proper placement of some really strange shaped foam pieces around the wooden framing for doors and windows. One of the guys quit last week and another was sick one day. It is really hard to maneuver the big panels with just two workers, even with the forklift taking the weight of the panel. They are back to three workers and are working on the front door entryway and the bedroom window entryway.

View of living room toward outer wall.

The bedroom window needs to be large enough for emergency egress. When we (AI Domes and I) first looked at this, I had trouble imagining myself trying to get out a window over 3 feet off the floor. I’m just not that flexible any more, to say nothing about the extra pounds I’m trying to lose. They thought about it and suggested if I lost a couple of square feet of floor space, I could have an entryway with a big window or a door instead of a window dormer. This will be about a 5×5 window, and low enough that I wouldn’t have trouble stepping over it to get out. I didn’t really want another door, so this is a good choice. The window will be facing east, and I may put my bed right below it to use it as a sort of headboard/focal point. That’s just a decorative decision, which will be made later as I move in. The bedroom will be a rather odd shape, starting off as approximately a quarter circle with a diameter of 13 feet. The entryway will be 12 feet across, replacing two of the riser panels. There will be a walk-in closet taking the corner (about 24 sq ft) between the window and the wall to the living room. It is probably a lot bigger than I need for my retirement wardrobe, but I will be happy for more general storage. This will leave almost a rectangle of 12 x 13 for the bed and dresser. I do not really need a big bedroom, so I gave more room to my master bath. That’s where I want to pamper myself.

View of bedroom toward back wall and window.

Exploring the Space

The heat is so bad this past week, and expected at least through this and next. Little rain, and nighttime temps are in the 70s. That means the crew working on the addition is getting a lot of heat reflected back from concrete. They are going to start coming over about first light, around 6am for now. They may even consider working shorter days and on Saturday. Once the shell is completed, it should be an improvement working inside 7 inches of extruded foam, even if the windows, doors, and A/C are not in place.

I gave up my parking spot at the front and we now have a concrete storage and mixing space, with the sand pile on the old patio. It is conveniently close.

concrete work area

I went out my current front door to wander around the slab. The picture from my future front door across the new living room space and connector hallway seems so big. It’ll be different when walls are up, both interior and exterior, but it is a long stretch.

view from new front door

will be the four piece master bath

Living room will be basically a half-circle shape, with the flat side as the wall between it and the master suite. There will not be anything special about it, except size, with three different seating areas, one of which is my reading nook, with a recliner, bookcases, and charging place for my ereaders. The opposite corner will have a sofa (bed) and chair, with shelves for yarn storage. That will be a nice knitting corner. In the center will be my couch, two chairs, and an entertainment center, eventually with a new television that I plan to also use as a monitor for my computer. There will be various shelves and probably a microwave, as I’ve saved an old one that always popped perfectly unburned popcorn. Since the exterior wall behind the entertainment center faces the back of Sharon’s house, I don’t have any windows in it to provide privacy to both of us. And besides, who wants the glare behind a tv screen? I will have a double French door and a long window beside it at one end, and an open doorway to the connector at the other end, and a 22 inch solar tube in the center. I love the amount of light I get from the 10 inch tube in my current bathroom. It does not need any direct sun to brighten a space. The ceiling will be open to the top of the dome, about 18 feet. This means I won’t have any overhead lights, but I didn’t have any in my last house’s living room, either. Well, I will be moving the small chandelier from the old dining area to the new front door. I already have floor lamps and wall sconces. I plan to use my old furniture, all in good condition, and I like it. May need some sofa tables later.

I’ll describe other room plans later.



Pouring Concrete

Pouring concrete today. Two trucks and not quite enough. Third truck brought it up to about 27 cubic yards. They poured the footers and slab all at the same time, with dividers at approximately where one truckload would reach. The crew stayed late to get it all finished since Morgan Concrete was able to get the third truck to us. It has been such a hot day, but since I’ll have a subfloor and hardwood installed over this, it does not have to be too smooth, just enough that no one trips while working. And they have it plenty smooth for that.

Starting pour of footers

I know there are 7 inches of edge where the walls will sit, but it is finally looking large. Strange how the dirt and forms look smaller than an expanse of concrete in the same space. There is run of 45 to 50 feet from my current front door to the far end where the new front door will be, and that seems like a lot.

approved, ready for pour

concrete done and curing















I’m going to be able to go out the front door again – even though it is a construction site, sometimes I need to talk to the crew, and wandering around from the back is not convenient.

Sharon got the pieces of my front patio that had to be removed for the addition. She decided to use it as a potting station near the garden shed. That’s an area which has frequently been a bit muddy. The leftover concrete today went in that area to smooth the edges and fill the crack between 2 pieces.

Sharon’s workspace

First Inspection

We got approval on our first inspection – plumbing for waste lines. That has all been covered and lots of steel wire and rebar in place, with heavy plastic. We expect the inspector to look at this on Friday. It should be okay, so we scheduled a concrete delivery for Monday morning. It will probably take two. At least it doesn’t have to be super smooth, since I’m planning for hardwood flooring above it. The concrete floors did not work out here for me. I plan to cover the old section in sheet vinyl after everything is done on the new. The two sections will mesh up at the same height.

site ready and sand delivered

This morning I got a surprise, was in the back of the house and ignoring the construction noises, when a really loud back-up beep made me look up. All I could see out my kitchen window was dump truck. Then I remembered we were getting a load of sand, and that was the spot near the mortar mixer and mostly out of construction way. It is on what was my front patio, but that will help keep it clean.

dump truck at patio

It is still predicted to hit 90s next week, so the crew will have to work to keep the pour a bit moistened. One of the new guys Doug hired has a good bit of concrete experience, so this should help. I’m getting anxious to see the panels start going into place. Plus, before we start the second row, we will have the wooden support in place and get a good sense of how tall it will be. That structure will stay until all panels have been set, steel mesh connected, and concrete covering it on the seams. It will have a while to fully cure. The link between the old and new domes is not as tall, so less weight and no need for the support structure.

I have gained quite a bit of construction knowledge since the first dome went up. It helps me know what to ask for and about.

Ageing in Place

This is a trend that has become popular as baby boomers are becoming seniors. I am definitely trying to find and design things for my addition that will help me stay in my house if I develop mobility issues. I am also keeping safety foremost, to prevent injuries that might make me immobile, even for a short while. I am so aware since last year’s injury of my rotator cuff took away months of normal behavior, and I’m still not back to full range of motion and strength – but I’m working at it. Think about what you’d do with only one arm or with a dozen staples in your belly for a couple of weeks (they hurt to move much).

Looks like this is going to be a long post, as I have a long list. Here’s what I’m doing for both convenience and safety.
I already have days with painful knees and hips, so single floor living with no steps at entry are obvious to me.
I’ve never been a big fan of carpeting, and no small rugs that might slip, bare hardwood is safer. I have been disappointed in the concrete floor, so am looking at possibly cork.
All electrical outlets at least 24 inches from floor. The electrician who worked on the original dome suggested this and I really like it.
Plus, plenty of outlets to prevent the need for extension cords.
A convenient shelf with outlets for a charging station – nearly everyone has a cell phone or other electronic devices, and they usually need daily charging. A handy location out of the way of other activities is good. Some of my family had a vacation in a place with a convenient kitchen bar, but by the time we all plugged in, it was hard to cook.
It’s good that I’ve never been a big fan of pot lights in the ceiling, as those would require a ladder to change bulbs. So, no lights in the ceiling and any wall mounted light won’t be too high for lightbulb change from a small stepstool or tall friend. Some of the LED Ikea spot lights I have bought have the long-lasting bulbs built in, so the while fixture will eventually be changed. I have mixed feelings about this, as it seems like too much throw-away, but they are not expensive and last a long time.

Ikea Rymden light bar I already have and have bought more. Mine hang on the wall.

Both Sharon and I have already been happy with raised legs on furniture. Without short-legged children around, we prefer helping ourselves and friends to a couple of extra inches to get off a couch.
I even had made a to-scale diagram of my new place, making sure I had 3 to 4 feet of room around seating groups in the living room. This is in case I need mobility help in the form of a chair or scooter (or any visiting friends who might need the space). I got rid of furniture that I would not use before I left Roanoke. The powder room will have sufficient space and a pocket door to help.

In order to make cleaning easier, I will have wall-mounted toilets and sinks. Just running a duster or mop under without contending with legs will be better.

Kohler wall mounted toilet

I am looking at grab bars for both the powder room and the master bath, as I found them invaluable during both hernia surgery recovery and the rotator cuff injury and surgery recovery. Also along these lines, a fold down seat in the shower is on my list. A walk-in shower makes sense, as stepping over a curb while balancing on one wet foot seems like asking for trouble. And again, if a wheelchair is ever needed in the future (even temporarily), easy shower access is good.

Moen grab bar folds up and out of the way.

I’ve long been a fan of a handheld shower head, for speed alone, but if a person has to sit for a shower, that is necessary. I realized I don’t like the location of the current shower drain, as the slope is hard on ankles and knees. I am going to try for a slope forward, away from my feet instead of between them.
A jetted soaker tub – mostly to ease aches, but I’ve found a nice grab bar designed for a hot tub that looks good for a bathtub surround, and will swing out of the way when not in use.
I am a big fan of timer switches on fans. It makes sense for everyone – children forget to turn off fans, my mother was getting rather deaf and I often found she’d left her fan on for long periods of time.
I am already using lever handles on doors.

bathroom fan timer switch

I am splurging on decent heating, so I will be comfortable in winter. I am not a fan of heat pumps, but have had radiant heating for most of the last 35 or so years. They may be an oddity around here, but I will have hot water radiators – efficient and very comfortable. Since it will be powered by natural gas, I am having a small utility building constructed outside of living quarters, that will house gas burning appliances. This will keep any potential for carbon monoxide away from living areas.

As we were planning the design, a bedroom egress window was required. Until A I Domes folks suggested using a different dormer/entry that would take away a few feet of floor space, I was having trouble picturing myself ever getting out the size window available. Not that I ever expect to need it, but I now will have a window low enough and wide enough to just about step through. Small, higher windows are for younger and more able-bodied people.
I have already bought a wheeled cart for moving clean laundry (even has bars for hanging clothes) from the laundry room to the far end with my new bedroom. No worry about dropping and tripping on clothes.

I am regretting the extra row of kitchen cabinets that are too high for me to reach, but I will have a pantry that should handle the space problem. The top cabinets can sit empty and just look good.

We have been happy with reach extenders, so convenient for the additional inches. When I was not allowed to bend for a few weeks after hernia surgery, they allowed me to pick up what I dropped and not have to wait for Sharon to visit. She keeps hers ready to slide curtains across the window, as the rods are just beyond her reach. This is what we use.

reach extender

Handi Grabber

Eventually I plan to follow Sharon’s example and plug my computer into a large screen tv, so I can see my monitor from across the room. I don’t watch much tv now, so it is low on my list, but I will get one. Feet up in a recliner, cordless mouse and keyboard, what luxury!

For outside, I have a bench to put next to my door where I can place items while opening the door. This is not a big deal, but has been very handy, besides being a nice seat. I am planning for a few more exterior outlets and faucets, even a 220 outlet for family and friends who might visit with an RV. My sister and her husband had to choose between staying in a campground, or parking in the yard and not having air conditioning. They went to a campground, and I can’t blame them.
A poured sidewalk around the house is desirable, as rough ground and grass is not always easy to walk on. Also not at the top of the list, but eventually I want this.

I may be adding to this as I find good products, or problems to solve.