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  • Mike Tait


So this is how we went from having a leak in our ensuite tub's faucet to a completely new Family Room that we all seem to be enjoying much more than before. It has been quite an adventure and I'll outline most of the steps I took below, sparing you some of the more boring stuff.

Again, what triggered this whole thing was a leaky faucet in the bathroom directly above, dripping water down onto the ceiling in our Family Room and created a bit of a mess with the stucco, or textured ceiling. You can see it in the image below to the right of the light.

Since there really isn't any way to repair a small section of stucco and to make it look seamless with the rest of the popcorn ceiling, I was planning on removing all the stucco, then cutting out a small section of the ceiling in order to fix the problem with the leaky tub above. I've removed another stucco'd ceiling in our Dining Room in the past and aside from it being a bit of a messy job, it was quite straight forward.

So then I was thinking, if we now have a smooth ceiling in this room, why don't I get rid of the one lonely ceiling light (that wasn't centred properly by the builder against the fireplace wall and has always bothered me) and add 6 LED potlights instead, to finally give this room sufficient accent lighting. Here's how that was taking shape:

Since I was able to intercept the wire going from the switch to the celing light, and use that wire to power the first pot light (which was roughly half the distance to the ceiling light), I didn't have to cap the box in the ceiling. In fact, I removed the box entirely, patched the hole and it was like it was never there to begin with!

So now the lighting was done and all corners of the room are illuminated unlike all the dark areas in the room we used to have with having a single ceiling light. So now that I've been making a mess in here, my wife and I have always wanted built in shelves on both sides of the fireplace. After getting a few quotes, neither one of us really realized how expensive this project would cost to have a professional carpenter build them for us.

So my business partner Marisa had a brilliant idea which turned out great in her basement reno. Instead of building everything from scratch, why not purchase IKEA kitchen cabinets with doors as a base, add either a countertop or mdf as the first shelf above the cabinets, and then rip a bunch of mdf boards to the right size and build some shelves ontop of that. But before any of that could be done, we needed to tear up the carpet and have hardwood flooring installed, like the rest of the main floor. This wasn't something I wanted to tackle and considering the low cost of installation for only one room, it really didn't make any sense to do it myself anyway.

And while we waited to have the hardwood shipped and for 'our guy' to install it, I decided to move the two electrical receptacles on both sides of the fireplace, from 16" above the floor (which would have been buried behind the cabinets) to right above to countertop, making them easily accessible for lamps, charging stations, etc. Also I needed to move the switch for the gas fireplace to a more aesthetically pleasing location, more in line with the new receptacle locations. I had plenty of time to do this while we were waiting for the flooring, so this in itself took me a few days to do it properly. The photo above shows the new locations for the electrical (and I steel plated the buried boxes below for protection).

Now the area was all prepped but it still looked like there was going to be 2 or 3 weeks before the flooring was to arrive. So now our focus was sprucing up the fireplace. We stripped it down, added mdf strips, new moulding, a new mantle (using two mdf boards with facing), along with a black marble-look porcelain tile to surround the fireplace and build a hearth to abut the wood flooring. We were very happy with the way it turned out (even though I screwed up on the size of the porcelain metal border - but it doesn't look too bad).

The flooring was finally installed so I could continue with the built ins. Below are the cabinet boxes with the fireplace painted, right after the flooring guy left (he's still not done though as we were two boards short of finishing the room - arggg!!). In order to add baseboard trim under the cabinets and to give the cabinets support, I built a frame using 2x4 wood for the boxes to sit on, giving me enough room for the baseboards afterwards.

Cabinets and countertops are now installed and I was happy with the height of the moved receptacles and fireplace switch.

The shelves went in on the right side quite easily but the left side was a bit tricky as it wasn't as square as the other side. But all things considered, as long as you have a table saw & mitre saw for the cuts, an air compressor with a brad nailer, and a bottle or Gorilla glue, this part of the project wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be. It took me 2 days to build the shelves above the cabinets and this is how it turned out.

I also capped the vertical ends with 1.5" strips of mdf and for the shelves I used a hand held router to give the facing a rounded edge with a softer look. With mdf, and considering the span of the shelves without having a centre support, I thought facing was an important step to prevent the shelves from sagging. I also like the look of the softer rounded edges of the back supports and facing...

And after I spackled the larger gaps, caulked all the corners, primed and painted, added door handles, my wife and I added a few items to get us going, here's how it all came together in the end.

Far different from how it looked before we started...

The room is definitely a work in progress, and still there's more to do - but at least the bulk of the work is done. I learned quite a lot and used tools and materials for the first time on this project. I'm also happy to report that after using a table saw for the second time ever, I still have all my fingers :)

Tools I used aside from the obvious hammer, screw drivers and painting equipment included:

10" compound mitre saw with sliding arm, 10" table saw, air compressor with brad nailer (I used 2.25" and 1.25" 18 gauge brad nails), wireless drill, level, Gorilla glue for wood, hand held router with roundover bits, Bosch 4 1/2" small angle grinder with a Dewalt porcelain tile blade, Alex Plus silicone caulking, Elmer's wood filler, DryDex Spackling by DAP, and probably a bunch of other things I can't think of at the moment.

If you're thinking about tackling something like this and you're not a pro (like me) and if you would like me to explain a paricular part of the project in more detail since I pretty much flew through it, please ask away by leaving a comment below. I took a bunch of photos along the way so I can probably back up your questions with more pics.

Thanks for reading!


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