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Check every contractor’s license!

Check any local newspaper and you’ll find loads of advertisements for “contractors.” The problem is, many of the people posting these ads are not actually licensed by the state, and are breaking the law if they contract for anything other than a very minor project. I had an interesting experience this past weekend when a flooring installer that I had met at a Home Improvement center provided me with a business card that listed his contractor license number. Later that evening, I pulled up the California state contractor website and entered the number on the business card. I was surprised when the name that came back to the number (on the state website) was different than the one listed on the business card. Even more surprising, the license type listed on the website was for a plumbing contractor (not a flooring contractor). And most surprising of all, the license wasn’t even active (valid)! So exercise your due diligence every time you interview a prospective contractor, and check ensure that the license number provided is valid, is in the name of the person you are considering hiring, and is the appropriate type of license. Buyer beware!

What should I consider before buying a vanity?

One of the most recurring problems that we face when remodeling bathrooms has to do with vanities that don’t “match” the existing plumbing rough-in layout. If the walls are being opened up, then it’s fairly simple to change the locations of either the supply lines or the waste line. What your contractor needs at the time of the plumbing rough-in work is a “cut-sheet” of the vanity which shows the locations of any drawers (which may require the moving of the supply or waste lines), and the location and size of the main section of the cabinet, where the all of the plumbing must be placed. A problem we have encountered recently has to do with a single drawer that is placed beneath the main section of the cabinet, and this reduces the amount of space available for plumbing. In addition, the height of this drawer, as measure form the floor, will dictate the elevation of both the supply and waste lines. And don’t forget that the waste line will have a P-trap draining into it, so the waste line must be a few inches above the drawer, but not so high that it doesn’t allow the drain tailpiece to clear the bottom of the sink. That’s a lot to think about, and that’s one of the many reasons that you want to hire only licensed professionals to remodel your bathroom!

Why is everything in my house so crooked?

8625257_sAre you looking for things to do around the house? Why not try this experiment the next time you’re bored?

Place a level up against several walls. How close to “plumb” were they? Now place the level on several areas of your flooring. How “level” were they?

Next, place a square at several corners of your home. How “square” were they?

If your home is anything like most older homes, you’ll have a hard time finding walls that are plumb, floors that are level, and corners that are square. It may be just interesting or a bit disconcerting at this point, but it will translate into myriad problems for you (or your contractor) if you want to remodel your home.

Whether you’re hanging cabinets or laying tile, these little imperfections will require some additional work in order to make everything fit. The good news is this, in most cases the human eye will have a tough time picking up the spaces and misalignments that result from these issues. But the smaller the product (such as a 1′ mosaic tile), the easier it will be for the human eye to see any imperfections that result from these installations.

So, if you’re dealing with a problematic house that’s a bit crooked here and there, plan in advance to address these potential problems by choosing items such as larger tile and wider floor planks. This will greatly help to “hide” little imperfections that are present in nearly all remodeling projects.

How do I replace my bathtub?

Replacing a bathtub is one of the most effective ways to modernize your bathroom. But replacing a bathtub is much more involved than you might think.

The first challenge when replacing a bathtub is in removing it. And the first challenge when removing a bathtub concerns the areas around the bathtub, including the surrounding walls and the adjoining floor. Although it might be possible to remove a bathtub without removing the walls and floors, you will generally have to remove both in order to get the tub out, since the wall cover material (typically tile), and the floor cover material (also typically tile), were installed after the tub was installed, so in a sense, the tub is “locked into place” by these other materials.

You will also need to disconnect the drain line from the tub, referred to as a “waste-overflow” device. Once all of these things are done, you’re ready to pull out the tub. But before you do this, you need to know which material your tub is made of. If your tub is old, it is most likely a cast iron tub, and it weighs several hundred pounds. Not to worry! After putting on your safety goggles and hearing protection, just whack that tub with a sledge hammer and break it into small pieces, which can then be removed from the bathroom.

If your tub is steel, it is fairly light and can be removed by one or two people. If your tub is acrylic, or any similar material, it too is light enough to be removed by one or two people.

Now that you’ve removed your bathtub, the real work begins! Take a look at our Bruce Construction blog for “How to select and install a bathtub.”

How hard it is to move the location of a plumbing fixture?

There are several issues that need to be considered when you desire to move the location of a plumbing fixture, such as a bathroom vanity, toilet, or bathtub.

In order to move a lavatory, toilet or bathtub, the drain (waste) lines need to be relocated, and then tied back in to the main waste line. This can be a fairly simple process when the drain lines are accessible in a crawl space or garage. It is much more complicated when there is living space below the waste lines.

But every waste line is also connected to a “vent” line that normally extends through the roof of the structure. So even if the waste line can be relocated, you must also figure out extend a new vent line either through the roof, or back to another vent line for a tie-in.

In addition to moving the waste line, when you are considering moving a lavatory, toilet, or bathtub, you must also move the supply lines. Lavatories and bathtubs (or showers), will require two supply lines, one hot and one cold. Toilets require only a single cold supply line.

It is much more expensive to move the location of a lavatory, toilet or bathtub than it is to simply “swap out” an old fixture for a new one. But if you have to move one or more of these fixtures, be prepared for the additional costs associated with this move. As a general rule of thumb, it costs from $1000 to $1500 to “rough-in” a new plumbing fixture, which includes installing a new waste line, tying the waste line in to the main waste line, connecting the waste line to a vent, extending the vent line through the roof or tying it into another vent line, and installing two new 1/2″ copper supply lines.

So if you’re trying to save some money, use your current plumbing locations. But if your remodeling project will require the relocation of one or more fixtures, be prepared for some extra costs!

How To Remove A Cast Iron Tub By Yourself

Tipping the scale at over 300 pounds, a cast iron bath tub can be one of the hardest fixtures to remove in your house. What’s more, most older homes in San Francisco have the tub set into a 3-walled nook, with only a ½ inch of separation between the tub and the walls. Good luck trying to wrestle this iron monster out of your bathroom by yourself. Would you like to know how the pros do it?

The secret to removing a cast iron tub with ease is to break it into small, manageable pieces with a sledge hammer.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-Safety Goggles

-Ear Protection

-Heavy Duty Gloves

-Longs Sleeves

-Pipe Wrench (or a Sawzall)

-Sledge Hammer

-Painter’s Tarp

Here’s how you’ll do it (in less than 30 minutes time):

1.  Detach the drain from the tub. There’s no simple way to do this, but it helps to have access to the drain from below the tub. If you have said access, you can use your pipe wrench to disassemble the waste-overflow line.  Unfortunately, the usual situation involves all of the pipes being rusted and/or solidified together beyond reason, and this is when you have the option to get quick-and-crazy by cutting through the line with a Sawzall.

Most times, you will not have access to the waste-overflow line, so like a pro, you will need to break apart the tub to gain admittance to its pipes.  If this is the case, proceed to step 2, and come back to this step when you have broken enough tub to detach it from the waste line. Remember that the quicker you detach the tub from the line, the less chance you will have of unnecessarily damaging the reusable house pipes that are attached to the disposable tub pipes.

2. Cover the area of the tub you will be smacking with the tarp. The shrapnel that will fly off of the tub with each hammer smack is extremely sharp, so DO NOT attempt this project without proper safety gear. If placed correctly, the tarp will prevent most of the debris from flying off of the tub, and your long sleeves and safety gear will stop the rest. The tarp will probably tear, and it might even have to be thrown away, but your skin is more valuable than your tarp.

3. Swing Away! A strong person with a big sledge hammer will be able to crack the area of the tub they are hitting with two or three hits.  The tub is extremely strong, but it is also brittle, and once it cracks it will begin to break apart easier. Start hammering in the middle of the cast iron bad boy,  and aim for the walls of it rather than the top of it (horizontal-to-the-floor swings instead of the stereotypical  vertical chops) .  Lift up the tarp intermittently to see where you have made the most damage, and work your way down to the inside floor of the tub from your initial damage point.  The hardest part to break will be the ledge around the tub, but even this area becomes weak when the material around it is gone.  Your goal should be to break the tub into three-to-five manageable pieces.  Keep making cracks where you want it to split and radiate your demolition from the initial cracks until the thing is cracked all the way through.

Dispose of the debris.  Now that you have successfully turned 300 pounds of tub into little, tiny, 75-pound pieces, you can pick up the debris and remove it from your bathroom.  There will also be a lot of tiny remnants of tub left over from your feat of strength to sweep up, but once you do this you are finished! Congratulations; you have just single-handedly removed a tub that probably took two or three men to install.  Catch your breath, pat yourself on the back, and have a cold diet soda.

Note From Tyson:

After removing dozens of cast iron tubs, I can confidently say that the biggest downside of sledgehammering a bathtub is the damage that occurs in adjacent rooms. Assuming that your tub is nestled against the walls of your bathroom in an aforementioned “nook”, the walls will shake when you sledge the wrath of God into the side of your tub. To limit the damage of your demo, take everything off of the walls adjacent to your bathroom (imagine that a tiny earthquake is about to take place), and try as best as you can to swing away from the walls as you smash the tub.  No matter how much preparation you do, you will probably see a couple of popped drywall nails in the rooms next door, but remind yourself that this easily repairable wall damage is insignificant compared to the wall damage (and more importantly, back damage) you will cause if you try to pull a fully-intact cast iron tub out of your house.

Integrate Resource Management



I recently had an experience at Integrated Resources Group(IRG) that was worthy of me sitting down to write my first ever yelp review!  We were remodeling a bathroom for a client who had chosen a 12″ by 24″ marble tile for her shower surround and bathroom floor.  Halfway through the installation process, my client decided that she did not like the tile that she had chosen to install.

Then next day my client and I returned to IRG (where she had initially purchased the tile) and sat down with a young lady named Alexis who had been working with my client and who had facilitated the order.  Alexis understood that we needed a new tile ASAP because we had a bathroom torn apart, and she came to our rescue.  She allowed my client to return all of the unused tiles (even the special-order pencil liner that IRG would not be able to return themselves!), and she assisted my client with choosing a tile that she was happy with.  We ended up choosing a much, much cheaper tile than before, but Alexis’s only concern was to make us happy.  Within 24 hours of our job stopping, we were tiling the walls and floor with the new material.

Bruce Construction plans to do a lot of business here in the future, and we recommend that you do to.  If you are in the market for tile or stone, I would definitely recommend checking out Integrated Resources Group.  For all of you who live on the Peninsula, They are conveniently located in Brisbane, and they have a giant warehouse and a great showroom to help you get some ideas for your future project.


Check 1, Check 2, Is This Thing On?

To all web surfing souls who have for years wandered around aimlessly on internet looking for meaningful remodeling information, Bruce Construction welcomes you. You are now part of the fortunate few who were lucky enough to stumble upon our brand new blog page. Prepare to be inundated weekly with insightful knowledge, from time-saving tips for your do-it-yourself projects to detailed articles concerning how to go about starting the remodeling process.

Over the past 8 years, my father and I have noticed that most people do not know where to begin when it comes to remodeling their house. They have a vague idea of how their new kitchen should look, or how their new bathroom should feel, but they ask themselves, “What now? How much should I expect to spend? Should I hire a designer or an architect? What’s the difference between porcelain tile and ceramic tile? How do get permits for my job? Can I remove this wall without my house falling down?”

Most importantly, people ask themselves, “How do I avoid becoming another chapter in the all-too-common remodeling horror story?”

Hopefully, this blog will provide you with the knowledge and weapons to become a more discerning consumer in what can be a complicated remodeling process. It will also most likely make you a more successful do-it-yourself weekend warrior.  You might even become so informed that you can cut out general contractors like us altogether and remodel your own house, in which case we will dissolve our business and become full-time bloggers. We will be sometimes serious, sometimes silly, but always informative, and we promise not to promote ourselves too much (which is really hard, because we are pretty awesome).  Please make a habit of checking in with us because we plan on making a habit of posting here, and if you somehow conclude that you don’t like our blog, just remember that our remodeling skills greatly outweigh our blogging skills.


Tyson Bruce