Hot Tub Shopping

When we bought our house six years ago, the pool house had a large, broken built-in hot tub.  Years previously, it stopped working, but couldn’t easily be fixed because it was in the ground.


Ben cut apart the old tub with a saw, leaving a huge hole behind.


We filled it with dirt, followed by a layer with crushed gravel at the top before pouring a layer of concrete.




With the concrete done, we took several days to tile the floor throughout the pool house.  Finally, we created board and batten walls, painting everything clean white.


While all of those steps are exciting in their own right, none of it made the space function as it is intended: as a pool and hot tub hang out.  Though we do have the pool liner and the supplies necessary to complete it, time is in short supply lately, so it hasn’t been finished.  However, we do now have water in here other than the bathroom and kitchen sink.

After months of research of different brands of hot tubs, we pulled the trigger and bought a spa over the weekend.  Before getting the spa in place, Ben installed an outdoor rated connection box.


Earlier than we expected, four guys and a hot tub showed up.  They put the hot tub on a special cart, pushing it up the hill, with a few Catmint plants getting pushed down in the process.  Luckily, they’ll grow back just fine.


Ben pulled out both panels of the back sliding door, giving them a 6 foot wide opening to get it inside.


Once inside, they tipped the cart to the side, setting the tub on the floor, easily sliding it into place.  Ben hooked up the electrical connection while their installer put the lift and cover in place.


As previously mentioned, Ben had been researching options for months.  Our biggest requirement was a tub small enough to fit in our 6 foot deep by 7.5 foot wide space (before the back angled walls begin).  From there, we found three tubs locally available.

First, the Jacuzzi J-315 2/3 seater with the shell in Silver Pearl and Brazilian Teak for the cabinet.  $6,300, including a cover, cover lift, and delivery.  This one measures 76″ by 66″ by 32″, has 21 jets, and 2 filters.


Next, the Dover from Sundance Spas (Sundance is a sister company of Jacuzzi) with the shell in Platinum and an Autumn Walnut cabinet for $6,000, including delivery.  Measuring 60″ by 84″ by 29.5″, it has 22 jets, and 1 filter.



Finally, the Nashville from Marquis with a Glacier shell and Slate cabinet surround.  This one was $5,800 including a cover, cover lift, and delivery.  This one is 69″ by 82″ by 30.5″, has 23 jets, and 1 filter.



Based on looks alone, I preferred the Jacuzzi interior and the way the Sundance cabinet goes to the floor.  Being the cheapest, the Marquis also looked the cheapest to me.  From a maintenance/function stand point, Ben liked the Jacuzzi jets and filters.  Another main selling point came down to the warranty.  Jacuzzi and Sundance, being sister companies offer the same warranty.


Marquis offers a 5 year warranty on the shell structure, 3 years on plumbing and equipment, 2 years on the shell surface, 1 year on the cabinet, components, and parts.  We ruled out the Marquis pretty quickly.


With the Jacuzzi and Sundance being sister companies, the tubs are pretty similar.  The biggest tipping point for one over the other was the jet construction, so Jacuzzi won.


Unfortunately, due to the way the cover lift works, the tub couldn’t be placed with the longer side along the back wall.  Well, technically, it would work, but would have to be pulled out from the wall about 16 inches to allow the cover when open.  Instead, we rotated it 90 degrees and it sits about 4 inches away from the wall.


The tub came with a Prolast fabric cover in Sienna, but I’d like to get a gray cover down the road.


At the original fill level, just below the headrests, the water level was too high for me.  I scooped out a few buckets of water and now it is the perfect way to relax.


An Awkward Alaska Kitchen

This summer, Ben and I started our own remodeling and design company.  For obvious reasons, Ben’s building skills are put to use locally.  However, I love working on designs of all kinds, from all places.  Recently, I was asked to help create a layout for an awkward, angle filled kitchen.  The space has been demolished, with new windows, and is a blank slate.


To start, the owner sent a roughly to scale floor plan, with measurements listed.


Of course, a floor plan is the simplified version of the space.  Without knowing how tall the windows are, it’s hard to create a kitchen layout.  Luckily, I was provided plenty of photos from various angles, giving a full perspective of the adjoining rooms.  The house was built-in the 80’s, when architecture got kind of weird and experimental.


Above, looking from the dining room windows toward the half octagon shaped kitchen.


The kitchen location has five different angled walls, with a door to the laundry room and a hall coming in.  The longest edge opens to the dining room, with the ceiling going from 8 feet in the kitchen to 10 foot ceilings in the dining room.


Below is the view from the hall entrance, with the laundry room door to the right.


Straddling the kitchen and dining room is a 4 foot deep by 9 foot wide bump out.  Currently, it has a door out to a small deck, but the owner wants to do away with it.


We talked over what they want and need in the space.  On their list is a generous sink, refrigerator, dishwasher, trash pull out drawer, two ovens, and either a 36 or 48 inch range.  They do a lot of entertaining, so if there was a way to add a closet to store folding chairs, that was a bonus.  Here’s what I came up with:

Kitchen Layout

With each angle, the front of the cabinet is narrower than the back wall, creating wasted space.  To keep the plan as open as possible, I put the refrigerator along the bumped out nook, creating a closet behind it.  The refrigerator is the biggest, bulkiest piece, so placing it on the end, recessing it back will keep it from feeling too heavy.

Kitchen Layout2

The owners want two ovens, but double stacked ovens near the laundry room could feel too closed off.  By placing a 36 inch gas range with vent hood above, that gives them one oven.  Another electric oven could easily go in the island, with a 5 foot wide walkway rather than a 4 foot walkway.  The island is still generous, at 5 feet wide by 8.5 feet long.  A row of 12 inch deep floor to ceiling cabinets to serve as a pantry space will make up for the lack of lower cabinetry in the main area of the kitchen.

Railing Redo Complete

After discussing railing options with our friend/client, Ben got to work ordering the various pieces and installing the new railing.  Before installing any new parts, he secured the wobbly newel post, making it solid.Railing-Redo-Finished-Overa

With the 1 1/4 inch balusters spaced into groups of three, each 1 1/4 inches apart, then 3 1/2 inches from the next group, he started building.


The top rail is made 3 1/2 inch wide by 2 inch thick red oak, stained to blend better with the wood in the house.


On the other side, a square handrail follows the slope of the stairs.


Keeping the base simple and painting it white makes it look like a complete system, rather than separate rail and floor.


Before, the posts looked too thick and heavy for the skinny, detailed balusters.  Now, the trio of thick baulsters are similar in width to the post.


At the bottom of the stairs, the angled rail system blends nicely with the existing molding.


Before, the railing felt off-balance and disjointed, with thick white posts and skinny dark wood.


Now, rather than looking overly traditional and dated, it looks fresh and simple.


For a relatively small project, the update has made a big impact.


Style wise, it blends seamlessly with the traditional trim throughout, and the owner’s transitional style furnishings and decor.

A Railing Redo

About a year ago, a friend of ours bought a house filled with traditional, detailed trim.  She updated the trim by painting it white, which worked wonders, but she never loved the railing.  The glossy mahogany stained rail and detailed baulsters just didn’t fit her style.  However, the posts match other details throughout the house, so she wanted those to stay.


In addition to changing out the rail and baulsters, she wanted Ben to firm up the end post, which was held in place by angled brackets.


Ideally, she wanted something with straight, simple lines but not overly modern.  Also pieces with some heft to them to fit in with the chunky posts.  Initially, she had an idea to place horizontal metal pieces.


Due to the fluting on the posts, I didn’t think it would work well.  Then, we chatted about other designs.  Still wanting simple, but adding just enough detail to keep it interesting.  Maybe by adding one horizontal piece, breaking the baulsters up just a bit.


Or the same idea, but not continuing the baulsters above, terminating into the rail.


Maybe playing with spacing and pattern, something like this:


I love the mix of baulster spacing, but that horizontal piece would still throw a wrench in the system.  Regardless of the distance from the wooden top rail, the painted rail would have to tie into the fluted section.  Before ordering materials, I took more measurements and spread masking tape along the top rail, marking out spacing options.


After testing various widths, I liked the spacing a group of three 1 1/4 inch square baulsters, spaced 1 1/4 inches apart looked.  It mimicked the repeat of the fluted detail on the posts, blending well with the traditional posts.  One call to explain and she agreed, so we set to work making it happen.  Stay tuned to see the real version.

Pool Liner Prep Work

Our pool has never been in good shape while we owned this house.  On closing day, the liner was stained and falling off the track.


We pulled it out to uncover a solid base, with three-foot tall fiberglass side panels.


Due to the way the pool was originally constructed, it will always need a full liner.  Before installing the liner, Ben had to fill any cracks.  A few in the hopper of the pool were large, which Ben used mortar to fill, in addition to the broken main drain.



For smaller cracks, he applied a heavy-duty sealant, smoothing it with a putty knife.

Pool House Patched Cracks in Pool Overall


Gaps between the fiberglass panels and hairline cracks in the concrete could potentially show through the liner.


A new aluminum track will surround the pool coping stones, with the liner lip tucking in the groove.


Speaking of the coping stones, they were looking a bit rough after the construction mess.



I stocked up on Magic Erasers and scrubbed off the grout residue and old caulking.


Thankfully, it all came off pretty easily and looks as good as new.  While I don’t love the white fiberglass tile, I think once the white terrazzo liner is in, it won’t be such a stark contrast against the dark tile.