Upstairs Shower Teardown ~ 03/30/16

Dear Fellow Journalers,

I would like to take a moment to thank Denise for sharing her project journal  with us this month. Her journey to a newly renovated home was a long one but as we will read, she survived to tell us the tale! I hope to see her remodeled rooms soon.



March 30, 2016

Since the Contractor hasn’t started in the basement yet, I’ve decided to talk about the teardown of the shower in the half bath upstairs for my last Project Blog.  Of course it’s got a story . . .  That’s where the Project Journal began.

The reason for the teardown to begin with was an ex of mine took out two closets, one from each room upstairs; we were going to expand the half bath to a full bath with a custom-sized shower stall, which did get started, but never quite finished . . . .

The sink got moved to take up the closet space from the room to the left of the stairs, the toilet was re-positioned from facing toward the left to facing straight out toward the stairs and the shower stall was started in the closet area in the room to the right of the stairs.  He never finished it because he got sick, then we went on vacation and he said it was the fumes from gluing the tile to the cement board that made him sick so he never finished it.  Just as well, because . . . .

Occasionally I needed to use the bathroom upstairs while working up there; one day I noticed water stains on the wood floor – the sink valves were leaking so I turned them off underneath.  Next time I was up there, I noticed wetness next to the toilet – called the plumber who said I had one of three options; since there was a crack in the water tank, I could install a new toilet or if I couldn’t afford that, he could fix my current situation or we could just shut the water off altogether for now.  I opted for door # 3.  I needed to wait for another financial windfall.  Ha!  They were few and far between living week-to-week.

I had the sink fixed after Christmas and the toilet fixed after tax refund.  Afterwards, the plumber noted there was no flange on the toilet.  “Wait!  What?  Really?  How’d he anchor it to the floor?”  He also told me he had to move the toilet three inches because it needed to be 15 inches from the wall.

There were already two strikes against what had been done in that bathroom.  As each new issue crept up, I began to contemplate taking the whole darn thing out, rather than continuing on with the project toward its completion.  One night I wasn’t feeling well and while pacing the kitchen floor noticed the discoloration in the ceiling (directly under that bathroom upstairs).  Hmmm . . .   That was the night I made my decision to rip the whole darn thing out and start over.

With family coming to town, I had to move the cat’s litter box upstairs; after cleaning it and using the toilet, decided to wash my hands up there as well.  [That sink didn’t work for so long, I’d forgotten I had it fixed.]  With the contractor needing to see what needed to be done in that bathroom, I’d emptied the shower stall so he could take a look.  While washing my hands I heard this gurgling sound in the shower area.  What the . . . ?  I actually thought it was the toilet backing up into the shower which was kind of gross.  Frantically, I called the Plumber all upset because the downstairs bathroom toilet and sink were still disconnected due to the remodeling going on down there.  Where was I supposed to pee?  Plumber said he’d stop by first thing in the morning.

When he arrived, we both went up to the bathroom; he flushed the toilet, nothing.  He flushed it again, still nothing.  I said, “You know . . . I was washing my hands when I heard it, but I’d just flushed the toilet so I assumed it was the toilet.”, he turned on the water in the sink and the water started rising in the shower stall drain.  Eeeek!  Well, thankfully it wasn’t the toilet backing up into the shower.

Okay, he wanted to check out the basement; we both went down there and that’s when I noticed that the washing machine was soaked.  What the . . .?  And then it dawned on me that I’d had that same issue a few years prior; it was the shower from the 1st floor causing that issue.  He sent me upstairs to turn the shower on; I no sooner did and he was screaming “SHUT IT OFF!”  Back downstairs, “Did you get a shower too?”  “YES!!!”  Ha!  “Oh, sorry about that!”  Plumber says, “Well we can fix this, but it has nothing to do with your issue on the second floor.”  Then he started looking at my pipes and said, “Your pipes are backwards.”  “What?”  “Yeah, look, the traps should be facing the opposite direction.”  I’m thinking they’re thinking stupid woman, they could tell me anything and I wouldn’t know the difference.  “Okay, what’ll it cost me for you to fix the pipes?”  “$600.”  “Okay, do it!”  Plumber says, “Okay, but this still hasn’t anything to do with your issue on the second floor.”  “Yes, I’m aware of that because I had this issue with the shower a few years ago, look, you can see where they used the torch; it scorched the piping.”  Second floor, upstairs?  Turns out the sink and the shower were never vented properly, if at all.  Plumber said, “When your Contractor starts tearing this all down and has the wall to the knee walls open, give me a call and I can scoot over and take a look at what was done and we’ll get it taken care of.  For now though, don’t use the sink up here.”  BIG SIGNS made up, “DON’T USE THE SINK!”

While Contractor and I were discussing different scenarios with the teardown of the shower stall, his last thought was, “Or . . .  you could open the room up altogether and not make it a closet again.”  Epic idea!  One I had not thought of!  Score a bravo for the Contractor.  “Yes, let’s do it that way!”

First day . . .  Contractor meticulously took tiles off the cement board, cut the cement board out and opened the walls to find some very funky plumbing pipes about waist high.   I’d given him the Plumber’s # and asked him to coordinate timing directly with him.  The following day he called the Plumber and never heard back from him.  That evening he and I both called the Plumber and within moments both got a call back.  Plumber said he’d come in the morning to check it all out.  Plumber calls me at work the next day, “The plumbing in that bathroom is atrocious!”  “Uh huh, that’s why I decided to rip it all out because I didn’t trust what he’d done.”  Turns out it was even worse than atrocious because they had not yet ripped up the flooring where the shower stall was.

Second day . . .  Plumber came, fixed everything, but they left a gaping hole in the floor where the shower stall had been AND they left the wall to the knee walls open.   When they were done up there, they were supposed to block everything off.  I adopted a rescue ‘feral’ cat in December, but he’s still in hiding and won’t come when I call him; I knew if there was a safer, quieter place, he would go there.  When I came home and found the floor wide open with the knee walls open, I totally panicked thinking the cat was stuck in between the floor boards somewhere and at the same time I was totally pissed off because I was so adamant about them NOT leaving everything exposed and open like that.  I called and called that cat to no avail; I looked high and low, in all his hiding places, no cat anywhere to be found.  Then I really started to panic as I remembered when a friend of mine had moved into a house that truly should have been condemned before she moved in; the floors were all slanted . . .  And the floor heating grate was missing in the kitchen.  Val said one night she came around the corner just in time to grab her cat’s tail and pull him out of the hole.  Silly cats!

I immediately called the Contractor who said he was on his way back to my house.  He took a flashlight and crawled into the knee walls; at the last possible moment the cat moved and he shooed him back into the bedroom; I was so relieved he hadn’t climbed into the hole in the floor.  My Contractor proceeded to close up all the holes for me before he left for the evening.  While he worked, he and I gabbed; he said the plumbing was so screwy the Plumber couldn’t believe what they found; said it was so bad they all took pictures of it.

Plumber stopped by that evening to pick up a check; said the sink and the shower weren’t vented at all, told me about the photos they took and said he’d send them to me if I wanted them.  Sure, I’ll add them to the blog I’m writing for my friend’s website.  (Sorry, pics didn’t show up before this printing.)

Day Three . . . .  More teardown in the upstairs bathroom; my ex had left a partial wall that the door kept hitting when we opened it into the bathroom; Contractor said we could take it out totally; yet another epic idea.  Okay!  It came down today.  Plus he closed up the knee walls for good-by adding sheet rock.  Yay!  It’s coming right along.

I decided to move the cedar closet [an heirloom piece from my Grandmother] into that new open space and then have a new closet built-in the opposite room; there’s a great space for a closet in that room.

Day Four . . . .  Contractor started to lay out how the tile would fit in the bathroom; I had bought the sheets of tile back when we first started to remodel that bathroom.  After he laid it out, I found the tile to be too busy in that tiny space; decided to go with the same 8″ tiles we used in the downstairs bathroom and the same grout color too!  The wall where the shower stall was went up today; it’s almost done.  Well . . . it’s roughly done; the wall seams need to be taped, etc, then the walls need to be painted and the tile flooring laid . . . .  Thankfully though, that shower stall is history, the sink has been vented properly and everything works up there again!


Pics of the pock marks on the walls of the basement are below; it looks like someone grabbed a hammer and randomly smacked the walls with it.  I actually think it has to do with the moisture in the basement.  The walls are concrete blocks.  I asked the Contractor about the sturdiness of the foundation and while he wasn’t certain, he did ask a friend of his who noted that the concrete blocks are filled with mortar and there’s no danger of my foundation crumbling due to those marks.  I had actually looked it up online a few years back and found the blocks were made of a certain type of concrete and I wasn’t the only person ever to experience these pock marks.  That was a relief!

Contractor is switching out the current access door for a new bilco door so I won’t continue to get water dribbling down the steps into the basement and he’s going to waterproof the walls for me after fixing the pock marks.

Oh and since he was a Painter before he started doing Remodeling, I’m going to have him finish the painting I started . . . . the ceiling in the livingroom; the wall in the upstairs hallway and now I need my bedroom repainted too because I bought a new quilt and it just doesn’t match the walls.  Uh huh, typical woman!

Always something to be done when you own a home . . . .

D ~

Pock Marks_Cinder Block Walls_2014 Basement leaking_2014This is where it starts_back left side of house_2014Red Sky Morning_03-20-15 127


Bathroom Project ~ March 23, 2016

Dear Fellow Journalers

Denise continues her Home Remodeling.



The bathroom project has been going on for quite some time, for the past 12 years.  I know what you’re thinking . . . 12 years?  What could possibly be taking 12 years to complete?  It’s true though.

When I bought the house back in 1997, I knew there was a ‘soft’ wall in the tub/shower area that was discovered with the House Inspection.  No big deal, right?  Ha!  It turned out to BE a bigger deal than I ever could have imagined.

First I had Carpenter Ants which I finally got rid of . . .

Then something happened to the fixture and the tiles around the spout had to be taken out, the spout replaced and the tiles all replaced around it . . . .

Then the floor tiles on the outside of the tub started to escape because of the water dribbling down the side of the tub while taking showers; I am careful, my boys?  Not so much!

Then I found water in the basement from the shower upstairs; the water was hitting the full length window in the shower area and dribbling down the walls into the basement . . .

Then there was a water pipe issue with the shower . . .  (which I just had that very same issue again so I knew what it was) . . . .  After the tiles on the floor outside the tub started to loosen I found the wood underneath was soaked and started to disintegrate too.

When I had a little money saved because I was working two jobs I thought about having that bathroom window replaced.  My second job was bussing tables night and weekends at TGI’s.  One night one of the waitresses overheard me talking about the bathroom issue and told me one of her table’s clients who came to sit in her section weekly, # 1, thought I was kind of cute (joy) and # 2, they were all Contractors and could probably help with my bathroom issue and I should go talk them.  One night I summoned enough courage to stop by the table to gab for a few moments; we were encouraged to do that, to be friendly with the clients.  We got to gabbing about my bathroom and one said he’d come take a look at it for me.

After discussing my lack of finances, but still needing the work done we decided he’d do the work in between his other jobs, on his ‘down days’.  He asked me to pay for the window.  (I wanted the full length normal sized window taken out of the shower area and replaced with a smaller one with the placement up much higher on the wall, where the water wouldn’t hit it while we took showers).  I gave him a check for $250.00 for the window; he bought the window then didn’t show up to do the job till two and half years later.  That’s right, two, almost three years later he showed up, then tried to charge me for the window (again), some shingles, some 2 x 4’s, a few pieces of 30 weight tar paper and labor, two weeks before Christmas.  I told him I paid for the window (still had the cancelled check if he wanted to see it) and he had a lot of nerve requesting payment of any kind after making me wait 2 ½ years to have the job done.  I told him my financial situation had changed dramatically and while I had the money to pay him when I contracted with him originally, that was no longer the case.

You see . . . in anticipation of him coming to do the job, I’d taken down almost all of the tile on the walls and I’d been taking showers with plastic covered 2 x 4’s.  After he put the window in, he was going to fix the “soft wall” for me and re-tile the tub area.  We agreed I’d take the walls down to 2 x 4’s so I didn’t have to pay him for that expense or to cart it all away.  We were trying to do it with the least amount of expense to me since I needed it fixed, but I didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to have it done.

After it took him 2 ½ years to put the window in . . . . I chose not to have him come back to finish the walls.  Who knew IF the project would EVER get done!  We’ve been taking showers with those plastic covered 2 x 4’s ever since.  I finally had it fixed this past January, 2016.  I worked at TGI’s from 2003 – 2005.

Off and on throughout the years, I tried to match the tan color of the tiles in that room.  Ultimately [in the end] I decided to do everything white with some darker brown accents because I found it utterly impossible to ‘match’ the hues in those tan tiles.  I am a color freak and it’s got to be ‘exactly’ right for me, not ‘good enough’ or a ‘close enough match’.  No, [for me] it’s got to be ‘spot on’ perfect when it comes to color.

I also bought some wallpaper along the way (in the earlier years) because there was wallpaper on the walls when I moved in.  When I started to strip it off I found what they were hiding.  Wow!  Talk about U G L Y . . . .  Someone had sponge painted alternating hot pink and gold hearts in rows over the entire wall.  WHAT were they thinking???  Immediately I painted the wall white, but the next morning when I turned the light on and looked in the mirror . .  .  Whoa!   Too bright for early morning . . .   Okay, let’s tone it down a bit.  I’d had some blue from another project, but after a few weeks decided that it was a tad too dark for that small room; it over-powered it.  I finally chose a peach color, one I could live with, it harmonized with the tan rather than clashing with it.  Ahhh!  Peace!

Also, I couldn’t get all of the original wallpaper off the walls and in the end some was left up, some I painted over . . .   it was a mess!  Oh yeah, now I remember why I painted the walls blue to begin with; the wallpaper had blue in it.  Well that makes more sense now than just painting the walls blue in a tan tiled bathroom.

The Plan:

I wanted to keep the tiled ceiling intact.  Yes, the ceiling in my bathroom is tiled.  I also wanted to keep the tiled walls (they’re not completely tiled; I’d say there is tiling about 2/3 up the wall from the floor).  I didn’t want to ‘touch’ anything that didn’t need to be fixed.  Many contractors wanted to rip the entire bathroom out and start over, but it’s the only one with a shower so what was I supposed to do for the 2-3 weeks it was going to take to re-do the bathroom?  Where was I supposed to bathe?  I wanted to ‘fix’ the walls I’d ripped out in the shower area, finish having the wallpaper taken off and either adding the wallpaper I’d bought (which in the end couldn’t find) or just paint the walls and I wanted to change out the toilet (it had a crack in the tank top from the day I moved in), the sink (the porcelain was cracking), the vanity (which was an ugly white) and then I decided to change out the tile floor as well.  After the fact, my Contractor said it would have been easier if I’d let him rip everything out so he could have started from scratch.  Oh well . . . . he did it MY WAY and it didn’t cost me $15k.

How it All Came Together:

  • The walls ended up being painted Ralph Lauren “Tea Biscuit” which is peach in color yet the hue is more on the yellow side than pink; it really brought out the color of the tiled walls which I always thought were kind of bland, but that Tea Biscuit made the walls pop!
  • The walls in the tub/shower area were tiled basis American Standard White with a white grout.
  • The floor was re-done in a white 8” floor tile and I chose to go with “Earth” grout from Home Depot which actually matched the tile walls perfectly (I’m not a clean freak and I know how difficult it is to keep white grout clean). In fact, I mentioned it to my Step-Mom; she said she’s never been able to get the grout white in her bathroom and she IS a clean freak!
  • I chose a dark wood for the vanity as the accent to those tan tiled walls; I went with a white sink and brushed nickel faucet.
  • In the shower area, I also switched out the old fixtures with brushed nickel fixtures.
  • In the end I decided I hated my ugly hollow slab door; the Contractor and I met at Home Depot one Sunday afternoon where I picked out a solid wood un-painted door with raised panels. We bought stain and a brushed nickel door knob to continue the brushed nickel theme throughout the bathroom.
  • I bought a brushed nickel wastebasket and brushed nickel anchor shower hooks & shower rod to complete the hardware theme in that room.
  • I bought a throw rug, a nautical shower curtain and went back a week or so later for the nubby water wicking rug to step on just out of the shower.
  • I bought several different medicine cabinets too, but none of them seemed to “fit” when I got them home; in the end I decided to keep the old one.
  • Oh and I changed out the old light fixture with a new brushed nickel one and found some awesome crystal-cut bulbs from Lowe’s that make the bathroom look elegant.


Pics below of the whole project from beginning to end…..

The beginning   During Production_Jan 2016.  Oh Look_New Tile_2016Better Pic of Light Fixture n Faceted Bulbs_2016 New Light_New Fixture_2016 New Vanity_New Fixtures_Jan 2016 Floor Tile Grout matches wall tiles_New Door_Vanity_Feb 2016 New Sink_Faucet_Jan 2016 Old Tile (left)_New (right)_New Shower Rod_2016 Bathroom Blog_2016_Last Pic for Blog


Next week, our last week together . .  . the end of my Project Journal (for now) I shall talk about the upstairs bathroom (taking some things out that were started, but never finished) and building a new closet.  Oh and I’ll touch upon the basement project as well.

Till then . . .

D  ~


Garage Roof, Gutters and Garage Door

Dear Fellow Journalers

Denise continues her home remodeling journal.


March 16, 2016:


The garage roof plus gutters all around the house and on the garage were a no brainer at all; I called, they came and measured, asked me what color I wanted on the roof (match the house roof, please), DONE!!!

That garage door? There’s a STORY to tell . . . .

I had them come [to measure for the garage door] and decide IF they could work around the Corvette inside the garage . . . no problem, just move a few things and we’ll be able to get the job done. EXCELLENT!!!  (The Corvette originally belonged to my ex-husband. When he passed away in 1998, my son wanted me to keep the car for sentimental value; it’s been in my garage [or driveway] ever since.)

I no sooner got everything set and then my son showed up and decided to pull the car OUT of the garage and leave it in the driveway. WHY? Something about a friend of his who has a friend who knows of a place in Middletown that only restores Corvettes and his buddy who owns a tow truck can come for it! Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it; same old song and dance – been telling me the same thing for years!

Below is a pic of my old garage door; as you can see, it was a tad on the decrepit side and this is before it started to fall apart! Once it started to rot away, its edges started to curl which made it difficult to glue back together because the edges wouldn’t slide nicely back into the tracks.


My Decrepid Garage Door_031616 Blog Post


After my son pulled the car out, I tried to fix the garage door best I could; was actually rather ‘comical’ if you happened to be watching me that day. Only the bottom portion of the door had actually fallen off by that point, but with the movement of the car, the right two panels fell out and while I was working on gluing and hammering them back in place, the left two panels fell out! Great! I left them all off and called the garage door folks; “Hi! You can’t get here any quicker than . . . .” No, they had to order the door.

This whole thing started with that little bit of inheritance; it’s the reason my son showed up to ‘move’ the car. In the end, however, after the Will was read, there was a stipulation that my children couldn’t have their little pieces of the pie till they attained a certain age. Ha! He wasn’t old enough. Of course we didn’t find this out till after he pulled the car from the garage.

Car was in the driveway . . .

when the painters came;

when the outside porch came down;

when the garage door was fixed;

when the garage roof was re-roofed; and

when the gutters were done . . .

In fact, that car is still in the driveway and I need that re-done too!

That darn car; why didn’t he just leave it IN the garage?

D ~


Next week? We move inside . . .   updating bits and pieces in the bathroom . . .

Then upstairs to rip out a partially done shower stall, then down to the basement for the final week.

I’m thinking of updating the counters in my kitchen too!



Attached Porch off Detached Garage (03-09-16)

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Denise continues her Project Journal.



Back in 1997, there was an enclosed porch attached to my detached garage.  In a former life, I owned a flower shoppe; all the remnants from the shoppe were stored in the porch with the hopes of someday when . . . . when the children are grown, when I retire, when I’ve enough money . . . .

One day, quite a few years ago now, I walked into the porch searching for something, flipped the switch to the light and nothing . . . . that’s when I noticed the globe of the light fixture missing along with the light bulb.  I cleaned up the mess and went about my search.  Next time I was out there, I realized the floral buckets from the shoppe were filled with water.  What the . . . ?  That’s when I noticed the wooden ceiling was soaked and about the same time the light bulb in my brain clicked on regarding that shattered light fixture.  Water . . .  Electricity . . . .  Aha!

I called a few roofers, but they wanted more money than I had.  At one point I’d met and gone on a few dates with a general contractor.  We got to talking about what he did for a living, I mentioned my roof issue, he insisted we stop at Job Lot to pick up a tarp and he put it over my roof to stop the leakage.  I might have been able to get a new roof out of him, IF we’d gone out that long, but I was never one of those women who takes, takes, takes and then tells a man to scram.  I guess I’ve got a conscience.  After a few years of snow, water and hot Summer sunshine, the tarp disintegrated and blew away.

Over the next few years, I started weeding out the flower shoppe remnants that were mostly waterlogged and unsalvageable, then I had a tag sale and got rid of more, I gave some away at work and the hopes of ‘someday when’ started to fade when I realized the roof was falling further and further into disrepair with no funds in sight to ‘fix’ the issue.

One day, about two or three years ago, I walked into the porch and looked up; I could now see sky.  A month or so later the roof started to cave in.  That’s when I made the decision to knock the whole darn thing down and be done with it; would be a lot cheaper than having the roof fixed.

I had the electrician in to fix something and we always gab while he works because we know some of the same people.  I mentioned knocking the porch down, he mentioned a friend of his who’s a General Contractor; gave me his #.  Glenn came and the porch is history; doubled the size of my backyard!

D ~

PS:  I know I promised to talk about the Gutters, Garage Door & Roof this week, but the Enclosed Porch story needed to be told.  Besides, I was wondering what I’d talk about in weeks 3 and 4 IF I talked about everything in week 2.

.   2nd Day-Porch Excavation_2014Pretty Leaves on the Fence_Oct 2015


Exterior Painting, Railings and Steps . . .

March 2, 2016

Exterior Painting, Railings and Steps . . . .

If you own a home you know it’s an ongoing project with “something” always going on, always needing fixing, etc. MY home had an owner who lived paycheck-to-paycheck and couldn’t afford the normal upkeep it required. MY home started to fall into grave disrepair. The house desperately needed to be painted, the hand-railing on the front steps fell off in my hand one day, the garage door fell apart, the roof of the enclosed porch started to disintegrate (I could see sky), I found pock marks on the walls in the basement, a bathroom needed fixing . . . . shall I go on?

With each new passing year, the list grew a tad longer. I started a journal . . . . I added a new entry as more and more things fell into disrepair, noting the projects which required ‘immediate’ attention IF I happened to have a little extra cash along the way (tax refunds helped immensely). When mom passed on, she left a small legacy which has allowed me to fix some of the more immediate issues.

First things first; paint the outside of the house to appease my neighbor’s thoughts IF ONLY they had the guts to comment at all!   I didn’t price shop. I’d seen their lawn signs around and called College Pro painters; truthfully though, they weren’t very professional and I won’t use them again. They painted things that never should have been painted, they needed electricity one day so they climbed through the window in my garage which was ‘locked’ [for a reason], they plopped their paint bucket in the middle of my August Lily plant while it was still in full bloom (to say I was a tad perturbed was an understatement), but “Nice Me, Gracious Me” didn’t say anything and just let it go; I’d learned my lesson; call a professional next time around. When they asked me to fill out their survey and asked for a recommendation, I chose not to. Before the painting started, neighbors out walking stopped to ask, “What color?” My reply, “Same color.” I was met with the almost disappointingly proverbial, “Oh . . .” My home is a pale purple; it’s a gorgeous lavender with a darker medium purple on the shutters, foundation and the underside of the roof extensions. I think they were hoping for something more traditional. (before and after photos below)

One day I came home from work and rounding the steps up to the mailbox I grabbed the front railing . . . the whole thing came off in my hand. Uh oh, now what? Add another project to the “immediate” list; didn’t want the mailman [or anyone for that matter] falling off my steps and getting hurt.

I did some research online and realized I could get a whole new set of steps and railings for the same price of wrought iron railings; told them to go ahead and do it. I never met them in person; I picked out what I wanted from online pictures, they came to measure, done. All my dealings with them were done via telephone. I do have to mention though that they contracted with a local general contractor to jack hammer the old steps out and when they placed the new steps against the house there was a huge gap which I complained about because a neighbor of mine noted that because the new steps were hollow, it was possible for small animals to make their homes in there. Great! Just what I needed was unwanted pets. The General Contractor came back and sealed the gap. (photos below)

Next week we move to the rear of the property: the porch, garage door, gutters and the garage roof.

D ~

Left Side Gap (Close-Up)_09-03-14  After.

Before paintingHouse after Painting_2015



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