Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Upgrading your bathroom in 75,212 easy steps

  1. Purchase a house thoughtfully designed with the plumbing for the main bathroom running through an unheated, uninsulated little architectural vomit of an overhang at the back of the house, then wait for a particularly cold couple of nights.
  2. Attempt to take a shower the next morning and realize that your cold water line has frozen solid.  Rig a heat lamp in the access panel behind the bathtub and thaw out the pipes, leaving the lamp on until the cold weather ends.  This means, of course, that for fire safety reasons you won't be able to put anything in the closet housing the access panel, and you'll have to go to sleep with light streaming from your bedroom closet like something from a horror movie.
  3. Realize that the frozen pipes now have a slight leak in them, just a few drips here an there.  Realize that nothing good can come from this, and you wanted to switch from a two-handle shower to a one-handle shower, anyway, so now's a good time to take care of that.
  4. Have George the Plumber come give an estimate for doing the actual plumbing work to fix the leaks and move the handles.  Confirm which area of the tiles will need to be removed to make room for the new controller.  Arrange to have him come do the work the following Tuesday.
  5. Decide that since the tile near the current handles will need to be replaced, anyway, and the grout in that area is all moldy and gross, it will be easiest to just remove the bottom two rows of tile from around the whole bathtub and replace them with something pretty.
  6. Purchase a grout saw, repair grout (for the moldy gross sections above the sections being removed), extra grout saw blades.  Start shopping for tile.
  7. Use grout saw to remove the grossest grout above the area to be removed.  This is fun - look how pretty the white grout looks! Now start removing all of the grout around the four tiles that need to be removed so the new controller can be installed.  This is less fun - feel how much your hand aches!  Remove tiles, taking care to keep them as whole as possible so you can use them to patch around the new controller.
  8. Shop for tile, deciding that even if you only plan to replace 8 square feet of tile, you can't justify spending $60 a sq. ft. for awesome tile (below) when there's acceptable tile for less than $10.
  9. Purchase tile, thinset mortar, notched trowel, smooth trowel, more grout saw blades, a more ergonomic grout saw, a Dremel rotary tool, a grout-removal kit for the Dremel, tile spacers, grout, float, sponge, and probably a few other things you don't realize you need yet and that they won't stock at just one store so you'll have to drive for 30 minutes to get to the other home improvement store to buy the rest.  Find your heaviest hammer, crappy chisel you don't mind ruining, safety glasses, ear protection, dust mask, and trusty Purdy 6-in-1 painter's tool.  The 6-in-1 is going to be your best friend for the rest of the project, so go ahead and give it a catchy name now.
  10. Begin removing grout along the top of the tiles to be removed, using the grout saw followed by the Dremel.  Tell your spouse that using the Dremel is the most fun you've had with a power tool in a long, long time. 
  11. Let your child help with the grout removal.  No, she doesn't get to use the Dremel, that's my toy.
  12. Begin removing tile, trying to keep as much of it in good condition as you can because who knows, you might need it some day there's such a market for used 1970s tile that can be best described as "inoffensive."  Get annoyed when you chip the edges of a few pieces of tile that aren't supposed to be removed, then realize that's why you need the good condition tiles, to replace the ones you mess up along the edge.
  14. Step back and look at what you're doing.  Seriously.  Take a look at the wallboard and the tile.  I'm fairly certain the paper front of the drywall isn't supposed to come off with the tile, and the inside of the drywall isn't supposed to be gray and spongy, is it? And all that fleecy stuff with little black shiny egg-looking balls in it is just insulation, right?  Not anything to worry about, just JESUS LORD HELP ME JESUS A GIANT MAN-EATING SILVERFISH JUST RAN OVER MY HAND AND MY WALL IS INFESTED WITH (MOSTLY DEAD) BUGS AND I THINK I'M GOING TO HURL ALL OVER THE TILE DEBRIS IN MY BATHTUB 
  15. Okay, fine.  You're an adult, you can handle these things.  Sweep up bug debris, bag all funky/moldy/buggy tile and get it out of the house, sweep again, vacuum, etc.  Realize that "I'll just tile an 8" strip around the tub" has turned into "I'll just replace the drywall and then tile an 8" strip around the tub."  Call the plumber to reschedule because god only knows how long this is going to take.
  16. Continue chipping off the tile, one row at a time, to determine where the water damage stops.  Maybe it's just a few more rows and then everything will be dry and happy and mercifully bug-free!
  17. Or not.
  18. Give up when you realize that all of the walls are moving when you lean on them, and you're going to have to take all the tile down to replace all of the drywall around the shower.  Have fun removing tile with no thought to keeping any of it - heavy hammer to the rescue!  The walls move so much that you can whack at a row of tiles halfway up the wall and tiles below it just fall off the wall!  It's so much fun, let the kid help! And make sure you can't see that she's wearing safety glasses so her grandmothers will call up and be all irate about it!

  19. The drywall probably stopped the moisture from ruining the insulation, right?  So we'll just pull down the drywall and zip - zop - put some back up and we're done, right?
  20. Or not.
  21. Door closed, vent fan on high, all debris double-bagged, no one allowed in the room but the worker, work shoes left in room, respirator upgraded to Darth Vader model, all work clothes washed separately from rest of laundry, worker showers immediately after finishing for the day.  Learn new phrase for what we're doing from episode of Glee watched that night - the Full Silkwood.
  22. Realize that you don't really feel like doing THAT much tile work.  Maybe one of those plastic tub surrounds would be a good alternative?  Wait, they attach directly to studs, so I don't even have to drywall under them?  Sign me up!
  23. Drywall removal - fun when all you need is your hands and a 6-in-1 tool!
  24. Insulation removal - fun when all you need is your hands and a 6-in-1 tool!
  25. Mold removal - fun when ... oh, fuck it, scrubbing mildew off of the guts of your house isn't fun, no matter what tools you get to use.

  26. Call George the Plumber and leave a message.
  27. Call Jerry the Contractor and leave a message, because you are pretty sure that getting a giant cast-iron bathtub out of a tiny room is beyond your capabilities, no matter how much you'd like to take a sledgehammer to that ugly P.O.S.
  28. Return tile, thinset mortar, notched trowel, smooth trowel, more grout saw blades, a more ergonomic grout saw, tile spacers, grout, float, sponge, and probably a few other things you don't need anymore since you're not doing the tile, realizing that they came from stores on opposite sides of town so it's going to take all day. 
  29. Look for new tubs and surrounds at the local home improvement store, and then, dissatisfied with their selection, drive for half an hour to the other major store.  Talk with George the Guy in Plumbing (no relation to George the Plumber) and get the lowdown on how to install one of these babies.  Arrange for spouse to meet you at the store after work, rent the store truck, and haul the new tub and walls home.
  30. Realize that you don't have anyplace to store a tub and plastic walls near the bathroom, so the boxes will just have to go wherever you can find a place for them, no matter how inconvenient.
  31. Haul bags, boxes, and trash cans full of waste to the curb, along with the giant part of a tree that fell out of your neighbor's yard during the last ice storm.  The trash guys are going to love you.
  32. Wait for George and Jerry to return your calls.
  33. Blog.


Kimberly said...

I'm sure we'd have pretty much the same story; so, we won't even attempt it yet.

VPFreia said...

I am waiting for the next 74,999 steps of installation of the new shower/tub! We just had a bathroom renovated, took 5 weeks and, hmm, lots of cash. Outcome - gorgeous!!! You'll be so pleased when all is done.

Michael said...

I really like the $60/ft^2 tile. Just think, you could tile the whole wall around the tub for about the value of my cars.