The Bathroom Report: Day 33

It’s the end of another week here at the endless bathroom project. OK, that’s maybe an exaggeration, but it sure feels that way. I assume it’s because we’re now counting days past the originally scheduled finish date and the end still isn’t in sight. 

The end may not be in sight, but there has been some solid progress made this week. The DITRA membrane is on the floor and the shower is (partially) tiled. The tile work has been slow going. I’m told that fitting the pebble floor and some of the angled bits of the first course of wall tile needed to accommodate the long slope of the shower pan took a bit of doing, but it’s in and the first coat of darkener is on it. The crew is plugging away at it, though, so it’s daily visible progress if nothing else. Plus, given the vague memory of my one long ago experience in installing a tile kitchen backsplash, that was considerably less involved than what they’re working on, I’m perfectly happy to let them contend with it.

I’ve mostly given up on projecting when I think this will be finished. I know getting the tile done is the longest pole of this particular tent. The rest – dropping in the vanity and the plumbing and lighting fixtures – should go (theoretically) quickly. That’s what I’ll keep telling myself. It should help to stave off the madness.

The Bathroom Report: Day 26

After pissing away 14 days waiting for the county, we’re back in business. My crew of two has been here the last two days, patching holes, closing up the walls, and generally getting everything set to install the shower pan, lay in the heated floor, and start working through a small mountain of tile.

Heating the floor was one of my non-negotiable items – one of those things I’d have blown up the project without. With the master bathroom being as far from the furnace as it’s possible to be and still stay under roof, the room never quite gets warm. During heating season, the living room may be toasty, the master bedroom is comfy enough, but no matter how hard the furnace is working, the bathroom at the end of the house has never been anything but cold. That obviously won’t be an issue with Bathroom 2.0. Depending on how successful it is in the bathroom, it’s an option I’d like to look hard at when it’s time to replace the flooring in the currently carpeted sunroom.

I was forced, thanks to design oversight early in the process, to make one trade away this week. Since I was determined that the shower niche should centered on the wall instead of offset, I had to give up my heated towel rack. There was no way to mount it where it needed to be that wouldn’t have resulted in drilling directly into the back of the niche. I hated losing that little feature, but spending the next dozen or more years looking at an off-center niche would have made me far twitchier over time than continuing to be subjected to the indignity of room temperature towels. 

Seeing that the ceiling had been closed in, I asked “innocently,” if there was a plan to replace the vast sea of blown insulation that had come down when they opened it up. The sheepish look from the project leader told me that I probably wasn’t supposed to notice/ask about that. It’s not mentioned in the contract, so I’m sure I’ll get a change order and bill for it, but losing every bit of heat I put into the floor directly through uninsulated sheetrock in the ceiling feels like a dumb idea. Whatever it costs to rent an insulation blower for half a day will be worth it.

For all the good news this week, I’ve had to come to terms with the original project schedule being hopelessly blown. In fact, the original plan called for wrapping everything up next week. Well, everything except the glass panel for the shower that’s allegedly going to have an additional 3-6 week lead time from when they get the final measurements. The schedule might be blown and it may be well into July or August before I can actually use the shower, but I couldn’t help but notice that the pile of material and supplies stacked in my bedroom is dramatically less than it was at the beginning of the week. There’s visible progress and I couldn’t be happier to see it. 

The Bathroom Report: Day 19

Good news… The county has signed off on the rough electric, which is nice, I suppose. The plumbers were back today to correct two incredibly nitnoid items their inspector found. Otherwise, as we arrive at the end of third full week of this project, it feels like the process involves a lot more down time than actual work. As I read the schedule, we’re now about a week behind the original plan.

Maybe I just notice it more because as we trundle on towards the one month mark, I’m ready to get out of the guest room and back into my own bed. Sure, the new arrangement has developed its own rhythm, but I’d very much like the old one back sooner rather than later. 

The county is supposed to be back to re-inspect the now new and improved rough plumbing on Monday. I assume once that’s happened, the pace will pick back up again. Yes, I know that patience is an alleged virtue, but after eight months of waiting to begin and now closing in on the end of a month of work in progress, I really just want to take a damned shower and have whole sections of the house that aren’t closed off, tarped, and being used for storage. Plus, not having a parade of perfect strangers wandering in and through the house every day will be a nice perk too.

The Bathroom Report: Day 12

It’s day 12 of the master bathroom remodel.  Plumbing and electrical rough in are complete. It’s also the second full business day of no work happening because we’re waiting on the county inspector to sign off on what’s been done so far.

I’m sure building inspectors do some kind of important work, but at the moment they’re at the very top of my shit list for being the reason there hasn’t been any forward progress on this project in two and a half days. Currently there isn’t even a date specified when the fine people from the county building will grace me with their presence. 

My enthusiasm for this project is, just now, at low ebb. The notion that the government should have a vested interested in when it’s ok to go ahead and put up drywall and stary laying tile in my bathroom would feel a bit farcical if it wasn’t so damned frustrating. Paying for the privilege of being hamstrung by slow-as-Moses county inspections is made all the more insulting because I’ve had to pay for the privilege of pulling the permits in the first place.

I’m a professional practitioner of the art and science of the bureaucracy. I know there’s nothing for it but to endure the process… but don’t for a moment think that I’ll be doing it with joy in my heart. 

The Bathroom Report: Day 5

When I looked in on the work yesterday, most of the walls had been stripped back to the studs, there we gaping holes in the floor, and materials were stacked across every open foot of my bedroom floor. The whole thing looked a lot more like destruction than construction. 

Today, though, something magical happened. The crew arrived this morning and started framing. I’m ok at reading the big sweeps of a floorplan, but I’m also notoriously bad at spatial awareness. This is the first time I could start really getting a feel for how things might look when all this is over.

It was also the first time I got a sense of how absurdly large the shower I asked for is actually going to be. I’ve always smacked shoulders and elbows into the sides of every shower I’ve ever been in, so I told the designed that was the number one thing I didn’t want in this new layout. She delivered on that request in spades. In my defense it also had to be pretty damned big so that I could get away with not having to deal with water getting all over the place since I also didn’t want a shower door or curtain. Giving up a linen closet and a foot off the walk-in closet finally feels like it might have been a good idea.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to have to walk through the bathroom to get anything out of my closet. It was a design I hated with an irrational level of ferocity. That issue is gone now with the new door cut in and framed. It’s seven square feet smaller than it was when this project started, but still would be room for me to double the amount of clothes I have and still have plenty of empty space left over. Making that trade off was a no-brainer.

We’re all taking a breather for the long weekend, but next up will be the plumbing and electrical rough in. Then we’re off to the races with wallboard and what feels like absolute acres of tilework. 

As week one closes, I know we’re nowhere near the beginning of the end, but I feel confident we’ve at the very least reached the end of the beginning.

The Bathroom Report: Day 1

Seven years after moving in despite my hatred for it and just shy of nine months after signing the contract, the master bathroom remodel is underway. There’s been a steady stream of dismantled parts and pieces getting schlepped down the hall, out the front door, and to the comically oversized pink dumpster that’s now posted up in the driveway.

All things considered, the crew that’s here doing the demolition work has been surprisingly good at keeping the mess contained. That said, I’m glad I had the foresight to abandon my bedroom for the duration of this project. There’s a shocking amount of equipment, supplies, and random stuff being staged in there. Trying to sleep in the midst of that wouldn’t have given me a moment’s rest.

Walls have come down. New doors have been punched through. The cabinetry was folded, spindled, and mutilated. And it looks like a right disaster area. I’m trying to remind myself that this is, by definition, a process and that it has to look worse before it can look better. 

The tub… the tub that almost stopped me from buying this place… remains unscathed for the moment. It’s sitting under the windows in an otherwise empty room as if mocking me by its continued presence. It’s the one thing left when everything else is gone. I’m confident, mostly, that it won’t survive the hammer blows tomorrow, though.

There’s inevitably going to be about 30 days of intense grumbling here, but don’t think for a minute I’m not happy to finally have this project underway. 

Approaching the line of departure…

I’ve been in pretty steady contact with the project manager who’s going to be in charge of Operation Functional Bathroom. It really does look like this show will be getting on the road starting next Monday – with the 9AM delivery of a 20 cubic yard dumpster. I’m sure the neighbors will be thrilled with that sitting on the curb for the next 20 or 30 days. Fortunately, the master HOA agreement covers many topics, but giant dumpsters isn’t one of them.

I’m still fiddling with the plan on how to keep the resident critters separated from the working party. What I’ve come up with is mostly a reversion to Jorah’s misspent youth – with all of us spending our days blocked in the kitchen or pressed into the laundry room if there’s a need for truly close confinement at any point. That should be fine in theory. In practice, I’m mostly worried how Hershel will take to this temporary new normal. His food and litter box has resided in the bathroom since the first day he came home… and with cats being creatures of habit, I definitely have questions about how well he’ll respond to suddenly finding them located elsewhere.

I’m also contemplating abandoning my bedroom entirely for the duration of this project and decamping across the hall to the guest room. I mean it would be comfortable enough, even if space would feel a bit tight. The cable jack in that room is, of course, currently buried behind one of the jam-packed bookcases holding the nonfiction section, so there’s one minor drawback to an otherwise decent plan. How well the furry critters who have never known a different sleeping arrangement on the homestead will take to it, remains to be seen.

I’ve hired a good crew. God knows getting that right was something I obsessed over. Now that we’re just a few days from the line of departure, though, the full weight of how radically this whole effort is going to impact my cherished daily routine – and how little direct control I have over the details – has left me feeling a bit wild-eyed and twitchy.

Well, well, well…

The bullshit of homeownership continues at pace. I’ve often thought whoever coined the notion of finding joy in owning your own home probably never owned one himself. Or maybe he had staff and an unlimited sinking fund for doing maintenance and repairs. In any case, unbridled joy is rarely my first thought when I consider what goes into keeping the roof over my head.

Maybe that’s because every damn time I turn around something needs fixing or replacing. You regrade the back yard because the basement leaks, then replace a water heater, then a furnace, then get the gutters tinkered with every few months, then you’re due for a new clothes dryer before replacing the faucet on the kitchen sink. That’s all before you take on more basic general maintenance tasks that need done weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Don’t get me wrong, I like the place well enough, but it’s all a labor of necessity rather than one of love.

It’s possible that my view of the whole things is currently jaundiced because the ants that I thought we cast out last summer and now comfortably (for them) back in my well casing. I know this because teeny tiny ant parts are getting sucked into the well, passing through my fancy filter system, and showing up in the sink, the shower, and every other place water is piped through the house. It’s almost equal parts disgusting and infuriating.

Last year, I tried the advice of the well and pump experts. This year I’m starting off seeking a fix from a local exterminator. I think I was very clear with him on the phone that I was going to insist on a solution that didn’t involve pouring poison directly down my own well. I like to think that would go without saying, but life experience tells me sometimes you need to say that obvious out loud.

I have no idea what the next step is if there’s not an effective way to kill these little bastards without killing myself in the process. I wonder if I need to pull a county permit to dig up the front yard, bury a cistern, and have potable water trucked in once a month.

A mark on the wall…

I signed the contract for my bathroom renovation back in September. A few days before Christmas I got an email from the contractor stating that all supplies are backlogged, half the employees are out with the Great Plague, and every project they have is running way, way behind. Here we are in May, five months hence, and I’ve finally talked to the company’s operations manager and have a tentative start date plugged into the calendar towards the end of the month. At long last, there’s a mark on the wall.

Look, I’ve loathed the master bathroom in this house since the first time I saw the place. I almost took a pass on the house because of it. The giant tub and no shower made it mostly dead space to me. For the last seven years it has been serving as a glorified hallway where I kept the cat’s food and litter box and that I have to walk through to get to the master closet. Aside from the very big windows facing the woods and excellent natural lighting, it has no redeeming qualities at all. The room is cold as blue hell in the winter and for reasons I’ve never managed to figure out, has no particular aesthetic at all. It’s as if the original owners realized three days before they finished construction that they needed a master bathroom and scrounged up whatever parts and pieces they could on short notice.

I’m not saying this new bathroom is going to be particularly beautiful, but it’s damned well going to be functional. I’m cautiously optimistic that the designer (probably) didn’t let me get the overall look and feel too far out of whack. I mean it all looks good enough on the renderings, but there’s no way of telling what it’s really going to look like until it’s all there live and in person… which now looks like it’ll be sooner rather than later.

My fingers are firmly crossed in hopes that I haven’t spent tens of thousands of dollars on something I’ll hate once it’s all thrown together… Though the simple fact that I won’t have to schlep down the hall to shit, shower, and shave every morning will go a long way in making it a favorable outcome. Being able to do it all with toasty warm floor tiles will probably seal the deal regardless of appearance… and then I can rack and stack the list again and see what project is next.

Sometimes good things happen…

I went to the office today. That’s rarely the start of a good news story. As often as not, it’s the lead off line to some mind bending bureaucratic asshattery that’s driven my blood pressure up by 20 or 30 points. Plenty of that happened today, of course, but that’s not what I’m choosing to focus on today – lest anyone begin to think that I don’t see a bright side to anything.

The good part of having been in the office today was that I missed all four hours of landscape contractors attacking the front of my house. Instead of watching, obsessively, through the front window, I returned home to sleek edges, four cubic yards of fresh mulch already spread, and bushes trimmed.

In short, I got to miss all of the work and now get to enjoy all of the benefits. There’s the small matter of the $800 dollar check I still need to cut, but I’m choosing not to think about that at the moment. For now I’ll be happy that at least the front side of the house is properly ready for spring and that I didn’t completely destroy my back to make it so.

As it turns out, sometimes good things do happen while you’re at the office.