Bathroom report supplemental…

Two weeks ago, the plumbers that installed the works for my new bathroom were back to correct the mysterious problem of the shower handle that wouldn’t stay attached no matter how much or often the set screw was tightened down. To my mind it still feels flimsy, but to their credit it has stayed attached after their visit. If it breaks again, I’ll surely just call my own choice of plumbers to get after it rather than the guys who are subcontracted to the builder who did the renovation work.

The repair work for the handle involved some disassembly, a lot of fiddling around with the valve and stem, and reassembly to something that gave all appearances of working correctly.

About a day after that work was done, however, I noticed a steady, slow drip from the shower head. I’m not saying the two are necessarily connected, but one started immediately after the other was “fixed,” so I do have my suspicions.

I notified the plumbers that there was an issue a week ago today. So far it’s been radio silence. I just assume that’s going to mean yet another round of getting the prime contractor involved (again) in order to get anything done and the glaciated pace of everything involved in the last half of putting this bathroom together. I suspect the only reason he’s even remotely interested is his tile guy remains on the hook to come in and tweak a little bit of slope around the shower drain… which can’t happen until the steady trickle of water is stopped and they’ve got a nice dry floor to work with.

Truly this is the project without fucking end.

The Bathroom Report: Day 82

We held the “pre-completion” conference on Tuesday afternoon. It basically consisted of the project manager stopping by so I could point at the things I had already told them via email last week. The net result is that I once again confirmed that the toilet paper holder, towel rod, and mirrors need to be installed. The backsplash, top of the shower tile, and shower dress plates all need to have silicone caulk applied. Finally, I confirmed again that the hand-held shower leaks at the supply tie in. I’ve lost track if this is the second or third week of repeating these few items.

The PM took his notes and pictures back to the office to confer with the scheduler, and theoretically work up a final schedule to finish off this project. The plumber, to his credit, was here the very next day and checked his items off the list. That just leaves the guy who does the silicone and hangs the hardware.

You wouldn’t think knocking off what’s maybe an hour’s work would drag into the 3rd or 4th week, but here we are. I’ll concede that calling it a 30-day project was probably over optimistic at the start, but the fact that we’re now running hard towards day 90 feels awfully excessive. With a little more project management, this effort could have been done, finished, and over in sixty days even allowing for the two week delay caused by the county’s johnny-on-the-spot inspection regime.

As of early this afternoon, the contractor says they’ll have the work finished next Friday morning, so we’ll give it another seven days from here. Maybe I’ll be able to report the mission accomplished next week when I post the update for Project Day 89. Even then it’ll have an asterisk because being well and truly “accomplished” will also depend entirely on the final county inspection.

If it feels like I’ve completely lost patience with this project, rest assured it’s because I have.

The Bathroom Report: Day 75

When I started this series of posts back in May, I really wouldn’t have guessed I’d still be writing them 75 days later… and yet here we are. If some past weeks went forward in leaps and bounds, progress now feels like it’s measured in fractions of an inch.

I did get to commemorate the 75th day of bathroom remodeling by seeing the last “major” item knocked off the list of things that still need installed. The 4’ x 4’ piece of glass that should, theoretically, keep most of the shower spray contained inside the shower got dropped into place around 8:45 this morning. After a 24-hour waiting period for the silicone to set, the house will have a working master shower for the first time in its 22-year history. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a hell of a big upgrade from the super-sized, dust collecting tub the last guy thought should dominate the room.

It’s still not quite a fully functional bathroom yet, though. The prime contractor needs to come back to put in a towel bar and toilet paper holder. Two mirrors still need to be hung. There’s a fair amount of caulking that still needs done on the vanity and shower fixtures. The hand-held shower’s connection to the supply line still needs tinkered with to stop a rather annoying “belch” of water from coming out of the joint when the diverter is cut over from the hand held back to the main.

Maybe, if I’m lucky, it means just one more visit from the contractor and this endeavor will be finished. I suppose I could spend every day hectoring them about getting the last of the work scheduled, but since I’m holding the last quarter payment until work is finished and accepted, I suppose they’ll be calling me sooner rather than later.

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.

The closet…

My master bathroom contractor called right before Christmas to let me know they had filed all the paperwork with the county to apply for the necessary permits. I’m glad to see some forward motion on this project. I’ve lived with it for seven years so I’m not really impatient, but now that I’ve started spending real money, I’d just like to get it over with. 

While I had some unallocated free time, before succumbing to whatever crud laid me temporarily low, I decided to start clearing out the linen closet and master closet attached to the master bath. The linen closet is going away completely and my closet is losing a foot to give me enough width in the shower to never worry about banging a shoulder or elbow. It’s a lot of shower, but it feels fitting to replace the enormous bathtub that’s occupied the room, unused, all this time. 

It felt like a real inconvenience at the time, but I’m beginning to see the value of moving every couple of years. It forced me to clear out the proverbial dead wood periodically instead of paying to haul it across the country. Having no such forcing function over the last seven years, things have… accumulated. This place is twice the size of the old Memphis house and even so, storage is beginning to feel constrained. It could be time for a general purge… or hiring another contractor to give me some climate-controlled storage in the basement. 

Last week, the contractor let me know that some of his team tested positive and others were exposed to the Great Plague. The translation of that, I assume, is that all previous schedules are in the wind. I expected this project would be underway in January. Now, perhaps, it’s a dream of spring… though delaying the time when I’ll have complete strangers trapsing through the house on a regular basis doesn’t bother me at all just now.

In any case, mucking everything out of my closet is now feeling very premature. 

Paper check…

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out where my checkbook was this morning. Once upon a time, its assigned spot was laying right in the place where I kept my wallet and keys. It hasn’t lived there in a decade or more. The age of paying for things by check feels like it really ought to be over. In fact, before today, I can’t remember the last time I paid for goods or services by scrawling words on a small slip of pre-printed paper. I know this to be the case, because today I used check #5, drawn on an account that I’ve had since gods know when. 

As of this morning, I’ve handed over a paper check to the nice people from the company who will be renovating the master bathroom. I’m assuming it will have plenty of time to clear since none of us are anticipating a start date any time before the first of the year. The supply chain delays brought on by the Great Plague are apparently a very real thing. My delightfully hermetic life has mostly protected me from them. Seeing the months long lead time for ordering cabinetry and tile, though, yeah, my general mockery of just-in-time inventory when they first taught it to us in logistics school feels a little prescient. It’s the kind of system that seems brilliant in the good times, but is entirely based on the assumption that times will always be good. Personally, I’ll take old fashioned warehouses full of stuff and damn the carrying costs. 

So, the long-deferred bathroom renovation is now one step closer to getting underway. I suppose this means that we’re all about to discover if I know anything at all about design. Given certain physical space and layout limitations, I have to think the final product will end up being better than what I’ve got currently. Now, though, I’ve got to go out and find a nice antique storage cabinet since I just savagely cut the linen closet out of the plan in favor of knocking out a wall to free up more shower space.

All that’s left now is picking out tile and lighting fixtures… and the interminable waiting. I’m sure none of those things will drive me absolutely mad.

Under construction (again)…

It’s springtime here at the homestead and that means the year’s big improvement projects are about to kick off. Fortunately this year’s points of main effort don’t involve the evisceration of the back yard as I’ve opted for two smaller and slightly less invasive projects this year.

Phase 1, getting underway at or around 8AM calls for removing and disposing of three relatively large white pines that are encroaching a bit too far towards the house and front yard. Bringing these guys down should improve some soggy yard issues on that corner of the house, but mostly getting rid of them was an esthetic decision. Opening up that side of the yard will dramatically improve the house’s “presence” as seen from the street. More importantly, perhaps, it will give the front two bedrooms an unobstructed view out to the stand of oaks currently hidden behind the pines. It’s nice to see that not every project on my list has to involve major feats of engineering.

In Phase 2, we move inside to brick over the basement window that has been the source of constant consternation and aggravation since I moved in. A little excavation, a little block cutting, half a dozen new cinder blocks, and a whole lot of exterior waterproofing and backfill should at least get me to the point where there isn’t a readymade pit for the water to build up in. In theory, removing the pooling water should go a long way towards remedying the problem. There are a lot of other ways we could have gone after it, but doing away with a below grade window that served absolutely no purpose felt like a no brainer. Once the basement is closed off and the window well filled in, whatever water falls should follow the new path of least resistance which is out towards the back yard instead of down towards the place where a window use to be. Not being a hydraulic engineer, that’s my operating theory anyway. Once we get the first good rain, we’ll see how well that theory pans out under real world conditions.

So that’s it. I’ll have contractors crawling all over the place tomorrow and then have two of the three big projects for the year finished. After almost a year in residence, it’s starting to feel like I’m putting my own stamp on the place.

The stuff of dreams…

Since before we bothered with something as trifling as writing down our great deeds, human beings have made a point of moving stupefyingly large amounts of earth to build their monuments. There are pyramids in Egypt and Central America. Stone circles dot the European continent. We’ve excavated a highway of water to connect the Atlantic and Pacific – and then sent buildings racing a thousand feet into the sky. Historically speaking, we’re monument builders.

The little project I have getting underway this week isn’t monumental in any way. In fact by the time it’s finished and the grass sprouts telling the difference between before and after would give you trouble if you weren’t intimately familiar with the ground we’re covering. Even so, in my own little way I’ll be cutting into the earth in an effort to make my surroundings more hospitable… and by that I mean I’m writing a ridiculously large check to someone else who will actually do that while I stand in the kitchen drinking coffee and watching the work in progress.

As long as it means I can be a little less twitchy every time the rain falls, I’ll at least be monumentally happy with the result, even if there isn’t much to see for the effort. New hardscape, underground drainage for the back yard, and a slope that means water isn’t naturally inclined to flow directly into the basement and garage… be still my middle aged, suburban heart. It’s the stuff of dreams.

Five years and another $60 or $70,000 and we might just have this old homestead properly beaten into shape. In retrospect it may have been more cost effective to just knock down some trees and build my own henge…

The must haves…

Because I like lists and I’m feeling much more lazy than usual this evening, you’re getting a brief glimpse into the things I’m thinking about while I’m laying out my ideas for the back yard. Since they’re going to be shoving around a respectable amount of dirt I thought it would be helpful to go ahead and spell out exactly what I’m expecting out of this little project – especially since I’m looking for bids from three or four different companies. It’s only fair that I evaluate them using the same basic list of must haves versus wants. It’s certainly helped clarify my own goals… especially since I haven’t started assigning a dollar value to anything yet.

So far, the list looks a little like this:

Must haves:
1. Re-grade yard to drain away from house in the garage/porch area – add piped drainage if sufficient negative slope can’t be achieved
2. Remove mulched bed around a/c condenser – replace with sod/grass. Note this is a future zone for placing a backup generator so finish will need to support eventual placement of poured concrete pad
3. Remove boxwood shrubs at back porch steps, transplant to empty bed in front of house if feasible
4. Remove and dispose of “sticker bush” shrub at rear of house
5. Reinstall/replace sidewalk in existing area – all hardscape to be flush with surrounding ground/crossable with riding mower

Nice to haves:
1. Hardscape patio in current location of step down from porch – approximately same size as existing porch
2. Ramp/shallow steps from porch to ground level
3. Cut and haul away pine tree nearest house in front yard
4. Install privacy screen/surround for a/c condenser unit and similar screen for trash and recycling containers

The must have list is the bare minimum that’s going to have to be done regardless of cost… the rest, well, I’ll stretch the budget to allow for as many of them as possible… if there’s any budget left once the main effort is accounted for that is.