The Bathroom Report: Day 96

Yesterday I got a fancy yellow sticker from the county building inspector signifying that the job is complete.

I’m not entirely sure what he inspected. He certainly didn’t turn any nobs or flip any switches. He didn’t go to the basement to check anything. But he was here and I have a sticker and I guess that’s the important part.

We may be finished in the eyes of the county, but there remains a small hitch. The shower floor – all 35 square feet of it – was carefully sloped in the general direction of the drain. It was almost bang on except for the part where the lip of the drain grate is approximately 1/16th of an inch higher than the surrounding tile. The end result is a shallow puddle of water that collects around the drain and then sits there for 18-24 hours. How long it stays there seems to depend largely on the relative humidity in the house more than anything else. In any case, it feels like a long-term invitation to mold issues and grout problems if it’s allowed to continue year after year.

After giving it a look over, the builder agrees that it needs to be addressed, so at some point in the near future I’ll have another appointment with the tile guy who can hopefully resolve the issue with a combination of dremeling and  building up grout immediately surrounding the drain to bring things flush. After that, this project should be well and truly complete.

Until then, the saga continues.

The Bathroom Report: Day 89

The Before (c. 2000)

The contractors arrived as scheduled at 8:30 this morning and set to work hanging the last of the hardware and caulking every fixture. After about 30 minutes the lead man for the day poked his head into the office and inquired where he could find the mirrors that they were supposed to hang. 

That’s a problem only in the sense that the last time the mirror frames were discussed, they were being delivered to the shop that was supposed to put the glass in them. That was near on six weeks ago and I haven’t given them another thought – in the assumption that they were being stored by the contractor temporarily with the rest of the hardware that was going in today. 

In any case, the mirrors weren’t here. And they weren’t in the small stack of stuff the contractors brought with them. And that triggered a flurry of texts between the contractors and their home office while they, I presume, tried to figure out where the missing mirrors actually were. 

In the end, the lost was found… after someone from the office stopped by the glass shop and took an unplanned 45-minute drive up from Middletown to the Elk Neck. There was a bit of additional delay as they then had to schlep over to Lowe’s since no one along the line had realized they’d also need mounting hardware. 

As I’m writing this, the contractors have departed for what, hopefully, will be the last time. The hardware is hung. The mirrors are up. Everything that was supposed to be caulked has been treated to a generous helping of silicone. After that gets 24 hours to dry, it looks like I’ll have a fully functional, dedicated master bathroom for the first time since 2011, when I ran screaming from Tennessee. All that’s left is moving all the bits and pieces from the guest bath over into the new space. I expect I’ll be taking a middle of the day shower tomorrow just because. 

The After (c. 2022)

I won’t pretend to be surprised that this project ended with one last stick in the spokes. I signed the contract on this effort back on September 9, 2021. Thanks to COVID related backorders and labor shortages, work didn’t kick off until May 25th, 2022. Here we are on August 19th, struggling right to the end. Except it’s not the end, of course. Not really. There’s still final plumbing inspection to go through next week and final, final inspection on a date yet to be determined. On and on it goes.

Even with the time involved and the absurd expense, I don’t regret the decision to tear this bathroom back to the studs and cause it to be built back to suit my needs. The final product is near enough to what I wanted to not quibble over one or two minor points of detail. It has, however, been the most significant home improvement project I’ve ever signed off on and it has been an eye-opening experience in a multitude of ways.

Having been thus enlightened, it’ll be a good long while before I want to set off on another quest like this… which is exactly why I’m trying not to think about eventually needing to change up the other bathroom so that there’s at least one bathtub in the house… and that the kitchen really could be freshened up with new countertops and flooring. The list is never ending, but I expect after this year of improving interior fit and finish, the next little while will be occupied by taking a hard look at upgrading the now 22-year-old cooling system and starting to plan for a new roof. 

The joy of home ownership continues.

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.

The Bathroom Report: Day 68

There is nothing significant to report. The project remains at a pause pending a few final bits and bobs. The mirrors, a towel rack, and the toilet paper holder remain uninstalled. The connection for the handheld shower head has an odd leak/surge when the diverter is closed. Last, but certainly not least, the 4’x4′ piece of glass that I’ll need in order to keep the rest of the room dry while the shower is running remains “ordered.”

We’re over the projected timeline by a factor of 2.25 now. At least the project managed to stay on budget.

As a direct result of this little bathroom project of mine, I’ve really begun to question my long held dream of having the final homestead built from the ground up. The level of aggravation this one room has caused makes me question whether I could get through a new house build without having a stroke and heart attack simultaneously.

The Bathroom Report: Day 61

Monday was the only working day on the project this week. The electricians were here making final hook ups in the morning and the plumbers ate up the afternoon installing all the fixtures. For all practical purposes, I have a working bathroom… That I still can’t quite use yet.

The punch list I’m tracking includes hanging the mirrors, caulking the vanity top, around the top of the shower tile, and all the fixtures, installing a towel bar and toilet paper holder, and addressing an odd leak from the handheld shower that only seems to happen momentarily when the flow is diverted back to the main showerhead. There’s also the backlogged glass panel that needs to be installed before I can properly use the shower without water logging the rest of the room. None of that includes the more mundane things that need doing – like picking a trash can and replacing the builder grade shower head.

I have, at least, moved back into my own bedroom. Sleeping in your own bed after being displaced for two months is a real pleasure. With the painting down and the shelving back, I’ve even started using my master closet instead of having thing split between three other closets and one large pile in the middle of the room where George the tortoise lives. The missing seven square feet is surprisingly noticeable, but I don’t regret giving it up to get more space for the shower. I still want to rework some of that space, maybe add some stacked shelving in addition to the current long racks. There’s enough left-over parts and pieces from what needed to be removed that I can probably fashion something to suit with just one or two trips to Lowe’s. Failing that, a drive down to Ikea will get me there for a few dollars more.

With paint on the walls and all the fixtures in, I still don’t love the colors I picked out for the vanity and top. I have, however, decided they’re good enough to not be able to justify tearing things out immediately. Soon enough, the guest bath is on the list for its own upgrade, so they’ll eventually find a home across the hall when I bring in something else.

The list to drag this project, limping, across the finish line is relatively short, but since we’ve now exceeded the original project timeline by more than 100%, I’m increasingly eager to have the last bits finished off. After it being an almost completely useless room for the last seven years, I’m impatient for it to start being something to use instead of just for looking at as an ongoing curiosity. 

The last week wasn’t great…

So, the last week wasn’t great times. Personally and professionally there were a lot of moving parts that never quite meshed among themselves or with each other.

Monday and Tuesday I worked from home and all was well, or at least it was well until the storms rolled through, trees fell over, and grid power crapped out and took my access to the internet along with it. No internet means no working from home. Which was a problem because Wednesday was a day where the general contractor was making a big push to get a lot of work done and I needed to be home. Chalk it up to an unplanned day off while the bathroom contractors did their work using generator power. At least someone was getting some work done.

By Thursday morning power and internet were back, but I couldn’t log in to my work computer. After six hours of sitting around waiting for the help desk to get back to me, I was duly informed of the reason why I couldn’t sign in. It seems I was delinquent at completing mandatory annual cyber security training and had been unceremoniously expelled from the network until I took the class, sent in my certificate, and genuflected six times in the direction of the IT office.

Under normal circumstances none of those things would be more than an inconvenience, but there’s a catch. Because of course there’s a catch. Because of reasons, this training can’t be completed from a personal computer. I had to be on the official network, which means I had to schlep in to the office and use someone else’s machine. That’s great, of course, except last week was a steady parade of general contractors and painters trying to wrap up my bathroom remodel. They had full days scheduled on Friday and Monday. With so many more or less unknown elements coming and going at different hours, leaving the house for any length of time just wasn’t something I was willing to do.

The net result between weather and home improvement was burning off three unplanned days of vacation time last week. Adding another 24 hours to the 64 hours of leave I’ve already burned this year to mostly hang out at the house while other people do work. It doesn’t feel like a great way to take the lion’s share of your yearly vacation days.

Yes, I still have a mountain of combined annual and sick leave on the books. If I don’t take any more vacation time, other than what’s already have scheduled, I’ll still carry over the maximum amount allowed, but also means facing the next five months with no impromptu days off. That feels… stifling. I have grave doubts about whether I’ll be able to pull it off no matter how my good intentions.

The Bathroom Report: Day 54

It’s been a busy week even by comparison to the last few busy weeks. 

Because a lot of the ceiling had to come down to accommodate new infrastructure, a metric shit ton of insulation had come down too. The week started with blowing new insulation back into the attic. After that, the designer stopped by to pick paint and look at my unexpectedly mismatched vanity top. The consensus there was to stand pat until the paint is on the walls and fixtures are in before making a final decision. I think we’re all being overly optimistic by hoping that the paint will pull everything together, but I’ve never had a particular eye for color so I’m satisfied to just let the process work through to its logical conclusion.

If it turns out we do need to bring in a substitution, it won’t be the end of the world. Remove two fixtures, replace the existing top with a darker stone, reattach the fixtures, and get on with life. Easy to say, of course, before I have to cut another check for it. In the worst case, I’ll keep the current top stashed in the basement until the time comes to renovate the guest bathroom. That’ll have to be done eventually anyway since it seems some people are fussy about having at least one bathtub in in house. The current number of tubs here is zero and it suits me fine. Maybe it’ll be odd to have dual sinks in a guest bath, but bugger it. I’ve already paid for the damned thing.

The painter has been here for the last two days throwing his own proprietary variant of Lowes’ “Realest Greige” onto the bathroom walls giving the closet a nice coat of contractor standard white. One wall in the bedroom needed repainted due to several spots that had to be cut and patched. Doing one out of four walls wasn’t ideal, but the bedroom is probably the next room on my project list. It needs new carpet and could stand a full paintjob – both of which I was putting off until after the dust and dirt of ripping out and replacing the adjoining bathroom was behind me. 

Final hook ups for plumbing and electrical are scheduled for Monday. I’ll be glad to have the giant box o’ toilet finally out of the laundry room. It’s been there for over two months now. 

Even after all this, there are some punch list items left to do. The mirrors need to be hung. The towel bar and toilet paper holder need to be mounted. A final bead of caulk needs to be run around the top of the shower tile now that the ceiling is painted. With the paint done I can reinstall the blinds and recycle a valance to hide those mechanicals at least temporarily. I’ve also got a small set of shelves I’ll be pressing into service as storage until I stumble across a more permeant storage piece. The shower glass, of course, remains on backorder. But other than that, this project is done.

So, you see, “done” is a matter of degree. 

I suspect I’ll jump the gun and start moving back into the bedroom over the weekend. The temptation to sleep in my own bed after two months across the hall is just too strong to be foiled by whatever additional dirt and grime the electricians and plumbers might kick up next week. How that goes will depend entirely on giving everything a good cleaning. Even with everything swaddled in plastic, tarps, and drop cloths, construction dust seems to be inescapable. Once I get it to a serviceable level of clean, I’m inclined to go ahead and hire someone to really give the whole place a going over from top to bottom. I’ve done a reasonable job to keep the mess from spreading to the rest of the house, but really getting things back up to standard is going to take a level of effort.

That’s it. That’s the update. The end is tantalizingly close and still feels incredibly far away. 

The Bathroom Report: Day 47

It’s been a busy week. Some of that urgency is probably driven by the fact that the guy leading the crew here is due to leave for vacation this time next week. Part of it, I’m sure, is that with the tile done, the pace with which things fall into place naturally increases. Maybe it’s not a sprint to the finish, but it’s better than the last few weeks which have felt like limping towards an ending with one leg mangled in a bear trap.

The progress summary for this week includes all tile being in and grouted, the vanity, top, and sinks are in place, mirrors have been dropped off for framing, and there’s been some minor prep done for painting. The long poles that remain look like setting the toilet, adding in fixtures, paint, putting shelving back in the closet, and setting the shower glass. That last bit will surely drive this project well past day 60 even if all the rest does happen to be finished by the end of next week… though I obviously have my doubts about hitting that mark.

No week is complete without a snag, of course. This week’s issue is the vanity. The finish that leaned towards brown in samples has a decidedly reddish hue in person. I selected it and the top originally because it looked like they would pick up the brown tones in the shower tile. As it turns out, the tile sample we looked at may have had loads of brown in sample size, but it leans decidedly gray in bulk, so I’ve got this very nice vanity that doesn’t really blend with anything. I’m at a complete loss to figure out how the samples looked so good together only to end up this off base. And yes, I even double-checked invoices and labels against the samples to make sure it was even the right product. 

As it sits, it looks like the vanity and top were picked in seclusion from the shower and floor tiles. It’s an unsettling look. So now I’m launching deep discussions with the designer and probably the painting subcontractor on what’s the best way to fix it. Some of it can probably be mitigated by whatever paint eventually ends up on the walls. There’s also the option of re-staining or painting the cabinets to bring them more in line. The nuclear option, and one that’s still very much on the table, is just living with it until something in a new and more harmonious finish can be ordered, built, and shipped in. I know what direction I’m leaning, but it’s probably not a decision I’ll want to finalize until the rest of the bits and pieces are laid in. It seems like every time a new element gets introduced all the others look vaguely different. I’d like to avoid, if possible, creating a do loop of calling for new cabinetry, tops, and paint that carries on infinitely into the future. I’d also prefer not to spend any additional big tranches of cash until I know with more precision what exactly needs changed to make it all hang together. 

As we close the week, the wheels feel like they’ve come a bit off. It’s not an ideal note on which to end the week, but it’s exactly why I built in a 15% slush fund into the budget. Spending the money honestly doesn’t feel like the worst of it. That dubious distinction belongs to the knowledge that getting it sorted will add more time to a project I desperately hoped was drawing towards an end.

Men plan and the gods laugh…

My annual birthday week book buying spree was interrupted, as you know, by the long-awaited master bathroom remodeling project. At the time, I pinned my hopes to get back to the world of dusty, mote filled shops during the next block of leave I usually take during the first week of July. Then, of course, there was the repeated county inspection fiasco that set us back by a matter of weeks. 

That sad story brings us to where we are now – the first week of July – when I once again have vast sweeps of unallocated time that I planned to use for chasing books. Here, I am, though, tethered to the house while work in the bathroom continues.

This summer won’t go down in my personal history as the best use of vacation time I’ve ever experienced. Given how many small change decisions it’s helpful to be able to discuss and make on the spot, the only real alternative was to cancel out my leave this week and log in for another session of working from home. That thought was even less enticing than just pissing away 4 days of leave doing piddling odds and ends around the house. 

After last week’s water system blowout, I’d be wildly uncomfortable being away for any real length of time. I’ve snuck away for a few appointments during this process – those that have taken months to get and that changing ranked as too hard to do – but otherwise I’ve been able to be here throughout. As this effort drags on, though, I increasingly wonder about the sanity of anyone who stays in their home through a more involved renovation that isn’t just contained to one room.

I’m sure at some point this week, I’ll scour a few of the online shops I frequent, just to scratch the acquisition itch. Otherwise, it looks like a week of reprising those distant times of puppy training when all the creatures of the household piled into the kitchen. I suppose, spending a few days huddled up with books, tea, and furry critters isn’t really the worst bit of vacation time I’ve ever spent… but it wasn’t at all what I had planned.