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.
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.
1. The new and improved Instagram. I hated it when it launched. After a few weeks of living with it, I still hate it. Insta went from my most visited social to the least. It was a nice little app to see fun and interesting pictures from friends and people I followed. Now it’s turned into a bad imitation of TikTok that endlessly shows me clips from people/organizations I don’t know or care about and makes what I did find intresting harder to reach. I’m sure there was a very good business case for doing whatever they did, but it makes Instagram just about useless to me.
2. Heat in the summer. The professional media in Baltimore has been falling all over themselves to report on “weather alert days” this week because it’s hot. It also happens to be the back half of July. Here in the Mid-Atlantic that means it’s the height of summer. Put another way, it’s precisely the time of year when one might expect it to be hot and humid in this part of the world. I’m fully onboard with the climate changing – but seeing temperatures in the mid-90s and normal temperatures this time of year are regularly in the low-90s doesn’t feel like a case of breaking news. Now if I wake up tomorrow and it’s 140 degrees in the shade, you’ve got my interest. Otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and treat this as summer doing summer stuff.
3. Accessories. One of the things I hadn’t prepared myself for was the need to outfit this new bathroom of mine with accessories – you know, the various mats, hooks, towels, and so on that might give the whole thing a more finished look. So far all I’ve managed to do is order up a hamper to replace the standard white Rubbermaid version I’ve been toting around since 1998. As for the rest, I have this terrible feeling that at some point it might require me to go out and shop in actual stores to get my eyes and hands on actual fit and finish rather than relying on how things look on the screen. It already feels like a waste of whatever perfectly good Saturday afternoon gets eaten up with it.
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.
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.
Seeing it fully tiled for the first time, I can honestly say that while the shower is still abnormally large, it no longer feels absurdly so. I think when, eventually, the glass gets installed, it will feel like a properly enclosed space. Given the lead time quoted by the glass company, though, it could be a while before I get to make a final determination on that. I was skeptical about both the design and the tile choices originally, but seeing them all hanging together versus laid out on just a sample palette, I’m well pleased with where it’s heading.
The crew here started in on the floor yesterday. Once they get to the point of laying that tile, it should be a straight forwarded running bond pattern covering a simple rectangle. With no oddball angles to contend with, I’m cautiously optimistic that it’ll go quickly. Of course, before they could start on the tile, the heating element needed to be fitted…. and that, of course, is where we encountered this week’s catch.
The heating cable that arrived weeks ago when the materials were delivered turned out to be about half the length they actually needed for the job. Most of what they did yesterday has to come out so that can be corrected. With that, instead of getting the floor most of the way done, they’ve shifted gears to work on grouting the shower tile while waiting for the right cable to show up. That’s fine. It’s still necessary progress. God knows there’s enough grout work that needs doing.
I’m not sure if you’d call it a design feature, but one small thing I insisted on is leaving a 24”x24” corner section of the floor unheated. Since moving in to this house, the master bathroom was almost exclusively a place to keep the litter box. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll move the box back into the bathroom or leave it where it’s been during construction, but in the event it does someday move back into its old space, having a bit of the floor that wouldn’t act like a hot plate under it felt like just good sense. No matter how good a room looks, heated cat pee feels like something best avoided.
I’m not yet willing to call the beginning of the end, but it seems to me that we’re well past the end of the beginning. Once the floor is in and the grout is done, I have to believe we’re in the home stretch. Then it’s moving in the vanity, painting, making the final plumbing connections, and fixtures and finishing touches. It’s still a lot… but a lot less than it was a while ago.
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.
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.
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.
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.