The “B” word

I went back and looked through all the categories and tags for this blog, and I could only find one post that had “bathroom” as the descriptor for either. With good reason. Other than repainting the walls above the tile and replacing the window trim, we have literally done nothing in our bathroom since we moved in back in 2010.

And woo boy, is it a dreadful place.

Pre-closing: bathroom west

That’s what the bathroom looked like when we moved in, and other that taking down the terrible drapes, the awesome clock (“What time is it??? It’s BAAAAATHHH TIME!!!”) and cleaning it for probably the first time in seven years, we really didn’t change a whole lot. Hence, it’s lack of appearances here on the blog.

Now, more than four years later, the bathroom is literally the only room left in the house that we haven’t renovated or remodeled in some way. Even all the closets have been redone!

This bathroom had been renovated back in the 80s or 90’s sometime by the previous owner, I’d guess. Sorry, meant to say “renovated.” He slapped new 6-inch square porcelain tiles right on top of the 1-inch original white hex tile floor, and then put these terrible 4-inch square tiles of varying colors right on top of the 3×6 subway tiles that came halfway up the wall and then plopped two layers of an awkward 1×3 on top as a “chair rail.” (I found the rest of the multi-color wall tiles in a box in the basement when we moved in.)

In this awkward little cubby behind the shower, you could still see the original tile on the walls and floor where the owner couldn’t reach with the tiles. Or didn’t care to, whichever.

original bathroom tile pattern hex subway

That little nook was there because he took out the original clawfoot tub — we found it in the basement and donated it to Community Forklift a few years ago — and put in this cast iron tub in its place. Where you’d have a bit of extra open space easily accessible above and behind the head of the clawfoot, now you had this foot-wide nook of space that wasn’t easily usable.

And a new wall next to the toilet.

The wall for the shower/bath plumbing next to the toilet was so crooked that the width over to the opposite wall on the other side of the toilet was almost three inches different at the back than the front. And instead of going all the way up to the ceiling to keep it stable (and straight), he stopped just above the shower head.

bathroom toilet wall crooked before

Welcome to the toilet cave!! Watch your elbows!

The added vanity was way too big for the room and covered in an off-yellow top that didn’t match much of anything in the room, resulting in an extremely tight passage between the tub and the vanity.

Judging from the old medicine-cabinet-hole we found in the wall during deconstruction, there was likely a small pedestal sink in the corner next to the radiator.

The biggest barrier getting in the way of doing significant renovations in here was the fact that we have only one bathroom in the house. (There’s one in our basement apartment we rent out, but that’s currently occupied.) It was going to be a challenge to ever make significant changes without being completely without a bathroom for awhile. And when is a good time to not have a bathroom? Never, right? And probably not when you have a two-month-old and two-year-old in the house.

This ruled out my usual method of the last few years: doing the job myself slowly over a period of a few weeks or a month. This led to the second barrier: money. Without the ability to save huge on labor costs (half the cost of the ultimate project as it were), we’d need to save more to be able to hire someone to crank it out as fast as possible.

So after a few years of saving nickels here and there into a special LAWD SAVE US FROM OUR BATHROOM PLZ account (and one amazing surprise reimbursement from our medical savings account we somehow didn’t know was coming), we were ready to take the bathroom on.

We BRIEFLY considered doing it when Rachel was eight months pregnant at the beginning of November. We would’ve had two weeks to create a plan from scratch and buy all the materials. It was an insane plan, and after thinking about it for about 48 hours, we canned it and decided to do it after our new baby boy was born sometime in the new year.

We really wanted to get rid of the garbage bag shower wall before we hosted Rachel’s entire family here for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it would have to wait.

Garbage bag shower? What’s that, you ask? Step right in.

garbage bag bathroom wall

One day when Lily was in the tub, the porcelain soap dish just up and tumbled out of the wall and took a handful of tiles with it, leaving behind a lovely bit of backerboard covered with…well, I shouldn’t describe it, because this is a family site. It fell mostly because water had gotten behind some of the tiles because of a grout issue — more on that in a second — loosening them to the point that they just gave up one day.

That was back in October. So 8-months-pregnant-Rachel had to shower the next morning and came up with this beautiful solution. Square of garbage bag and purple duct tape. ThereIFixedIt.Com! The best part was that it stayed like that until literally last weekend. I wish I could have seen the faces of everyone who had to use our shower over the holidays when they first set eyes on this shower and probably wondered where the nearest hotel was.

Oh, and also beware of the Black Death Mold in the grout. I mean caulk. Yes, that’s because when the grout job didn’t quite get done right, someone just went back and filled it with plain ol’ white caulk in between all the tiles. And no matter how powerful the chemicals one might scrub The Black Death with — and believe us, we have tried everything you can buy without an industrial manufacturing license — it ain’t coming off.

If by now you’ve gotten the strong sense that we hated the bathroom and generally tried to turn off all of our senses somehow when we used it each day, you would be correct.

Which made this moment feel so very delicious on Monday:

bathroom all plaster removed

More to come on the plan for the bathroom in the next post.

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