Bathroom Update: Surprise after Surprise

The bathroom remodel was supposed to begin Tuesday morning but was delayed until Thursday due to the death in the family of the contractor.  They arrived as a crew of five and I quietly chuckled knowing they weren’t all going to be working here at the same time.  At the most two workers could stand in my bathroom at the same time.

Like most rooms in this house, things are being completed in stages.  For the bathroom the first stage was to clean, hang new shower curtain and add a seat riser to the toilet – enough to move in.

first stage bathroom









After those necessary steps to make the room functional and sanitary, came paint. I painted the walls, floor and the cabinets.

Stage two will be the majority of the work left to complete.  Stage three will be minor, and will involve having my son move electrical wiring to put in a new light fixture and hang a mirror, replace the vanity top and faucet that continually leaks and has to be repaired. Simple things.

Demo Begins

The guys began demo and found plenty of surprises, if not for them then for me.

A quick bit of background on the house.  The main house was built in 1910, it consisted of the basement with a two story home on top which had two rooms per floor.  There was a fireplace for heat and cooking but no plumbing or bathroom.


Seeing the wall behind the tub surround showed us that the addition, which we don’t have an exact date of construction, did not contain a bathroom.  The family would have had to continue to use an outhouse.  How do I know, look at the wall paper. That is paper from the mid 1900s used in kitchens in this area and it begins at the exact height of a counter top in kitchens.

We have some  information which says the addition was  believed to have been added in the 1940s, but that’s as close as we can get for now.  We may never know the exact year of the addition because people didn’t have to have permits then like we do today.  Using an outhouse as late as the 1940s wouldn’t surprise me as many people in this part of the country did. My grandparents’ first home built in 1941 didn’t have indoor plumbing either.

That wall confirmed my belief that there is nothing between the base cabinets and the framing of the wall behind them. It’s why my kitchen is so darn cold in the winter and why that’s the next room on my list to gut.

The homeowners at the time of the addition knew very little about plumbing or electrical, which didn’t surprise me but where they placed the wiring or plumbing did.


When you run plumbing, or electrical wiring, you drill holes in the two by four studs framing your walls and run the plumbing, and wires, through the middle of the studs to protect it from being damaged by someone accidentally hammering a nail into it causing a water leak or electrical fire. As you can see everything was run in front of the framing!


Electrical wiring is also supposed to be protected by the studs and should never be run along the outside where the walls will be attached.   This wire runs from one end of the tub around the sides to the other, up the wall, over the door and down the other side of the door to operate the lights and outlets for the bathroom.   I guess I should be happy that by the time they added electricity to this house knob and tube wiring wasn’t used.

Seeing how the electrical was run scares me to death thinking about all the nails we’ve put in the walls to hang artwork.  I’ve got a big job now for my oldest son…..checking all the wiring and making sure I didn’t hit any wires with nails.

The heater duct.

I mentioned before how the opening for the heater duct was too large to fit a cover on it.  Their solution had been to add duct tape across the top to hold it in place. I planned to built a custom cover but I won’t have to do that now.

With the tub coming out we found that not only was the duct work the wrong size but that they had shoved it underneath the tub to run heat into the kitchen, something we can’t do with a shower base.



I had trouble getting a good shot of this for you. Let me explain what you are seeing. The metal duct work was removed leaving this empty box in the wall cavity. The white behind the opening is the new shower base. There simply isn’t enough room to have duct work running through this space.

The guys will be back on Wednesday to run new duct work into the kitchen until then there will be no heat in the kitchen unless the bathroom door is left open to let the heat spread into the kitchen, just when we are experiencing some pretty chilly weather.  I get it though, they have a deadline on a property they are working on for my son that needs to be ready for inspection by Tuesday, that definitely takes priority.

And then the shock of all shocks

As if seeing all this wasn’t enough I got the biggest shock of the day when I peeked to see how the guys were coming and didn’t like what I saw.


The reason we were replacing the tile on the floor now was because the leak from the tub soaked the whole floor causing the tiles to lift up.  When I peeked into the bathroom I saw this. The guys put the tiles back in place and were setting the new floor right over them. That wasn’t what I had in mind. The whole point of choosing the laminate flooring was to match the level between the kitchen and bathroom, but laying this over the tile there goes the smooth transition between the two spaces.

I tried to question the guys, to learn only the boss spoke fluent English and he had left a while ago.  While I was fluent in Spanish in elementary school I’ve forgotten all but a few words.  To communicate they called their boss and we passed the phone back and forth. In the meantime, my son is in class so the only way I can talk to him is via texting.

It was during the conversation with my son that I received the biggest shock of them all.  I wasn’t paying for the bathroom repairs!  My son had spoken to “his guy” telling him he wanted to do this for me since he bought the house without inspecting the tub, and at the time told me everything passed inspection. In return the contractor informs my son he would like to do a favor for him for all the work my son has given him and his guys by doing the work on my bathroom “at cost”. At cost means he did my bathroom charging my son only what he must pay his workers. He isn’t taking a dime for his time.

I was blown away but now a couple of the discussions I had with my son on materials made more sense.

This also meant I wasn’t the customer. I couldn’t dictate how the room was being done.

The contractor says we caught the floor under the tile before it got soft so it doesn’t have to be removed and by placing the dehumidifier under the bathroom floor it will dry out and they can put the floor in now.

My son informs me that this flooring is made to float over existing flooring.

This is where I disagree with how my son does things. He thinks like a landlord.  Landlords don’t put the same effort into rental properties they would put in their own home.  On the other hand, while I know this house will one day be a rental property again, for the moment it’s my home and I think like a homeowner.

The guys agree, I’m too stunned to argue, and the flooring is finished so they can install the toilet before they leave for the night since this is the only bathroom in the house.


I should say that the sub-floor under the old tub was cut up and replaced because it was soft from water damage so the guys did inspect and remove what they believed needed replaced.

The toilet is another of those discussions that made more sense to me now.  My son had called earlier this week from Home Depot to inform me they didn’t carry the 18″ high toilet (height ideal for disabled). I told him I knew that already but found another home improvement store carried the 17″ high model. Home depot carries a 16.5″ height, he wants to know if this will be tall enough for me and informs me he’s putting the materials on his home depot card so doesn’t want to run to another store for.

At the time I figured he was probably using his credit card to have duplicate receipts for his accounting needs and was going to withdraw the cash from my account when he knew the total cost.

Anyway, I told him to go ahead and get that toilet. He calls me back and informed me that he knew I’d want a water saver model and picked up a toilet with the two different buttons to save as much water as possible.  Again, at the time I simply thought he was telling me to see if I was okay with him spending the extra money (although the toilet wasn’t in fact more expensive), another clue I missed.


On this model you push the button on the left if you have solids to flush which uses 1.6 gallons of water. The button on the right uses 1.1 gallons for liquids only. This is exactly what I would have bought.   The buttons might be a bit difficult for the youngest children to operate but the buttons are better for them than a handle you have to remember to either push or pull to operate.

Day Two

The guys returned this morning.  The boss moved the plumbing where it should have been and installed the rest of the shower.  He then called me out to tell me he’d be back Wednesday to add a heating duct to the kitchen and finish the walls around the shower, but that I can shower in half an hour when the caulking dries.

It was at this point he asked if I wanted him to finish the trim around the bathroom door. I laughed and told him not to worry about it because I needed to replace the door with a larger one to better fit my chair. I showed him how my chair just fit and how I’d scraped the frame when the chair wasn’t perfectly lined up. He thought this was a great time to replace the door. Seems he would rather put in a new door than plaster that small space.


My son did good picking out the materials. He purchased a moen shower kit, and choose a curved shower base to give the illusion of more space in such a small room. I didn’t discuss with him that I’d planned to put shower doors up and now the doors are going to cost me a bit more to get curved doors. I can’t (and won’t!!) mention that to him because the shower doors aren’t even close to the cost of the work gifted to me this week.

For anyone wanting to know the materials used here is a list:

Shower head kit: Moen Unfortunately he didn’t think about my needing a removable shower head so I will continue to use the water saver shower head I had by Conair.

Toilet: Glacier Bay Comfort Height

Shower:  American Standard base and enclosure

Flooring: Trafficmaster Allure Travertine

One last thing I’d like to say and it has nothing to do with the bathroom. This election year a lot has been said about immigration in our political circus with one nominee calling those who cross our borders criminals and rapists. The men who worked on my bathroom were polite, hard-working and patient. Did they come here illegally? I have no idea but they are some of the most decent workers I’ve had in my home and they showed up when they said they would unlike many other guys I’ve tried to hire.

Immigration is a complicated issue, no arguing that, but no matter what your opinion is of our border or the reasons people cross it, please don’t judge those different from you based on the words of Donald Trump. We can find good and bad everywhere, the bad don’t just come across a border.



  1. I love how the bathroom is turning out. And kudos to your son for the awesome gift. 🙂
    As for immigration, I never understood Trump’s stance on it as if it wasn’t for immigration, most of us if not all of us would not be here. The only people who didn’t come via immigration was the American Indians and even their ancestors came from somewhere else in the beginning. Boggles the mind that some could be against immigration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jackie, it’s coming along nicely.

      I agree with you on immigration. Heck for years there was no immigration policy, people just arrived and selected a place to live.

      As I’ve mentioned other places, I do have a problem with how our government deals with the immigration laws but the people….nope I don’t have a problem. I don’t think people would care, or would be swayed by Trump, if the rules were equal. For example, because a person is undocumented the federal government states that means they have no home state therefore when they want to attend college they must receive in-state tuition regardless of where they choose to attend. For example if a person lives and works in PA but wants to go to college in Florida, I would have to pay more as an out-of-state student, they receive the lower charge of being accepted as a resident.

      Another would be medical care. I saw this first hand living in Arizona. The federal government requires all hospitals to provide free medical for undocumented immigrants and promises to reimburse the state. Unfortunately, as the government prioritizes where they spend money, (wars) they don’t have the extra to reimburse the hospitals and as a result many have closed down.

      As my oldest son says, he doesn’t care where a person comes from but we should all be treated equal by our government.


  2. Well I know this renovation has been problematical. But in the end you will have a decent clean useable bathroom – as long as you are there. I understand your desire to a water saver toilet. My own experiences with them are not positive. To flush stool, it usually takes 2 flushes to clear the toilet. In my new condo we have 2 toilets and one is a water saver toilet – 2 flushes – every time! And the non-water saver toilet looks like a replacement. I guess the former owners had the same frustrations. Maybe new models have corrected that problem.


    • So far there hasn’t been an issue with how the toilet flushes. My son was here last night and at one point stood up and informed me he was going to go “kill my bathroom”. Those words usually mean he’s going to not only stink up the room but plug the toilet. So thinking of your comment I was curious to hear how the flushing worked. He had no problem and only needed to push the button once.

      If you read the comments on even this model on the home depot site there are quite a few that report having the same problems you have, but most of those are older, not recently left, comments. I think the company is still working out the kinks in the mechanics and are getting it better each year.


      • Well since the one water saver toilette I have is builder grade and 12 years old, I guess it is not surprising it doesn’t actually save any water. Glad that yours seems to work as advertised. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a nice gift and surprise from your son! You are going to love it when it’s finished. I love our water saver toilets but they don’t have the mechanism where you can choose the amount of water. I started seeing those in England years ago and it’s great to see that they have made their way to the US.


    • I can’t get over my son and the contractor doing this work for me, it was really sweet and I’m thankful for them each day.

      I hear all the time how advanced we are here in the US but the more I look into energy efficient appliances I keep finding Europe and Australia to be way ahead of us. I love the toilet but am still getting used to the sound it makes when flushing. The sound is closer to that of an old fashioned toilet when the handle wasn’t properly pushed all the way and the toilet stops mid flush.


    • The guys plan to be here Wednesday, so depending on the amount of clean up I’ll be able to show you at least that much by Thursday. As for the rest, replacing the medicine cabinet and vanity top, that will have to be fit in around my son’s work schedule as he’s doing those parts for me. But I do see an end to this room’s work coming soon. 🙂


  4. As you know, we are also in the middle of redoing a bathroom, so these posts are of great interest to me. Ours is taking much longer that yours, but we only have a crew of one with an occasional helper. Our shower was tiny, so we are enlarging it by cutting into a closet and have added a bench to the shower in anticipation of some time in the future when we will want to sit down to bathe. We are also changing the vanity to have two sinks. But what I’m looking forward to the most is heat in the floor. I am always cold after a shower and hear this will be toasty. And since everything is already gutted, it will be one of the cheaper things in the bathroom. The contractor suggested it and I’m glad he did. That’s a luxury I assumed was too expensive so I would have never considered it.

    I think you are going to love your new bathroom especially since you know that much of it was done with as a gift from caring people.


    • I can’t imagine being without a bathroom for a long period while it is redone, luckily you aren’t living with the construction. Before we started this I’d talked to people who had just finished a bathroom remodel and I heard figures between 2 and 6 weeks. I knew I’d have to stay with the current footprint to keep the timeline more manageable. That said I’m shocked how fast the job went, so far the guys have put in just shy of six hours but they still need to come back to install the new door and then replaster the sections of the wall around the new shower and surround.

      I’d love a heated floor but it’s not going to happen here. I’ve heard it’s the most efficient heating method, cheapest too. Can’t wait to hear how you like yours.

      The bathroom as I said isn’t done yet, but oh I am loving it, especially the high rise toilet. Who knew such a simple thing could make me smile. And yes, now that I’ve gotten over the shock of receiving the work as a gift from both the contractor and my son it reminds me every time I go in there that there is more good in the world than bad.


  5. Oh my word, Lois. Putting the pipes and wires outside the studs is a scary thought. I’m glad you found them before you got hurt. Before I forget, I’m right there with you on immigration. I’m an immigrant and we had a hard time getting here. I also understand your frustration with the son that thinks like a landlord while you are not thinking like a tenant. Men tend to forget to ask what you want. It’s in their DNA. 😦 I’m glad you have someone to do the work and hopefully get that door widened. It’s kind of the man to do the work as a gift of appreciation. Lets hope the floor works out well. We are not needing heat here right now. It was 65 and the bugs were back big time. I hope the cold waits until you get your heat. I bake once it gets cold to warm the house. I don’t need heat everywhere. Good luck with the rest of the work.


    • Marlene, spotting the pipes was one thing, and finding a claw foot tub in the basement I will assume they added that tub first which would have made sense to have found the pipes exposed. But to see how they ran the wiring, oh my. When I spotted that my first instinct was to gut the house down to the studs and have my son rewire the entire house. I’m trying to temper that thought and pick his brain first.

      I am looking forward to the wider door as that is the only room in the house with a door that small.

      I can’t say I know what it is like to be a first generation immigrant, but I do try to put myself in their shoes and know I’d move anywhere to provide for my family. I have a problem with the way our government handles the immigration laws but not the people themselves.

      My heat has been on for nearly two weeks. For the most part it has only run a few times during the night but we’ve had a day or two where it did run during the daytime hours. Our nights are falling back into the 30s and low 40s daytime temps are 40s to 50s so pretty chilly here. So far leaving the bathroom door open has been enough to keep the kitchen comfortable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our low was 52 and when my sister or daughter come, I turn up the heat a bit. I like it cold. I sure understand wanting to keep out people that mean to cause harm but I think some have gone over the top with those laws. You can’t legislate morality. My mother wanted nothing more than to be somewhere she felt safe and could raise me in safe and kind place. Took them more than 4 years to get us here. It’s not perfect but pretty much better than anywhere else…for now.


        • I’ll trade you temperatures. 🙂

          I too understand the fear of danger especially when your home doesn’t feel safe. The city I was born and raised in is so very dangerous to even visit now compared to how it was. The problems there don’t come from immigration but the collapsing economy which brought the gangs and drugs from Detroit to it. The new immigrant (Iraq and Syria) neighborhoods in that city actually have a lower crime rate than the rest of the area which goes to show we shouldn’t judge based on nationality.

          My question to you, being that I was born here so have a completely different point of view, is how do you feel about illegal immigration after it took your family four years to come here through the legal process?

          I keep coming back to those coming here from Mexico, (which btw more go back than come in recent years and someone needs to tell Trump that), because they can’t find work or life is too dangerous where they lived. If it were me what would I do for my family and I know I would cross any border if I thought it would save them.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You have it right. I’m not a fan of illegal immigration. In spite of that statement. thousands of us have been fleeing by any means possible to find a safe place to live. Unfortunately, you get the bad with the good. That’s life. If it gets bad here, I would do whatever was necessary to find a safe place. It’s usually the leaders that create the problems. Having a two year old with a chronic temper tantrum and pout as president won’t make me feel safe.

            Liked by 1 person

          • We are of the same mind there. There’s going to be more movement of people as the climate changes, which also brings political strife, both within our boundaries and from outside them so we better get used to it and learn to accept each other.

            Liked by 1 person

    • I like the water-saver feature on the toilet. We have a choice between the buttons or a handle that you either push down or pull up depending on how much water you need to flush. The handle would be very confusing for the children or company so I’m happy with the buttons. My oldest granddaughter was here last weekend and each time she used the bathroom she came out laughing because flushing was so fun. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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