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.
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.
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.
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.