The Bathroom Saga: Part 1


Chris and I love watching HGTV bathroom makeover shows for the sole reason of comparing our hideous master bath to the ones the shows always dub as the “worst bathroom they’ve ever seen.”  Sadly, ours usually wins.  Mostly because, the bathroom featured on the show is either ugly or it looks decent but nothing works.  Well, we managed to hit the jackpot with ours.  Not only is ours ugly enough to be a suitable throne for the ugliest dog of the year (like this champ from 2005… shudders)…

it also has it’s fair share of broken items… like the toilet.

And the shower.

And the tub.

Um, yeah, pretty much everything.  The toilet was cracked at the base, the tub first wouldn’t stop dripping and then when Chris fixed the leak (or thought he did), only cold water would come out (brr), and the shower turned into a smelly beast whenever the water was run for more than a minute… which prompted us to wonder if we needed a bathroom overhaul or a call into Ghostbusters to relinquish some poor, trapped, toxic creature.

Yes, even Jay Z would say our bathroom had 99 problems…

As if this wasn’t enough, it wasn’t too good looking on the eyes either.

Upon approaching the bathroom from our bedroom, it doesn’t look so bad.  Don’t be fooled.  Let’s keep going.

As much as I love feeling like a movie star when applying my make-up in the morning, the builder-grade brass Hollywood Lights weren’t exactly my thing.   Neither were the depressing dark blue walls (which is the same color our bedroom ceiling was when we moved in, more on that here) or the yellow/beige-ish shell sinks (some of you may recall what happened to our other shell sink, seen here).

Our bathroom was built in an L-shape so at the furthest sink from the bedroom door, you rounded a corner to access the smelly dungeon of doom shower and then the tub.

Sorry for the terrible pictures, these were taken pre-blog when I’d literally rather be anywhere else in the world than our bathroom so, needless to say, only quick snaps were taken.

I can’t even describe the feeling of claustrophobia you experienced in our shower.  There was an overhang above the shower door so you were fully encased.  No room for more than a spin, no storage, and you never quite felt clean afterwards.  Yuck.

And now for the tub which seemed like a spa retreat after viewing the shower’s condition.  Oh yeah, but it didn’t work… so we never actually tried it out.

A little yellow tile to coordinate with the yellow shell sink.  Yummy.

And now for the throne.

And we’ve turned around and are now fleeing exiting the bathroom.  On your left, just before the door, you’ll notice our closet.  It’s probably the only thing going for our bathroom… mostly because all my clothes actually fit and after living in a 600 square foot apartment, that was the best news in the world.

Confused yet?  It’s quite the maze of a room.  This layout should help put it in perspective.

Because of everything that didn’t work and how stressed this room made us, we refused to even use it, instead trekking all the way to the guest bathroom for daily showers.

We spent the first few months in the house being perplexed by how to fix it.  We knew we wanted to update everything but we needed to address the layout as well, which was quite the mess.  We wanted our bathroom to be more open and not feel so cramped at every turn.  We also had a very tight budget so knocking down walls and expanding weren’t really options on the table.

Something had to be done though.


I like puzzles. I like finding solutions to complex situations and constantly striving to come up with a better idea. Exercising my problem-solving abilities does for my brain what a good run does for my body, plus I usually get something accomplished in doing so. This bathroom, however, was not a puzzle I was interested in solving.

I also love the outdoors. Distance running, mountain biking, camping- you name it. When taking the “paths least traveled,” you’re likely to come across some really nasty bathrooms. I spent the night on a WWII aircraft carrier where the bathrooms were designed for high-seas and torpedo attacks. I once stayed in a village in the Dominican Republic where the toilet was a hole in the ground and the shower was a bucket of cold water. I even used the bathroom in my brother-in-law’s frat house where I didn’t wash my hands because I decided it would be worse to touch the sink. And all of these places were better than our master bathroom.

OK, so it wasn’t that bad- at the very least it was sanitary and the tap water wasn’t laced with dysentery- but it was the grossest bathroom I’d ever seen in a house that met modern American building standards. I made a list of things that needed to be fixed, assessed the repairs, and came to an unusual conclusion: a renovation would cost about the same as the repairs. Unfortunately, though, the type and extent of the repairs required something I loathe, something that brings shame to the generations of stubborn, penny-pinching men of my family: professionals.

“Just call someone” were fighting words in my parents’ house, so I definitely had some reservations. But, the shower smell was going to require jackhammering the foundation to repair bad pipe joints, and while I can’t picture someone using a jackhammer without thinking of Wile. E. Coyote and snickering, I decided that might be something to leave to the professionals. So I asked around and got some names.

The first guy we talked to seemed like he really knew his stuff, but he was definitely bent on upselling. His first idea was to basically rotate the layout 90* and reduce the size of the closet, which basically seemed like a great way to waste money, and also made steam come out of Julie’s ears (don’t touch her closet). His estimate was about three times what we were willing to spend and after convincing him that his 90* plan wasn’t worth the scrap paper he drew it on, we got the cost down to about twice what we were willing to spend. I also started mentioning that there was a lot of stuff I wanted to do myself and I could almost hear him get annoyed with me, so he left and never called us back.

The second guy was actually recommended by our realtor and seemed much more accepting of the DIY/professional mix, but after coming over and taking some measurements, he apparently went on vacation and didn’t call us back with an estimate until the work had actually been started. Do contractors hate making money?

Anyway, third time’s a charm: we found a family friend of Julie’s that has a painting business, and he recommended some guys who were basically a loosely-associated group of skilled laborers rather than a contractor with sub-contractors, so they were very accepting of my DIY attitude (I gave them a list of what I wanted to do and they just estimated for the remaining work). They even let us buy our own materials.

Finally, I decide on a layout. We would tear down the shower and put the toilet where it was, and we’d eliminate the bathtub and instead build one large shower. We’d transform the linen closet into more of a large cabinet, and just get new counter tops and sinks. We wrote up a contract, bought a truckload of materials, and within a few days were were literally smashing that nasty bathroom to pieces.

To remind you, here’s the layout before:

And here’s our new proposed layout:

To be continued…



Filed under Bathroom, Renovation

9 responses to “The Bathroom Saga: Part 1

  1. I love your ideas and your blog… xxx Cat

  2. Karen

    I do believe we have a master bath that would top yours – and it’s about 1/3 the size. We have NO idea what to do with it (probably requires professionals as well) so instead, I graciously let my husband have that bath to himself and I use the hall bath. Not a perfect solution, but it works for now. Can’t wait to see how yours turns out. . . Maybe it will inspire me.

    • DO or DIY

      I know I know, my version of room sizes are Texas-biased so our bathroom could possibly be considered a goliath of a room in California. I will say that separate bathrooms can definitely spoil a couple. I had to get used to sharing cabinet space with Chris again post-reno (as I used the guest bath and Chris used the master pre-reno) so it may be hard for you to switch back!


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  7. Really gorgeous! Everything looks great and functional!

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