Category Archives: Bathroom

Another Frame Job

Hers.

Our budget was pretty maxed out after the installation of the granite and new shower so when we got around to the mirror, I knew we had to get creative.

I’ll flash you back to the before.  Oh Hollywood lights, how I don’t miss you.

To recap our demo, we knocked out the furdown and raised the placement of the light.  We thus had a little space to work with around the mirror and decided to frame it with some trim to make it look more custom.

It ended up just looking sad and wimpy though.  The piece of trim we selected created too small of a frame- we needed to beef it up more.  Doing so would make the mirror the focal point of that wall and make it really pop.

To simplify things, we wanted to leave the existing trim up but find an additional piece to place on the inside of the frame.  We chose to go with this guy:

I did worry that the mirror would be too small with all this framing so it took us a few weeks to finally take the plunge.  I have to say, though, it turned out great and we still have plenty of mirror real estate.  If you have a huge mirror on a double sink wall, a big, chunky frame is totally worth the mirror space it takes up.

His.

Mirrors are the ultimate tool of vanity, and this mirror is no exception. For starters, it’s huge. Like, bigger than some rugs. The weird part is that given the way we designed everything, we could now see ourselves in the mirror while showering. And, naturally, everything looks better with a frame around it.

Julie had found a bathroom somewhere online that had a huge framed mirror, and of course she wanted it. The problem with mirrors, though, is that they really are tools of vanity… which means that the prices are absolutely criminal. So, I needed a solution. Cheap.

My first attempt with framing the mirror was actually with casing, a type of trim generally found around doors. Part of the issue was that there are small clips on the sides and tops of mirrors that help hold it to the wall, but they’re too bulky to place the trim over. To work around this, I put gobs of Liquid Nails on the back of the mirror and pressed against the wall. Once it cured, I cut the trim and again used Liquid Nails to glue it to the glass, but on the top and sides I let the trim overhang by about 50%, and then drove nails through it into the wall to help secure everything.

There was a problem: it looked wimpy. It definitely made the mirror stand on its own, but it just didn’t have the classic, bulky look Julie was looking for. So, while perusing the aisles of Home Depot one day I stumbled across the solution: base boards. Granted, these are huge base boards that, quite frankly, I think would look terrible when used for their stated purpose, but they were perfect for what I needed them for.

I did, however, have a bit of a problem: my original framing was not square. Unfortunately, the trim had shifted slightly while the glue was curing and had resulted in something that (mostly) looked square but was slightly off. I decided that the difference was negligible and went ahead and cut everything at a 45* angle anyway, hoping that the end result would look square… well, square enough.

So here’s how things went:

1. Cut trim. I measured at the longest distance for each side and made forward cuts at 45* from those points.

2. Flip over and cut again- I cheaped out and only bought a 10″ mitre saw. Good enough, right?

3. Apply glue to back of trim. Remember, glass is smooth so it’s hard to get things to stick, so don’t be shy- buy extra tubes!

4. Adhere to mirror. This can be a huge pain because most of the time when you press on one side, the other will pop up. In a parallel universe, your anti-self is having the opposite problem (if you don’t get the joke, consult your nearest physics department).

5. Tape until you get a weird frankenstein-looking mirror. Remember Step 4? Again, don’t be shy with the adhesives. Apply liberally.

6. Sand edges between where two pieces of trim meet. This was only necessary because Julie throws a fit if I don’t run sandpaper across every piece of wood I touch.

7. Caulk where edges line up. Remember, putty and paint makes a boat what it ain’t!

8. Paint. See Step 7 for clever limerick.

9. Enjoy!

After.

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Filed under Bathroom, Easy DIY Projects

Hooked on Character

Hers.

As the master bathroom renovations were wrapping up (read more on that process here, here, here, and finally here), I began noticing that something was off.  As much as I was loving the sparkly new shower and luxurious-looking granite, it was beginning to look more catalog and less home-y.  While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I knew I was craving some good ole character in the space.

It only took a few seconds for me to put my finger on the real problem.  Everything was too new.  Nothing was distressed or worn!  *Gasp, whose house was I in??

Never fear, if it’s one thing I’m good at, it’s finding the good, the old, and the battered.  The idea hit me as we began narrowing down our towel bar options.  There was a shiny, new, brushed nickel towel bar that matched our towel rings and toilet paper holder but it seemed so blah.

Instead, I decided to find decorative hooks to line up in a row.  I wanted something that was unique and would add that piece of character the room was missing.  You’d think finding pretty, unique hooks wouldn’t be that hard.  After hours of trolling Etsy and stores like Hobby Lobby, I only managed to find options that were either too standard/new looking or too expensive.  I was starting to think I needed to reroute my idea.

But then I came across this battered piece in Garden Ridge.

And while one hook was broken, the other three were just what I was looking for.  With an iron look, distress by way of white paint splotches, and the unique scroll-look, I knew I had a winner.

Chris gave me his usual “are you insane” look but knew arguing was a lost cause.  Especially since it was also the cheapest option I’d found at a grand total of $7.99 meaning each hook ended up being $2.67 each.

Compare that with hooks I found on Etsy like the one below totaling $16 EACH (eep!).

Source: Etsy, Alacart Creations

We just had to get rid of the ugly white backing behind the hooks, screw them into the wall, and, voilah!, instant character.

Two hooks looked odd on the wall so we went with three.  Two to hang towels and one to hang the awesome metal “W” I found at a flea market.  Because you can never have enough initials in your home.

His.

This was one of the more complicated sub-projects in the master bath, so I’ve created a detailed step-by-step guide. With the right tools, you can usually finish this in a weekend:

1. Get hooks.

2. Screw hooks into wall.

3. Have a beer.

It can be a daunting task, but it will definitely pay off in the end. Having a distressed thing that you can also hang towels on is a high-end solution to the everyday problem of style vs. being dry.

After.

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Shelf Shocked

Hers.

As our bathroom renovation came to a close, we could begin focusing on more of the smaller details, such as what to put on all the walls.  Our newly converted linen closet to cabinet has plenty of storage but I liked the idea of using our now wide open wall for additional storage.

Idea #1: Our first idea was to find a unique piece of furniture with shelves to put against the wall and butt up against the shower glass (opposite side of the shower door).  We found this beautiful piece on a trip to Canton, thinking it would be the perfect solution.

Well, we got it home (it miraculously fit in the car) and hauled it into the bathroom.  Unfortunately, it looked massive in the bathroom and did the exact thing we had just spent a ton of money to fix: made the bathroom look cramped and tiny.  It had to go.

Idea #2: The biggest problem with the piece of furniture was that it was boxy and took up too much room.  I still liked the idea of open concept storage so decided wall shelves would be just the solution.  Open shelving has become the new hottest thing for kitchens and bathrooms and I couldn’t wait to incorporate it into our space.  But first, we had to find shelves.

Well, spoiler alert, we couldn’t find any that were the right depth to store towels yet short enough, taking up minimal space.  So guess who’s newest task was to make me some shelves?

But before he goes off complaining how another project was completed 100% by him, let me show you my involvement… by way of these beautiful brackets.

I didn’t want ordinary floating shelves.  I wanted something unique that would be visually interesting.  I love the look of old corbels for shelves but those can get expensive.  Our local architectural salvage store usually has them priced at $50 and up each.  And I needed four.

Luckily, I found these iron scroll brackets at Hobby Lobby for $7.99 and, of course, bought them on a day they were 50% off.  For 16 bucks for 4, it was quite the deal.

Now, cue the carpenter.

His.

Once we finished the bathroom, Julie announced that we needed to “finish everything,” which apparently meant that we needed to put some sort of storage piece on every wall. On the wall backing up to the closet, Julie wanted to put up some shelves but “couldn’t find” exactly what she was looking for, meaning I knew what she was going to say next: “do you think you could build some?” It turns out that for the first time ever, what Julie wanted was actually… simple. So yes, yes I could build them.

What I was going to build was pretty straightforward: a board set atop two iron brackets. Luckily, Julie wanted a “bulky” look, which meant I was able to use plain, cheap, run-of-the-mill (no pun intended) framing wood- a 2×8, to be exact. $5 and one cut later, I had two shelves.

Now, this wood was meant for ceiling joists rather than shelves, so I had to do a little sanding. I smoothed all the surfaces and rounded all the edges and corners, partly because I didn’t want it to look like it was fresh from a lumberyard, but mostly because Julie would inevitably run into it and I didn’t want any hazardous edges:

Next, I stained them to match the color of the floor. I used Minwax Dark Walnut wood stain and didn’t wipe it off to achieve the darkest color possible. I then sealed it with a satin urethane, mostly for waterproofing.

My only real challenge was convincing Julie that, despite her greatest wishes, drywall could not support an infinite amount of weight, and shelves made of iron and solid wood would have to be mounted to the studs inside the wall. This meant that along that particular wall, they could only be placed in two places. Additionally, the brackets had to be placed exactly 16″ apart, as that is the distance between the wall studs. After a few minutes of debate and deliberation, Julie reluctantly agreed to place the brackets where I knew they had to be. We measured everything out and mounted the brackets, and the boards literally just rest on top of the brackets, no hardware or anything.
BOOM! Shelves.

After.

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The Bathroom Saga: The Reveal!

Hers.

So for those of you the suspense didn’t kill waiting to finally see our master bathroom reveal, fear not, the wait is over.  The mess, the time, the expense, the drama; it was all worth it in the end because we ended up with some fine piece of bath.

So, to recap (or for the longer story, read up on part 1, part 2, and part 3), we wanted to go from this cramped, outdated, non-functioning mess of a bathroom:

To something more open and, oh yeah, in working order:

It looked easy enough when we drew it out but, it took three long weeks of contractors and Chris working around the clock to bibbidi-bobbidi-boo it into a bathroom fit for a princess… err.. I mean me.  I could also make a really lame throne joke here but I’ll spare you this time.

Enough talk.  Let’s do this already.

Welcome to our master headache bathroom.

Entrance: Before

Entrance: After

Sink Area: Before

Sink Area: After

Cramped Shower Space: Before

Cramped Shower Space: Be Gone! aka After

Tub Area: Before

Tub Area: After… aka the new shower area

Shower: Before

Shower: After

View (or lack thereof) Back to the Sink: Before

View Back to the Sink: After

And let’s end with a view of that gorgeous wood floor.  Ha, gotcha!  It’s tile!

My favorite part post-renovation: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite.  Probably the shower.  In the planning stages, we were determined to open up the bathroom as much as possible without increasing square footage.  The best way to do this was switch from a shower and a tub concept to just a shower.  We were a little hesitant to lose the tub because a) I so desperately wanted a claw foot tub (which sadly wouldn’t fit through the bathroom door) and b) we worried about resale.  So, I called up the realtor who sold us the home to get her take on the dilemma- do we keep the cramped space and go with the shower and tub or do we create a master bath retreat with a humongous shower?  Shockingly, she gave us her realtor blessing for the huge shower without hesitation.  According to her, more often that not, buyers prefer that luxurious, large shower instead of the standard tub/shower combo.  Plus, she pointed out, we still had a tub in the guest bathroom.  If not for that, she said she’d probably recommend keeping the tub in the master.  And with that, we added the obscenely large shower to our house and I. Love. It.  And how cute is our little bench and shampoo/soap niche?  The niche was one of the most clever ideas.  I love being able to stow all my bottles in the shower in a hidden place.  The tile guy recommended using the small-sized shower floor tile for the niche backer for a little pizzazz.  Genius!

Weirdest moment of the renovation: when the contractor walked in on me measuring my shampoo bottles to be sure we built the niche tall and wide enough to accommodate all my girly items.  The best part was after I gave him the measurements I wanted and specified that I wanted two shelves in the niche, he tried convincing me that it was too big and that I didn’t need all that space.  Ha!  You know a guy’s a single bachelor when….

Biggest surprise of the renovation: the color of the cabinets.  I was all set to pick-up my paintbrush and recover the cabinets with my typical white cabinet paint but my mom suggested stepping outside the box and going beige.  I was hesitant but vowed to give it a try.  I could always paint over it if I didn’t like it.  A few strokes later and I was sold.  The color really compliments the granite well and ties back to the stone-look of the shower.  Nice call, Mom!

Biggest stress of the renovation: locking Chloe up everyday.  It broke my heart confining her.  I mean, she had her food/water/litter box plus two nice big windows for bird/squirrel creeping so she was fine.  Or so Chris said.  At least the renovated bathroom gave her a new hobby: watching water drops fall down the frameless glass shower door.  And it only took her a few weeks to figure out the shower is blocked by a solid wall and has finally stopped pouncing headfirst into the glass.  Ah, Chloe, all cuteness, no brains.

His.

Well, it’s over… FINALLY. Seriously, this entire project was a nightmare- we had no bathroom, a bedroom that was being used for equipment storage, a living room that was a dusty path between the front door and the bedroom, and a backyard that was mostly trash. Needless to say, we were pretty glad to see it all go, but all the frustration was totally worth it. Below, I’ve chronicled some of our best moments.

My favorite part post-renovation: the shower. When you use a typical shower/tub combo or standard-size standalone shower, you don’t realize just how cramped it is. In fact, it felt a little weird the first few times I used the new warehouse-sized shower, but now that I’m used to it I’m not sure I could ever go back to one of those wimpy showers again. I mean, seriously- I could probably park my car in there.

Weirdest discovery: At some point, someone attempted to take down the wallpaper, only to realize it wasn’t wallpaper- it was the paper covering of the gypsum panel that make up the drywall. That’s right- no texture, no plaster, no wallpaper… just paint over bare drywall. What’s really weird, though, is that someone tried to texture it with… sand. Like, the kind you’d find at the beach. Sand. I think the most reasonable conclusion in that an old Navy vet had a flashback and got the bathroom wall confused with the floor of an aircraft carrier, and mixed sand into the paint for traction. Or something like that.

Most satisfying moment: sorting out the plate of spaghetti someone once called a wiring job in the attic above the bathroom. I detailed it in an earlier post, but basically I combined circuits so that every stupid light in the room didn’t have to have it’s own switch, eliminated a fair number of redundant circuits, and relocated the switches to a wall that would still exist by the end of the project. The reason it was so satisfying, though, was getting to see the look on the contractor’s faces when I demanded to do my own electrical: it was clearly the kind of job they planned on making the most money on, presumably by taking advantage of people that think it’s too complicated and/or dangerous to DIY.

Most frustrating moment: the shower door. Again, this was detailed in a previous post, but the jist of it is that our original contract clearly stated a frameless shower door, but what showed up was something with a horrendous chrome frame. During the transition from bid to contract, we did a bit of haggling and some items got cut or changed. Apparently, one of those items was the frameless shower glass, but the actual contract didn’t specify one way or the other. We assumed we were getting the previously discussed frameless shower glass, they assumed a framed shower was acceptable. Moral of this story: if it’s a “must have,” make sure it’s specified in black-and-white!

Overall, this project was worth every minute and every penny. We transformed an area of the house we were once afraid to enter into a completely custom bathroom. I think we had some great work done at a fair price, and at minimum will break even in terms of the value it adds to the house. And we only had to paint it twice!

Materials Breakdown:

  • Wall Paint Color: Behr, Pewter Tray, Satin
  • Cabinet Paint Color: Behr, Wheat Bread, High-Gloss
  • Cabinet Hardware: Lowe’s, $3.12 each
  • Sink Faucets: We reused the existing faucets which are Pegasus brand and are discontinued.  This one from Home Depot is a close match and a good deal at $88.
  • Sinks: Our sinks were included in the cost of our granite installation but here are similar white undermount sinks from Home Depot for $78.
  • Granite: The type of granite we used is called Delicatus
  • Floor Tile: Floor and Decor, $3.79/sq ft
  • Shower Faucet: Home Depot, we got it on special for $70 but now the price is up to $169.
  • Shower Tile: Floor and Decor, $2.19/sq ft
  • Shower Accent Tile: Floor and Decor, $8.49/sq ft
  • Shower Pencil Bullnose: Seconds and Surplus, $6.99 each
  • Shower Floor Tile: Floor and Decor, $12.99 each
  • Wall Hooks: DIY project, details to come soon
  • Wall Shelves: DIY project, details here
  • Pot Lights: Home Depot, $18.76 each
  • Vanity Light: Lowe’s, $99
  • Mirror: DIY project, details here
  • Towel Rings: Bed Bath and Beyond, $19.99
  • Toilet Paper Holder: Bed Bath and Beyond, $29.99

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Filed under Bathroom, Renovation

The Bathroom Saga: Part 3

Hers.

The rewiring for the master bath was done (more on that here) but we still had A LOT left to do to turn our ugly beast of a bathroom (view pictures here) into the serene retreat we so desperately wanted.

To recap, here was our renovation check list:

  • Demo shower
  • Demo tub
  • Demo toilet
  • Move shower location to old tub location (meaning our foundation needed a little jackhammering)
  • Move toilet location to old shower location (aka more jackhammering)
  • Demo shower wall and turn into a pony wall
  • Transform linen closet into a built-in cabinet
  • Replace sinks (goodbye yellow shell sinks!)
  • Replace counter with granite
  • Replace cracked tile floor with faux wood tile
  • Install HUGE newly tiled shower, complete with a built-in nook for shampoos and such and a bench
  • Install frameless glass shower door
  • Install new shower head and handle
  • Install new toilet
  • Tear down wallpaper
  • Retexture walls
  • Repaint walls
  • Replace old hollywood light above sinks to something a little less… hollywood… and less brass
  • Install can lighting
  • Demo heat lamp (not really needed in our very warm, very Southern bathroom)
  • Install new fan cover
  • Paint cabinets
  • Install new cabinet pulls
  • Dress up mirror
  • Install two new towel hangers
  • Install new toilet paper holder
  • Install some sort of wall storage
  • Dig up some wall art

Phew!  We had quite the list to get through!  As many renovation horror stories as I’ve heard, we got by pretty easy.  Once we settled on a crew, they worked quickly, which was nice considering we had to lock up Chloe, our cat, all day for a few weeks.  She’s quite the nosy cat and not the brightest crayon in the box so we knew disaster awaited if we let her roam around in the midst of all this chaos.

That said, we still had our fair share of small hiccups along the way.  Like when we signed off on a frameless shower door but a framed door arrived.

Or when Chris came home to find the high-end sink faucets (one of the only items we decided to keep from the original bathroom to save moo-lah) tossed in the trash.  A day before the trash came.  Phew!

Or when our crew decided to go all telenovela on us when the main contractor and his carpenter stopped speaking and they refused to be on-site when the other was… causing our bathroom progress to stall for a week (which was especially frustrating because all that was left to do was install the shower head and handle).

But, we lived to tell the tale and, honestly, would be up for enduring the craziness again for a big project we needed help with.  The crew did amazing work, kept out of the way of the rest of the house, and were very understanding when it came down to the things we wanted to tackle ourselves.  That said, we were SO glad when it was over and took a big, long break from renovating afterwards.  Sometimes, you just need to stop and enjoy it for awhile… well, until I get antsy for change again!

His. 

Where was I? Oh, right. Our bathroom was destroyed:

After I finished all the electrical and installed the lights, the crew could see to do their major work. The biggest job (and literally the only reason we hired professionals) was the plumbing work. We were moving the shower to the tub’s old location, moving the toilet to where the shower was, and wouldn’t be installing a new tub. Now, at first glance it seems like this might actually be a simple swap- after all, everything had a drain and a water supply so one might assume it wouldn’t be too involved. Well, bathtubs have 2″ diameter drain pipes, showers have 3″ pipes, and toilets have 4″ pipes. Just our luck, everything would require larger pipes than what was already in that location. Yikes!

Now, since all these drains were literally cemented into the floor, a jackhammer would have to be used to break up the foundation. I came home one day and the plumbers told me that the contractor hadn’t delivered the jackhammer yet, so they had started busting up the concrete with a sledgehammer- now that’s dedication! Although I must say, I wasn’t really prepared for how strange my house looked with a hole in the middle of it:

And here it is, new plumbing in place and patched back up:

And now the shower can be framed out:

When we took out the furdown, we realized that part of its purpose was to hide this little guy, the vent pipe for the sink drains (it’s also a proof of apparent miscommunication between the original plumber and framer of the house).

Look at that wallpaper! Fortunately our carpenter specialized in trim, so he hooked us up with some crown moulding that completely hides the pipe.

Our sink area served as a workbench throughout most of the project:

Finally, after all the electrical, plumbing, framing, and drama, it was time for drywall. If you look in the shower, you’ll see that it’s actually concrete backerboard, since the typical gypsum sheetrock (i.e. drywall) isn’t strong enough to support the weight of tiles.

And in goes the floor- we wanted wood but knew it would never survive in a bathroom, so we found a wood-look tile that fools everyone… or did, until drywall dust got into the grout.

One final light to go in before paint and moulding:

And the tiling of the shower. Note the levels- our tile guy did an awesome job, and everything is perfectly flush.

Finally, time to paint! Since this is a high-moisture area, I primed everything to help keep moisture out of the walls. Has anyone noticed that there are no pictures of Julie working on this entire blog? Hmm…

Hers.

Um, excuse me.  Someone had to take these pictures!

His.

After a bit of drama and miscommunication, we got a frameless shower door installed. It’s difficult to keep clean, but when we do, the cat can’t stand it.

True to form, Julie decided she didn’t like the original color, and we had to paint again.

By this point everything worked, and it felt magical for at least a month. Just a few final touches, and we were almost done!

Stay tuned when we (finally) unveil the after pictures!

To read part 1 of the saga, click here.

To read part 2 of the saga, click here.

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The Bathroom Saga: Part 2

Hers.

And thus continues our epic journey into renovating our master bathroom.  If you missed the walk-thru of our outdated, non-functioning, mess of a bathroom, you can catch up on it here.

In short, we wanted to go from this:

To this:

And from this:

   

To pretty much anything else.

We had work to do!  First, we had to settle on our overall look.  We thought back to the most relaxing, serene place we’d been to and our honeymoon resort, Excellence Playa Mujeres (we highly recommend it!), immediately came to mind.  Join me in drooling over this little slice of paradise.

Nothing like a winding river and bed of hammocks overlooking the Caribbean.

And did we mention having a private, rooftop pool above our room?

And now for the bathroom.  We loved the rich, earthy tones and the glamour that the hint of bronze brought.  We also loved how large the bathroom felt with a frameless glass shower door and open concept.  We knew this should be the inspiration for our own master retreat.

We wanted to go for something a little lighter in tile color, bring some color to the walls (rather than beige), and go with brushed nickel (instead of bronze) but we’d keep the incorporation of the natural stone look and the openness of the layout.

We also needed something that would look great without breaking the bank so we scored some awesome deals at Floor and Decor and Seconds and Surplus.

Here’s what we ended up with:

Shower Tile: Antique White Porcelain Tile 13″ x 13″, Floor and Decor, $2.19/sq ft

Shower Accent Tile: Cappucino Beige Mosaic Marble Tile, Floor and Decor, $8.49/sq ft

Shower Accent Pencil Bullnose: Bottocino Marble Bullnose, Seconds and Surplus, $6.99 each

Shower Floor Tile: Cappucino Beige Mosaic Marble Tile, Floor and Decor, $12.99 each

Bathroom Floor Tile: Exotica Walnut Porcelain Tile, Floor and Decor, $3.79/sq ft

Granite for Sink Counter

Now it was time for the fun part- knocking down some walls!  It’s funny how swinging a hammer into a wall can bring out the inner-bulldozer in you.  Chris had to hold me back from taking out the rest of the walls in the house.  Apparently we needed those.
His.

I don’t know if it’s because I was raised cheap or because I am cheap, but I can’t stand paying someone else to do something I can do myself. In the case of this bathroom, it was strictly a lack of equipment and time that led me to hire a professional. Naturally, though, I couldn’t give in entirely- I wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and I insisted on doing at least a few things myself. The most obvious to me was electrical.

Now, please don’t let me lead you to believe that electrical work is easy. You can get killed, burn your house down, or both. That said, I was going to need a hammer.

In the toilet/shower area, we had five switches (three lights, one fan, and one heat lamp), which means we had five circuits. I wanted two circuits: one for all the lights, one for the fan. This meant that in addition to installing new lights, I’d have to completely change the wiring for them as well. Since I’d be eliminating circuits, I’d also be eliminating switches, but here’s the kicker: all the switches were located on walls that would not exist in the new plan. So I was basically starting from scratch, starting from the power source all the way to the wall switch.

Here’s what the shower area looked like after I started ripping out wiring. Both of these walls were going to be completely torn down, so I relocated the switches to the wall adjacent to the closet.

The trick to electricity is to remember that it only flows one way through a circuit, so you have to be absolutely sure you’ve got your wiring put together in the proper order or you might get some interesting results when you flip the switch. If you don’t know the difference between a parallel circuit and a series circuit, your DIY wiring probably shouldn’t go beyond plugging something in.  Hire outside help!

Anyway, I removed the spaghetti-plate of wiring in the attic and replaced it with one clean, simple circuit for all the lights, and spliced in one more for the fan. Builders, if you’re reading this, note: bathroom lights don’t all need their own switches. With all the lighting done, the contractors could finally see to complete their work, which will be unveiled soon.  *Cue the suspense.

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The Bathroom Saga: Part 1

Hers. 

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.

His.

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…

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