Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bathroom Remodeling 101 Part I

Until recently, our bathroom featured a prized possession: an oversized, cast iron, claw-foot tub. When we installed it, 4 large-bicep men carried it into the room, stopping twice to rest. Two of those men used clear silicone to cement the feet to the floor. That tub wasn’t going anywhere. I loved that tub. You could fill it up and stretch out, leaving only nose and mouth above water.

So the hub was surprised when, a few months ago, I suggested it was time to rip it out and install a shower unit. “You’re not serious?” he asked.

Well, yes I was. I had developed osteoporosis and he’s not as spry as he once was. Every time I stepped out, it was a 6 – 7 inch drop to the floor. I figured this was an accident waiting to happen. But as my daughter would point out, it would be ‘so us’ to wait until someone broke something and then look at each other and say, “We should have replaced that tub.”

The tub was great but the bathroom had its problems, notably a lack of storage. This encouraged us both to keep everything out so, though useful, the bathroom was a cluttered mess. Even my comfort with clutter was challenged most of the time.

So, we had begun the process of remodeling the bathroom. That process, based on past experience, should have taken us, oh, 5 or 6 years. We’ve gutted and remodeled a kitchen and finished several other decorating projects over the years and it’s always a slow, laborious testing of our pledged love for each other.

First, our decorating modes are different. Mike would like to research everything...fixtures of the world, flooring options with pros and cons of each, faucet types with a chart that includes warranty/cost/color/water flow. I would like to tell the contractor that ‘the shower goes there, the sink goes there, the cabinet goes over there.” Mike would think it’s wise to get a signed contract and then supervise the entire project. I’d like to write a check, go on a trip and come back with it is all done.

If a decision needed to be made, I’d tell the worker to just make it and I’d live with it. Do we need an outlet? Yes, probably. A window? Uh huh. Wouldn’t you just assume he’d put one in?

Then, we have to schedule shopping time and the big thing that slows down the project is Mike’s insistence, can you believe it, that ‘everything needs to go together.’ That means color coordination and that’s where I sink. Not my forte. Now, the hub is really good at this but he’ll drag his heels with his help, extending the time of the project. So the 5 or 6 years.

The first week of April changed so much in our lives. My sister, familiar with my house, said to me gently, “You know, Lynne, later on Mike won’t be able to bath in your bathroom.” She explained that it might be unsafe for him to climb into that tub.

“Well, THAT’S not going to happen,” I told her and I resolved to kick the bathroom project into high gear. It became a central goal for when we returned home from the hospital.

I wanted to get it done and I had to do it without Mike’s help. I wanted it to be useful and nice. AND, to please the hub, it all needed to go together. What to do, what to do?

My first stop was my local paint store, owned and operated by friend Fran who has the most unique gifts when it comes to color. “Help,” I wailed.

She told me to go pick out a floor and a cabinet color and come back. I did. She worked her magic and grabbed some color strips and asked me what I liked. “What do YOU like, Fran?”

She really prefers to pretend with me that I do the choosing. We both understand my skill level….so I ‘chose’ and she gave it her blessing. She pointed out what I probably wanted for the walls, for the towels, for the accessories. “Yes?”

Yes. Sure. Fran is the best.

I called another friend who is a contractor and who loves my husband. He told me that his crew would make this a priority. He went with me to purchase cabinets, the shower unit, the faucets, flooring and much etc. I was already stressed, in the early weeks of dealing with THE NEWS, and needed help making even simple decisions so this process was difficult and his presence was security.

Once everything was ordered, the project began. First I had to move us, clutter and all, out of the bathroom. Our big old house has three more baths but we had to reduce our stuff to the bare essentials.

My builder discovered that the subfloor was rotten; it needed to be replaced. One wall was not square…an understatement…and needed to be squared.

There were some other ruts…cabinets took a month and the seller didn’t mention that you had to order shelves separately. Who knew? The plumbing supply store ordered the wrong molded shower; it took a week for the wrong one to come so it took another week to get the right one. Plumbing in an old house is quite the adventure so there was much drilling and pounding in the basement.

We had purchased a special shower faucet set-up designed with safe guards against accidental scalding. We couldn’t figure out how to get any hot water so we had to take a class from the plumber.

And, as my husband will remind me, it was good for me to be around because there WERE some questions I needed to answer and some decisions I needed to make.

Finally, it was time for the painters and that gorgeous Fran-picked color coated the walls. The floor was laid, the cabinets set. I hung the towels. Oh my. It all goes together.

I even purchased some art for the walls…my children will laugh because I’m slow to pound those nails in new walls. So, voila! We have a new bathroom. And the hub is pleased (though amazed) that it ‘all goes together.’

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