Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Like One of Those Epic Sagas but with a Bathroom

The problem with home improvement is that if you improve one thing, it makes all the other things immediately adjacent to that thing look... less than improved.  In fact, they can look downright dreadful, especially, as it turns out, if you're looking through Derek's eyes, which are terrific at seeing What Could Be.  To get to What Could Be, however, you have to destroy What Already Is.

I have a knack for living with What Already Is. Sure, the peel-and-stick tile is coming up off the bathroom floor, but so what?  It's a matter of seconds to slip it back into place with your foot.  And the finish flaking off the medicine cabinet?  It's not ideal, but neither is the reflection in the mirror right next to it.  Both speak to the second law of thermodynamics, in that everything eventually degrades and decays, so to do away with the medicine cabinet is to do away with our children's grasp of science!  Or something!  Anything that makes it so that we don't have to embark on another home improvement project immediately after finishing the last one!

I am not an optimist by nature.  I wouldn't say Derek is, either, except when it comes to this house, specifically projects undertaken on this house.  All he really wanted was to get the bead board off the bathroom walls and to lay the new floor.  The work of a day, he thought.

The house had other ideas.

As it turns out, the previous owners (rather brilliantly, I have to admit) covered half the bathroom walls in bead board so that they wouldn't have to properly finish those walls:  drywall, tape, spackle, etc.  So what was awaiting us once that bead board had been removed?
That's right:  more plaster.  More lathe.  More crazily uneven walls and problem solving and work, work, work.

Caedmon, our child who either wants to be "a professional football player, a professional soccer player, or if I can't do those things, a construction worker," was eager to get in there and help.
If you look closely, you'll see the dimple that pops out when he's hard at work.  His dad's does the same thing.  This is incredibly sweet.

Added in to all this was the fact that Derek saw a mirror a while back that had the lighting built in to the mirror.  Fact:  people who work in video are semi-obsessive about good lighting.  Mirrors with built-in lights apparently make for good lighting.  So while we didn't have to have towel warmers or a wifi toilet or fake old fixtures (you know- those new fixtures that they purposely mess with to make them appear old?), we did have to have a lit mirror.  This meant that Derek had to put in a new outlet and new light switch, which involved wiring, which is always always a good time in an old house.  And by "good time" I mean trying not to burn down the house as you discover that none of the outlets are grounded or follow any kind of modern safety protocol.

Fun fact:  Derek says the same kinds of things whether things are going well or have jumped in to a handbasket and are heading straight south.   The other day as he was yet again working on electrical stuff I had to scooch around the bathroom so that I could peer into his face in order to correctly interpret the chuckle he'd just emitted.  And don't even get me started on the monosyllable "huh."  "Huh" can mean "Yes!  It fits!  I just fixed this nagging problem," or it can equally mean, "Well, that's definitely not supposed to look like that."

But!  A million "huh"s and a few dark chuckles later, he's got the wiring done.  Did I worry about him being electrocuted at some point? Especially after he attempted to assure me yesterday by saying not to worry, he'd already "gotten a little juice" from the outlet he was working on, and that it wasn't that bad?  Yes.  Yes I did.  Is it likewise done, though?  Yes.  Yes it is.

Please ignore my poor framing of this shot and focus on that beautiful mirror.  It is so dang purdy.  And if ever you feel the need to be mirror twins with us (sounds like the premise of a ghost story... I may have just ruined this mirror for myself), let us know because the company we bought it from is third generation family-owned- just the type of thing I'm a big old sucker for; we'll happily share all the particulars.

Now, brace yourself, because I wanted to show you how well this mirror actually lights its subjects, but to do that I had to take a for-real picture of myself.
The overhead light is not on; that's all from the mirror.

Somewhere in this timeline Derek replaced the flooring.  This consisted of me laying down the moisture barrier (a sheet of a kind of foam material that had to be connected at the seams with no overlapping but also no gaps), while Derek did everything else, including cutting the flooring to fit around a large pipe that randomly runs from the ceiling to the floor right next to one of the bathroom walls.  Derek suggested taking it out but I meekly said NO NO NO WAY NOTHING GOOD CAN COME OF THIS.  So he didn't.
If that workload sounds unfair to you, it's only because it is.  Now, I wasn't reclining on the couch, idly thumbing through a novel while he toiled away upstairs; we do still have those three children who require care and keeping.  I also handed Derek things as he needed them.  Please hold your applause.

After flooring came replacing the vanity, a journey which was made up of a series of small catastrophes.  First we picked out a vanity, muscled it into the van, squishing the kids into the back bench of the van, hoisted it into the house, opened up the box... only to find that the vanity inside did not match the picture on the outside, nor the model we had chosen.

Whatever, we can return it, and that one was probably too big, anyway.  Let's try this other one!

It was pretty!  The top was sleek marble!  The base color was "cloud," which was somehow important to me!

This one we managed to get all the way up the staircase- which includes three turns and two landings- and into the bathroom, where we swore up and down it worked and looked great.  Derek cut a hole in the bottom and we carefully lowered it down over the plumbing.  At that point we realized that it looked just a tad big.  Not terrible, we told ourselves.  We even lived with it for a day before we were both forced to admit that any bathroom fixture that forces you to close the door before you can squeeze past it to get to the other side of the room- well, it probably doesn't fit.  Somehow we managed to sell it on a Facebook swap shop- couldn't take it back to the store since we'd already cut into it- which included (not a little bitterly) maneuvering it back down the stairs, into its box, and out into a storm to meet the seller, who ended up being delightful, by the way.

Oh, and I forgot the drawer pulls, so I had to mail those afterward.  She was very understanding.

A bunch of other things happened- imagine a series of things going wrong, one after another, and you'll pretty much have it- but we finally got the right vanity and sink into the there.  Did it weigh hundreds of pounds and take three of us to get it up the stairs?  Does it fit perfectly in our space, as it is long but narrow, like our weird old-house bathroom?  Is it the first one Derek suggested but I poo-poo'd at the beginning of this saga?

Add baseboards, paint, wrangling a faucet into place, and a million other details, some of which are still unfinished, and we're done.  Nearly done.  Will this bathroom ever be done?
Close enough.

I'll get up a post up with more "we are so done" pictures (I like that term better than "after") soon, but for now, reward yourself for making it all the way to end of this long post by making these amazing chicken tinga tacos for your culinary pleasure and sit down with Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, one of my favorite books I've read so far this year.


  1. GORGEOUS! And you told the whole remodel story in two posts. Well done, you.

  2. I have to go back and read the previous post - but, oh how I can relate to this one. Your husband sounds infinitely more patient than mine. I ALWAYS know whether things are going bad or going great. No guessing necessary. Coach performed lots of DIY projects at our old house. Our current house (of 10 yrs now) came a bit more 'ready.' Absolutely love the new bathroom! Gorgeous!


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