One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

June 23, 2012


You know what? We try really hard not to get carried away with our home improvement plans and put too much renovation burden on the family. We do. We have a bit of a history of big, expensive, time-sensitive, do-it-yourself projects and we’ve seen the toll they take and we don’t want to do those anymore.

But we don’t have much luck sticking to little projects. Maybe we shouldn’t have bought a hundred year old house.

The latest struggle is the bathroom.

I’m going to do something embarassing, here and post my before photos, aware that I don’t know how long it will be until we can “after” it all.

Our bathroom is in pretty horrible shape. It desperately needs pretty much everything re-done. The tub finish is horrible to start with: scuffed, scarred and pitted – but then someone painted it. With latex paint. Probably the last owners when they decided to sell and wanted it to just look fine. Yeaugh. So now it’s all flaked and peeled away and in addition to being scuffed, scarred and pitted, it has these trailing broken blister edges of latex paint clinging everywhere. I’m sad and ashamed about the kids bathing in it and even more sad and ashamed that we’ve been here almost three years and still haven’t done anything about it.

The floor is really old. I think it’s got to date back to the 30s or 40s, which is sad because I think it must have once been quite lovely. It’s those tiny 2 inch by two inch white porcelain tiles with dark grout. But as I say, it’s ancient. Many of the tiles are cracked and the grout is crumbling out.

Then there’s a plain old toilet that can probably do several more years of service, it just seems to list to one side. The seal was leaky when we moved in, and though we fixed that, I worry that it was leaky long enough that it’s sitting on some rotten floor boards now, so whenever we re-do the floor, I’d like to pull out everything down to the floorboards and see if we need to replace any. The sink is one of those old pink molded sinks that over-cure and develop dried out white cracks as they age. It has a few of those.

Oh yes, and I forgot that the bathroom itself was significantly narrowed when the addition was put on the house. They cut the bathroom in half, essentially, in order to create a hallway to the back wall of the house where the new master bedroom was going. What this means is that the bathroom is about 52 inches wide. The bathtub is in there cross-wise – and, since most tubs are five feet (60 inches), it has been modified to fit. It’s definitely set into the walls in some weird way. It’s possible they also had to grind edges off it to make it fit. We can’t know until we open up the wall, I guess.

Anyhow, obviously if we had the time and money to gut the whole thing and do it from scratch, that would be fab – but as I said, we’re trying to eschew big projects in favour of small, incremental, sustainaby paced projects these days.

In trying to decide what the smallest, most necessary, finite improvement the bathroom needs, we identified the tub as our highest priority. But when we first decided on that, we didn’t really know about the weirdness in the size. We shopped around at home depot, looked at tubs in the Habitat Re-Store, perused listings for old clawfoot tubs and then we got almost serious enough about a tub to measure our space and realized that it wouldn’t fit. So then we started looking out for a tub that would fit and realized there weren’t any. We ascertained that it is possible to get 4 foot and 4.5 foot clawfoot tubs but they’re pretty rare, so you have to wait a long time to see one listed for sale in the classifieds and if you look at dealers’ websites, the little ones are more expensive (probably because they’re rare). We’ve seen a couple of 4.5 foot clawfoot tubs listed, but even at that size, we’d have to do some creative stuff with the wall in order to gain 2.5 inches.

Through this whole time, we’ve gone back and forth on discussions about how maybe we just need to reconfigure the bathroom so that the tub points the other way in order for us to get a tub that won’t require hacking everything. But of course, I mean, just consider. Not only gutting and re-doing the entire bathroom, but pulling up floorboards in order to move plumbing around? Gah.

So each time we have that conversation, we’ve reined ourselves in and reminded ourselves, “finite, incremental changes” and conclude that the best way to finitely change the tub is to replace the tub with something that will fit exactly where it is.

But then our latest issue arose: Rachel had a bath and Ethan noticed that as she drained it, we had water dripping into the kitchen. So first we suspected the plumbing for the drain. But we couldn’t reproduce it. Ian filled the tub and drained it a couple of times. He opened up the wall behind the drain and saw moisture but couldnt’ see it coming from anywhere. He let the tub sit full for a while before draining it and we still couldn’t see anything. So then I said, “okay, let me try something” and I poured about a cup of water onto the tiles in front of the tub – because sometimes kids are messy bathers. And sure enough, we had water drip into our kitchen.

So, man, I don’t know. Our current theory is that if we scrape up the grout and re-grout the tiles that would probably buy us a year or two before we have to pull it all up and do it right. But from experience, if we’re re-tiling the floor, we’re going to want to pull out every fixture and pull up as many floor layers as possible, and put down new subfloor to prevent the kind of flex that will break your tiles and crumble your grout. There’s the point where I guess we’ll be pulling up floorboards under the toilet. And for sure that sink and its rickety old moisture-damaged vanity isn’t likely to survive an uninstall and reinstall.

And as to the tub, well, we further concluded that no matter how small a tub we manage to get, there’s no way the current tub is getting out through the door,  nor is a new tub going to manage to get from our landing, down the tiny hallway, in the tiny doorway and around a hairpin turn to go where it needs to go. We will probably (deep breath) have to take out the wall at the top of the stairs.

Sooooooo, not this year. I think our “meantime” plans will be to re-do the grout. Maybe we’ll spend $50 on a tub re-finishing kit and re-do the glaze. And we’ll wait until we can save up a bit of money. However it is that people do that.



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