Bathroom reno, week 3

It’s just keeps going, readers. Every new thing that gets started seems like such a huge step towards the finish line, but then it gets dragged out and the light at the end of the tunnel gets farther away.

On a positive note, we’ve made real progress this week in getting the bathroom looking like a room again. And in theory, from the sounds of it, all the things that are left to be done should be faster than all the things we’ve already done.

Freshen your cup of coffee, put your feet up, and let’s recap our week.

When you last checked in with your heroes, we had shifted a wall over 4″ to make room for the tub, the wall was (more or less) back in place, and we were waiting to drop a tub in the correct place in the bathroom.

Simon spent all day on Sunday last weekend at our place, getting the wall and plumbing back to a place where he could put the tub in. In the early evening, he requested Dan’s help to move the tub into place. A short while later, the plumbing was reconnected and we were back where we were three days before, when we made the choice to do the right thing and move the wall.

Progress during the work week was light, as Simon has a regular day job. It’s the slow time of year for his day job, so he’s able to sneak away and come work on the bathroom after checking in most mornings. He also is taking care of my grandparents, so his work day with us usually ends around 3pm so he can drive back to Brantford to make them dinner. My bathroom really is getting done in dribs and drabs. If you’re comparing the pace of work to the last reno you did and you’re wondering why we can’t get the lead out, that’s why.

After the tub was in place and connected, Simon went to work finishing the drywall in the rest of the room, and prepping the wall around the tub for tiling. The progress I saw this week was mostly coming in to see one more coat of drywall mud on the walls each day after work.

And then, readers, there was one magical day last week, I feel like it was Tuesday, when I came home to find this:

I’m not sure what the construction reason is for getting rid of the counter top so soon in the process, as I really wasn’t expecting this to be removed until the new top would go into place at the end of the project. I like the change, though! The old counter top and the ugly ’80s faucet are sitting in my driveway, for all my neighbours to see.

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Simon is also using it as an ashtray for his cigarette breaks. It’s a fitting end for the counter top.

On Friday night, after patiently waiting all week for endless layers of drywall mud to dry, I was given the green light to get in the bathroom and paint. I had to wait another day to paint the wall under the window since there was one extra layer of mud required to even that out.

I did a quick primer coat before dinner:


And while I had primer on my brush and roller, I also did a coat on the basement bathroom door, in preparation for the glossy white coat it will get….eventually. When I feel like it.

And the colour is back!


Last night I was able to do that wall under the window, so everything that needs to be painted is done:


Can we just take a minute and marvel at how much BETTER this looks than the old half wall tile:

Even with no counter, no toilet, and drop cloths covering everything, I prefer the picture on the right. I also hope this will serve as a warning to anyone thinking of putting up tile around half of your bathroom. It is a royal pain to get rid of it later (I smacked my fingers so many times while chipping that tile off the wall…), and re-drywalling anything takes so many coats of mud and paint and patience to get back to normal.

Also, big step mentally this week. Simon was playing around with the floor tile one day and left them laid out on the floor. On Friday when I got the OK to paint, I came home to find this:

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*difficulty breathing* IT’S HAPPENING! I can visualize the end result. It’s going to be beautiful!

We also had an exciting new phase in the reno on Saturday, when Simon started tiling the shower surround!

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The tile is mostly done up to the top of the niche shelf, on two of three walls. The exterior wall, the one beside the window, needed some extra love to prep it for tile. This wall should be the next thing on the to-do list.

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In more tiling news, this week I bought two sheets of Bianco Carrara marble hexagon tile mosaic at Lowe’s, it cost me $31.72. This will be the accent in the back of shower niche:

I thought about buying more of it for an accent strip at the top of the shower, or even as the ceiling tile, but it’s just too pricey. It looks lovely, and I think an accent tile on the ceiling would be a great look, but not at $15 per square foot.

Also, I’ve made a choice about the ceiling. While Simon may hate me for it, I would like it tiled in the same subway tile pattern as the rest of the shower. A little Pinterest time last night convinced me that this is the way to go, because it will look like this:


Yup. Beautiful. Clean. Simple. Done deal. We also have oodles of the plain white subway tiles, so I don’t need to go out and buy anything else. If you look at that picture from Pinterest, I see nothing wrong with an entire shower of subway tile. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the expanse of white, and I think it looks classic and timeless.

Here’s to another week of traipsing up and down the stairs to the powder room to get ready in the morning and washing my hair in the kitchen sink. It can’t go on forever. It can’t go on forever. It can’t go on forever…

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Bathroom reno, week 2

The alternative title for this post was “Everything is covered in drywall dust”, readers. But I like the direction I took; it’s more straight forward.

It’s true though. Literally everything in my house is covered in a fine layer of drywall dust. But you don’t care about my troubles, you want to see some updates!

We purchased our bathtub last week. It’s beautiful. I paid for it at Rona and arranged to have Simon pick it up with his truck when he was ready for it. Simon left it outside in our driveway, in the box, covered in a tarp, while he prepared the space for it. Late last week, the weather was mild enough for the tub to come inside, and I came home from work to find a bathtub in my kitchen.

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The red tag inside the tub is a big fat warning to not install the tub without a mortar base. Simon says he’s never installed a tub that required that before, but it would void the warranty if he didn’t. So tub sat the kitchen for a day or two while Simon prepared the space and the plumbing, and then one glorious day, I came home to this:

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Hey y’all! That’s a bathtub in the correct place in my bathroom!

Now, don’t get too excited. What I’m about to share with you will break your heart, but I promise it’s all going to be OK.

So here’s the deal. My old bathtub, the circa 1980 jet tub, was 1 inch too wide and 1 inch too long for the space it was sitting in. The old tub stuck out from the wall about an inch, and you could see that a notch was cut from the drywall to tuck it an inch or so into the wall. It looked sloppy. It was more evidence to support my theory that this bathroom was an absolute afterthought in this house.

This is the picture I took and sent to Simon before we even started ripping down wall tile to illustrate the problem. I sent this as a “is it still OK for me to buy a tub that is slightly bigger than this tub, which clearly doesn’t fit in the space” double check, before I went ahead and bought a tub. He said it would be fine, and he would sort it out.

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The solution the previous tub installers chose was to let it stick out an inch, then tile the part that juts out, and just glob caulking on it and walk away.

While my new tub was in place and looking spectacular, it too was sticking out from the wall about 2 inches. I’ll pause for a moment while your shoulders slump down in disappointment. Me too.

So, what can do about this? The day I came home and saw this, Simon had already left, and Dan relayed the options to me: do something similar to what the old tub had, but with drywall instead of tile, or create a drywall angled pieces to make it less obvious. Between these two options, I was leaning towards the angled bit of drywall, but none of it was what I thought would happen to correct the original problem of the opening in the wall being too small. From the beginning, from the day I sent that picture of old tub sticking out from the wall, I thought we would be looking at moving the wall to accommodate the tub. Leave that in your minds for a moment, we’ll come back to it.

Another great thing that happened this week was receiving our shower shelf. The day that Simon cracked open the wall behind the old tub, we took measurements to find out the distance between the studs for ordering our niche recessed shelf. I placed the order that very day, and after finding out expedited shipping was not an option, I crossed all my fingers and toes that it would arrive soon and not delay the project (we can’t tile the tub surround without the shelf opening marked in, now can we?).

We ordered a triple shelf from Tile Redi, which cost is $109 US plus $25 US for shipping. I ordered it on Tuesday, and UPS was trying to drop it off to my house on Friday. Wa-bam! That’s spectacular! I was floored. I really did not think it would come that quickly. We weren’t home when UPS tried to deliver, and after some miscommunications with UPS over the weekend, I stopped in to pick it up at their depot on Tuesday after work. It cost us an additional $65 in duty charges, bringing the whole cost of the shower shelf (with a rough US to Canadian conversion) to $259.59. Shhh, don’t tell Dan. He thinks I like to waste our money on frivolous things. I hate the look of those hanging shower caddies, and we’re loosing the build-in shelves that were in our old tub surround. This is a neat, clean, elegant solution to where you store your bodywash and razor. End of discussion.

Here is the shelf the day I picked it up, being held in its future wall space by Dan:

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And here it is when Simon screwed it in place on the wall the next day:

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Isn’t it beautiful?

Now back to the heartbreaking part. Well, less heartbreaking and more like a minor setback. Two steps backward and eventually four steps ahead, really.

On Friday, I was off work for the first time during the reno and could actually talk to Simon about things instead of leaving texts and notes and using Dan as a go-between. We were both on the same page. The wall needed to be bumped back to make room for the tub. He wasn’t happy with a sloppy patch job to make it work the way it was, and neither was I. Brilliant. This meant that the tub had to come back out, and for a short time, Dan could enjoy the view of his ensuite bathroom from his office.


The wall needed to move over about 4 inches to make room for the tub. This looks a lot more dramatic than the finished changes will be, don’t worry. The wall came down on Friday, and by midday on Saturday, the framing and some of the drywall were back in place.

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Four inches really isn’t much. See the row of wood along the ceiling just in front of those studs? He only bumped the wall to the outer edge of where the the old wall stopped. That’s it. The new framing now sits on top of the existing flooring in the office. There will be a gap in the ceiling finish at the top, which will be hard to match with new product because of the California style ceilings in the bathroom. I’m thinking we should tile the ceiling above the tub too, so it all looks the same. Thoughts?

Here’s how the finished wall will sit in the room:

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See? No big. Our sliding curtain track closet door can’t go back up again because of the jig-jog of the wall, but we have other plans for it, and an alternative closet door in mind for the office.

My favourite part about this was another ghost of our house’s past. Notice the orange and green floral print on the edge of those drywall pieces?

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The whole office was once covered in this wallpaper. Someone wisely painted over it in the yellow that used to be in our office. Come on! You can’t make this stuff up.

Yesterday, Simon was busy framing the wall and setting things up to put the tub back in place. The tub part gets a bit trickier because the plumbing connections all need to shift over a few inches to line up with the middle of the tub.

Hello down there! Here’s the quick access hole to the basement bathroom below:


Putting in that drop ceiling in the bathroom basement was a great idea, otherwise accessing the tub plumbing would have meant ripping a hole in a freshly drywalled ceiling. The tub drain needs to shift over the floor joist you see in the above pictures, and then the pipes for the shower controls move over to match.

And that’s where we sit right now. Simon should be back again today to complete the wall and finish up the plumbing. I’m not sure if the tub can go back in its rightful place yet, but I bet that’s not too far off. I’ll leave you with a snapshot of my life at the moment, with my current getting ready for the day set-up in the basement bathroom.

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I miss counter space.

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Bathroom reno, week 1 update

It’s been one week, readers. One week of drywall dust and all my bathroom supplies and getting-ready-for-the-day materials shoved into baskets and kept in the wrong rooms in my house. But the good news: in only a week, we’ve ripped down some walls and put new ones back up, so we’re well on our way to reassembling our bathroom.

Watch your head, here come some updates:

First of all, remember that hint of flooring that was visible under the blue peel-and-stick tile in my last post? Here she is, in all her glory:

I ripped up all the blue tile last Sunday morning, because it was coming up easily and it gave me instant demolition gratification. Chipping tile off the wall was hard work, but sliding a putty knife under barely-attached vinyl tiles was a cake walk.

After sending pictures of this yellowy orange and brown monstrosity to everyone I know, I immediately went ahead with peeling it off the floor as well.

The yellow layer was on the floor in one big sheet, and it was a fiddlier task to get it up. The sheet of vinyl had a cardboard backing, which was stuck really well to the floor in a number of places, so there were patches of cardboard left all over the floor.

Around the toilet area, I was hit with a distinct toilet-y smell as I peeled up the yellow flooring. Without a doubt, the toilet has overflowed or leaked in the past and it got between the layers of vinyl and the plywood subfloor. In case you’re wondering (and judging us), no, it did not smell toilet-y normally when the blue tile was in place. Clearly the layer of blue vinyl tile held in the stink and kept us from noticing anything out of the ordinary. Removing both of the aging vinyl layers unleashed a waft of eau de public washroom. Ick. We lit a scented candle and that made it less disgusting to go into the bathroom.

You’ll also notice some delightful black mold growing on the floor around the side and back of the toilet. Awesome. I spritzed it with a bleach solution, more for my own piece of mind than anything else. I wasn’t sure if this layer of flooring would be staying (spoiler: nope, it got ripped up), and I didn’t want to give that gross toilet-fueled mold a chance to go any further.

I got sweaty and toilet-y for a few hours on Sunday morning, then called it a day and had my last shower in the old tub. So long, socially accepted hygiene practices! Dan stepped in a while later and carried on with removing the blue tile from the wall. I did my patented screwdriver chisel technique for him to remove some of the grout holding the tiles in place, to make things a bit easier for prying off the tiles. Dan, bless his heart, went powerhouse style on it while I was out on Sunday afternoon and got as much tile removed as we could with the toilet in the way. He also made some serious holes in the wall, but we weren’t keeping the drywall under the tiles anyway.

And this was how we left it for Simon to start his portion of the work early last week. He arrived for his first day of demolition on Tuesday, and we had already moved our bathroom stuff out and committed to only using the bathroom downstairs.

I didn’t see Simon at all during the week, so every day I would come home from work to a new progress level update in the bathroom. Here was Tuesday evening:

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The mechanics of the jet tub were disconnected, and he removed all the choppy drywall that was behind the wall tile. The acrylic tub surround also came down on Tuesday. I regret to inform you that I never once got a picture of the inside of our shower area. Sorry. Take my word for it, it was gross. The acrylic surround was old, dingy, and cracked. It had built-in shelves in both corners and they were cracked and letting water in behind it. The caulking where the surround met the tub was also aging and cracked, and you could see water damage/mold around the edges of the tub. Good riddance.

Simon also did work on the plumbing for our new shower head and tub faucet. The old copper piping was easily as old as our house (30+ years) and it was at the end of its useful life. New plumbing for us!

The old tub was still in place on Tuesday night, filled with Simon’s equipment. You can see the jet tub pipes and wires, which were all disconnected and ready to be ripped out.

Wednesday evening progress:


The damaged tile drywall that was still in place was neatened up and prepared to be replaced with nice new drywall. This is the area right behind the vanity counter, under the medicine cabinet.

Thursday evening update:

The toilet is gone!! This was a great day. The toilet was also probably as old as the house, judging by the inner tank part of it I replaced last year when it was constantly running. Simon also removed the plywood floor layer that was covered with stuck-on vinyl flooring backing and toilet stink. To provide a nice stable base for our new tile, Simon is putting down some kind of concrete flooring layer.

Friday was new drywall day. Oh baby, oh baby.

Look at that beautiful water/mold-resistant drywall. That green drywall brings me great joy. It was nice to see the room looking a little more like a room again.

Saturday update:

Simon started mudding the drywall behind the toilet area and the vanity, sorted out the plumbing for the shower, reworked the studs in the shower wall to make room for our shower niche recessed shelf, and removed the existing bathroom door.

I’m amazed at how much more open the bathroom seems with only that extra few inches that come from removing the door. The door for our bathroom was two feet wide (I know, right?), with a swing going into the bathroom and taking up precious space where you stand in front of the vanity to do your make-up and pluck your eyebrows. As you may recall, we were planning for a pocket door to free up space in our teeny bathroom. Fun fact: pocket doors go inside the wall when they open, which means you need to crack open some walls and add additional support on a load-bearing wall to make sure your roof doesn’t cave in. Well here’s an alternative that doesn’t involve nearly as much work – a sliding barn-style door. Whaaaaaaaat?!?!

Yup. I confirmed with my coworker Laura (shout out to you, Laura!) that this was a good idea (it is) and that is now the direction we’re taking. Simon agreed that it removes a lot of the headaches (and expense) around putting in a pocket door, especially since it was questionable how much header space existed above the door to add in extra support. It’s a non-issue now. Sliding door for the win.

All the major big box stores carry the track hardware for sliding barn doors (they’re very in right now), and a standard slab door will do the the trick for it. There are a few nice options at Lowe’s and Rona that we need to go and see in person before buying something.

The hardware for the handle on the outside is causing me the most grief. There are too many options, and I hate most of them. I’ve found a lovely supplier on Etsy who makes pretty blacksmithed handles, but I really want to wait until I have the door up and in my house before deciding on the type and size of handle I want.

The options for a lock for a sliding bathroom door are really limited, but this seems to be what the internet suggests:

Looks good to me. Dan and I will never use the lock, but for all you princesses who visit my house and wish to do your dirty sinful business without the door sliding open, I guess we should have an option for you.

And with that, we’re on to week two of our renovation. Simon is here right now adding another layer of drywall mud to the walls, and the new tub should be sliding into place tomorrow.

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New year, new bathroom

I bet you thought we forgot about you, didn’t you, readers? Well, if this is what you thought, you would be wrong. We could never forget about you. Don’t forget – we love you.

We haven’t posted in a while, yes, that’s true. But it was for good reason. We’ve been thinking long and hard about our next project, the main bathroom upstairs, and as this is our biggest project to date, it deserved a good chunk of cash set aside. We scrimped and saved for the last 6 months, including starting no new projects even though we have a few in mind, and also having an imagination Christmas. That last one is a lie, we totally lose our minds at Christmas, except this year we did it within a budget. Because responsibility.

Which brings us to a new year and the start of a brand new project. One that will eliminate the second toilet in our house and the only shower. Quite a commitment.

Earlier this week, we went shopping, dear readers. The BIG shop, for the BIG things that will make our bathroom look and function like a bathroom. I had made a list of items and styles of faucets, countertops, etc that I liked ages ago, and on the day we decided to go out and get it all, I hauled it out and updated it to be sure it was still what I liked. You might notice I say “I” a lot here, and that is because I asked Dan point-blank if he cares at all about the fixtures and he said no. There you have it.

We started our big shopping day at Lowe’s because from my pre-research, they had the most items we liked, and most importantly, their website was heads and tails above the other two in terms of search-ability and just being intuitive. The Lowe’s site lets you search by colour/finish, key features of the product, price, material, etc. Rona and Home Depot have pisspoor websites when it comes to narrowing your search. They let you sort by price and maybe, sometimes, by brand. That’s it. For this reason, I spent more time on the Lowe’s site and had an easier time finding what I was looking for. Take the hint, Rona and Home Depot.

Here’s a quick refresher on what we are planning for the bathroom reno:

Finished!
Pictured: horrendous blue tile with coordinating grout.

-replace toilet (which we’re quite sure is as old as the house)
-replace vanity countertop (it’s yellowy off-white, has cracks and stains, and looks very 80’s)
-replace sink faucet (look at that thing, it’s one of those “crystal” roundie faucets that everyone had in their house as a kid)
-remove half-wall tile (obvious reasons)
-replace peel-and-stick vinyl flooring with tile
-remove and replace jet tub
-replace shower head and tub faucet
-remove cracked plastic tub surround and replace with tile to the ceiling

We’re keeping the bathroom vanity, because after I re-stained it 2014, it looks pretty damn good. Evidence:

Finished

So Dan and I headed out this week to check off a bunch of things on that list. At Lowe’s, we purchased the following items:

Toilet – $114
AquaSource, high effieciency, round bowl
Same toilet we chose for the basement bathroom, a low-flow round bowl model that is the cheapest one Lowe’s offers, but we already know it is a fine toilet since we’ve been using it in the other bathroom for 6 months.

Shower/Tub Faucet – $189
Moen Caldwell, spot resistant brushed nickel
We chose a brushed nickel finish for the faucets to match the existing towel bars we have and plan on using in the bathroom.

Sink Faucet – $144
Kohler Cavata, brushed nickel
Same idea as the shower and tub faucet, and we chose a style to coordinate with it too.


Shower Wall Tile – $0.35 each, $175
We chose the simplest glossy white 3″x 6″ tile to create a subway tile pattern on the wall surrounding the tub. We purchased enough to cover 56 sq ft, which takes the tile right up to the ceiling. We’re going for something like this:

We made a quick jaunt over to Rona to pick up the countertop:

Vanity Countertop – $311.88
Luxo Marble Synthetic, 49″x 22″
Our vanity cabinet is a standard size (sigh of relief), but it’s at the larger end of the scale. Rona carried the right size, and offered a few different styles. There is no such thing as a picture of the full-size counter we have, so this will have to do:

"Modern" Synthetic Marble Vanity Top - 49'' x 22''
And finally, because I wasn’t happy with the floor tile options at all three of the home improvement big box stores, we went to Sarmazian Brothers flooring in Cambridge, because they featured the exact tile I was looking for on their website.

Floor Tile – $5.43/sq ft, $171.81
I loved Sarmazian. We had no idea what to expect when walking in because they don’t list any of their prices on their website. The sales rep approached us right away and I told him exactly what I was looking for and he had a few examples for us within minutes. We chose a smaller 1″ white hexagon tile with black dot, and we needed enough to cover 25 sq ft.

The bathtub will be coming this week, as we will need Simon’s truck to get it home. We’re looking at this beauty from Rona:

Bathtub – $431
Rona Eco Plenitude

"Plenitude" Bathtub
Simon starts work on Monday morning, as this is a slower time of year for his regular job and he can hopefully work for us full-time until the job is done. I’m really not keen to live without my proper bathroom for longer than a couple weeks.

Before he starts, we got cracking at demolition (get it? har dee har har!) so we don’t have to pay someone for many hours of labour for something we can do. Yesterday, the tile came down:

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Don’t freak out about that hole in the wall, that’s just the space where our medicine cabinet usually sits. Here’s Dan, about to chip off the very first tile of many.

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Those tiles are stuck on good, readers. I had the most success by chipping away at the blue grout with a screwdriver and a hammer, chisel-style, and then tapped a putty knife behind the tile until it loosened enough to come off. Dan went for the powerhouse option, which involved prying tiles off with the grout still intact. There’s not a chance we can save the drywall underneath, so both options are perfectly acceptable.

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We got the section above the vanity and behind the bathroom door done yesterday, which took 3-4 hours. This corner is next on our list, once our hands have recovered:

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While I was prying off tiles behind the door, some of the blue vinyl flooring came off and revealed what is underneath the top layer of floor. After I went to bed last night, Dan picked at it some more and determined that it shouldn’t be that hard to scrape it up. Check it out:

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Oh lordy. That’s some truly awful flooring. This bathroom must have been quite a sight in its heyday.

I would like to have the tile mostly gone by the time Simon starts on Monday, and getting the flooring up too would be nice. I have no idea what comes first in a bathroom reno so we might have more time than I think to get rid of the old stuff. In the meantime, he is all my bathroom stuff, laid out in the dining room:

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My next priority will be setting up a temporary getting-ready-for-the-day area in the basement. And if you’re wondering (because I know I would be…), I have a shower available at work and Dan and I are also welcome to use the shower at a nearby friend’s house once the tub gets ripped out. Think of us this week when you’re enjoying a nice hot bathing ritual.

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BASEMENT BATHROOM. All caps.

It’s been way too long in making this happen, readers. For anyone who has been sitting on the edge of her/his seat waiting to see the results of the basement bathroom reno, I hope your legs haven’t gone to sleep from your awkward perch. But fear not! Shake the pins and needles from your numb feet! It’s actually done. For realsies.

This journey started a million months ago in the winter, where we were thinking it would be a 6 week job, accounting for Simon’s other full-time commitments and the fact that he works in fits and starts. If you times that number by MONTHS instead of weeks, and add two months for good measure, that would be the total time for this project. Eight freaking months.

I powered through the finishing touches yesterday, because I was tired of it sitting there looking half done. Full disclosure: there are still one or two finishing finishing touches to knock off, but it is done, functional, and looks awesome.

No more dithering, Victoria, get to the reveal!

Bathroom: done.

Yesterday morning, it was mostly there, but had a few patches where Simon had re-mudded some areas of the wall. I primed and painted those areas, applied two coats of semi-gloss white to the door frame and the window frame, and forced Dan to join me on a drive around town to find a toilet paper stand, soap dish, and garbage can. I also got around to frosting the windows with the peel and stick film the previous owners left us. I could have done this job weeks ago, but I just didn’t.

To get the full effect, let’s explore the details.

The vanityThe vanity has been in place and functioning with hot water and such for months now, it was hooked up very shortly after our new tankless water heater was installed in May.

The mirror was a flea market find from the beginning of the summer ($15, y’all!)

Flea market mirrorWe originally planned to spray paint the frame a different colour, but the gold has really grown on me. Leaving the frame as it is was firmly cemented in our minds when we came across this little beauty two days ago:

Octopus towel hookThis octopus hook came from my new favourite store in downtown Galt, The Art of Home. They only had this cast iron hook in the gold finish, and it was a lovely match to the frame on the mirror just as it is. Decision made.

As soon as the sink was functional and we could use the bathroom for taking care of business (read: poopin’), I threw a bar of soap next to the sink, which I received as a free sample at a tradeshow. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but crafty shows and indy shops have EXPLODED with artisan handmade soaps. They make me want to buy all the soaps, but I’ve never been one for bar soaps in my life. Bar soap always leaves that gunky build-up on the counter if it isn’t in a dish, and if it is in a dish, it’s sitting in its own filthy puddle and the bar gets mushy. But I want to love bar soap. It’s shoved in my face everywhere, and I want to use it. A solution was found, also at this tradeshow I attended. A cute company selling bars of soaps and other lotions, the Wild Prairie Soap Company, has a perfect solution. A soap dish made of small pebbles stuck together, so the water can drain away from the soap and it won’t be sitting in a puddle of its own filthy water. Genius. I wanted to buy one at the tradeshow, but they don’t do that, so I looked on their website and balked at having to pay $12 for shipping (the soap dish only cost $18). At Dan’s suggestion, I looked for a store locally that carries products from Wild Prairie Soap, and yesterday we made a zip out to The Living Outdoors in Cambridge to cross our fingers and hope they had one of this dishes in the right shade. Bingo!

The perfect soap dishSo far so good on the draining, and when it gets gunky with soap film, you just scrub it with an old toothbrush. Easy. My fancy bar of soap is courtesy of The Perth Soap Company.

It’s surprisingly difficult to find your perfect toilet paper holder. I never would have guessed this would be a challenge for us. I scoured the internet this weekend for ideas on free standing toilet paper holders (we might one day wall paper the end wall and it seems easier to not have something mounted to the wall). Let me save you a step. They’re all the same, and they are wildly expensive considering what they are. I didn’t love any of them, and Dan was outraged that they cost $50. I thought maybe it was the website I was looking at, so we set out to Bed Bath and Beyond, Solutions, and Rona to find something we liked. We didn’t like anything. I don’t know what we had in mind, but nothing was speaking to us. We ultimately settled on this one. It does the job.

Toilet paper holderAnd I frosted the windows! No longer can I only use the toilet during the day when peeping eyes can’t see into my house! Dan doesn’t understand this concern, but I can tell you I have been peeing in the dark in the bathroom for the last 3 months because our bathroom window was crystal clear.

The peel and stick stuff was great. I cut a piece to the size of the window, fought with it to remove the backing, and stuck it on the window. I smoothed out the air bubbles with a putty knife wrap in a cloth, and used an exacto knife to trim any overhang. I’m sure there are still some bubbles in it, but I think it looks great. And bonus! It was FREE since the previous owners left a full roll of it in the basement.

Ahhhh! Privacy.Not sure how it will react in the winter, I’m thinking it might crack or the edges could come away from the window. I’m totally fine redoing it every year if I have to, since the process took 20 minutes and the rolls are cheap.

So how much did it cost to put in a bathroom in the basement, mostly from scratch? You may recall that the plumbing for a bathroom was already there, just capped off when we moved in. We hired Simon to do just about everything in this room, except for painting and final touches. That means he created walls, made the plumbing connect to the rest of the water supply, created outlets and a light connection, drywalled, mudded, installed our toilet and vanity, installed a ceiling and a light fixture, and added a door.

In the winter, Dan and I bought:

Tile – $44.55 (on super duper clearance at Lowe’s)
Faucet – $55.24
Toilet – $99.99
Vanity – $64.99
Light fixutre – $109.00
Grout – $17.39
Ceiling panels – $57.98
Door handle – $29.99
TOTAL – $479.13

Materials purchased by Simon – $1,005.99
Labour for Simon – $587.59

GRAND TOTAL – $2,072.71

I don’t think that’s too shabby at all. I also know some of that labour cost is for little things done in the workout room, as Simon has been working on both projects at the same time. I also know there’s a good chunk of labour cost Simon didn’t charge us for because the project took so long, with even longer stretches of no work being done at all while he was busy at work. That’s straight up not fair, and I plan on cutting Simon a cheque for another chunk of money to cover this. Let’s call that another $400, so the grand total for our simple bathroom is $2,472.71. Add to that the little touches we added yesterday (soap dish $20, wall hook $30, mirror $15, garbage can $20, toilet paper holder $40, artwork print $6, frame $10 = $141) and the GRAND grand total is $2,613.71.

And let’s also appreciate how far we’ve come.

Here’s the future bathroom on the day we toured the house before closing, complete with the previous owners’ stuff:

The beginningWe had flooding, and tore everything out of that little corner:

Oscar, photo-bomber
We marked out walls for our little room-to-be, and Simon did all sorts of fixing work in that area:

Totally a bathroomFuture bathroomBathroom!We replaced the window (and almost all of the basement windows, actually):

Window install in progress
The last few months saw a slow down in the rate of work, but it all got done:

Drywall, baby!Entrance to bathroomAwkward plumbing situationApril 6 update Tile!Cutting around all the weirdo anglesDuct work coming alongWe have toilet!And this is what comes next – the rest of the workout room will start looking more like a finished space soon:

August 16 updateOne more time, just for kicks:

Bathroom: done.

Those final finishing touches I mentioned are:
-add quarter round to the baseboards and paint them
-paint the door in semi-gloss white and add a stenciled design
-make simple curtains for the window

See? Nothing critical. The room is lovely the way it is.

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A tankless water heater for Joey and Janice

Exciting news, readers! We’ve joined the world of the enlightened and we just this very day upgraded to a tankless water heater. Why tankless, you ask? Dan’s line of work shows him all the inner secrets of new home construction, and from his first year on the job, he’s said tankless is the way to go. It heats water on demand as you need it, so depending on your usage, you use less energy to get the hot water you need.

Readers, take a knee. Think of your giant aging traditional water heater in your basement, and the giant size of its tank, sitting there all day and night heating water. We are but two simple people, and we don’t need or use a lot of anything, including water. We don’t own a dishwasher, and I don’t know what wacky school of thought you have on washing dishes by hand, but I don’t rinse my dishes. No siree Bob. We fill the sink with enough hot soapy water for the job, scrub them until they’re as clean as dishes need to be (read: no more food stuck on them) and sit them in the rack to dry. “But, that soap residue on the dishes!” you cry. I hear you, and I dismiss your fears as something that does not matter. I have never rinsed the soap off my dishes, and I’m not going to start now. It’s wasteful and unnecessary, and I have had zero ill effects from my methods. I’m quite certain any dishwasher would use a ton more water than washing by hand too, so there’s that. We also take super short showers, and, prepare yourself for secrets to be revealed, neither one of us showers every day. Accept it, we’re moving on now.

The old traditional water heater we had was massive, and I know for a fact we weren’t using most of that water each day. So every day, the clunky old beast would fire up and heat the water sitting in the tank so it could be enjoyed by no one.

When we bought our house, we took over the existing contract for the water heater, through MorEnergy. I really didn’t want to take over the contract, because everything about this company screamed “SCAM!” to me. When looking them up, I found more information about red flags and sketchy door-to-door sales practices than about their services. When I called to ask a few questions about the contract before signing our agreement with them, it was IMPOSSIBLE to find a real person to speak with. The only reason anyone ever called me back was because I told our real estate lawyers that I wouldn’t sign our purchase agreement and all the final paperwork until someone from MorEnergy called me back. All I wanted to know was if we could swap out the heater we had for a tankless rental option. The answer was a simple no. The previous homeowners had signed up for a 10 year contract (doesn’t that seem like it shouldn’t be a thing?!) and we couldn’t change anything until the contract expired in August 2015. Fine. Whatever. We signed on to take over the rental and patiently counted down the days before we could end the service with MorEnergy and get what we wanted.

That was a year and a half ago, and earlier this year, I started picking Simon’s brain about how hard it would be to set up the water heater in a different room in the basement. Here’s why:

Giant old tankLook at this thing. It’s sitting in the corner of one of the THREE rooms in the basement to have mechanical equipment in them. There’s the furnace in the storage room, the laundry room with the breaker panel and the water softener, and then this monstrosity sitting in the corner of the workout room. Why?! I know why, it’s because all the mechanicals were installed by different people who all did the thing that was easiest for them. Run the pipes to this thing from across the house? Sure! Smack some unsightly holes into the 1970s wood paneling to access the pipes from the other room? You betcha!

Simon was optimistic about moving it, saying it would just take some tidying up of the capped off pipes later, and the new one just gets installed where it has access to the pipes it needs. Sounds simple enough. I was prepared to wait out the last few months of the contract before doing anything else, and then we got wonderful news.

Reliance Home Comfort bought out MorEnergy and a bunch of other cruddy scam-filled companies. I got a letter in the mail about a month ago simply informing me that Reliance was taking over our account, and we were now their customer. Neat. I called them (and got to speak to someone right away, I might add) and asked if it was possible to replace our aging water heater with what we actually wanted. “Sure, no problem” they said.

I made an appointment for a guy to come out and inspect the site for moving the water heater to another location. He was also going to take a look at our furnace and AC while he was there, because I know they’re in it to sell you junk, and why not buy a new furnace while you’re at it? I decided I would humour them, but I’m not a sucker.

The installation of our new water heater was handled by another company contracted by Reliance. They were due to arrive between 8am and noon today, and they did! They called first to make sure I was home, and they were here at 9:30 to start work. I kept out of their way, and spent most of my morning policing Oscar so he wouldn’t wander downstairs and assist them.

Here’s the new location where we wanted the tankless unit to go, in the laundry room above the washer:

tankless water heater's new homeThe man who did the site inspection said this would be fine; the tankless water heater needs to vent directly outside, and it can tie into the water line and the gas line from here. Aces.

The crew of two was here for about 3 hours doing the installation. They installed the new water heater and connected it to everything that matters, and unhooked the old one from the pipes and capped those off. They removed the venting from the old water heater, but they only capped off the old pipes where they connected to the water heater, so I still have dangling pipes to deal with.

Here’s the big reveal!

Shiny new tankless water heaterIsn’t it pretty? It’s very slim and so much smaller than the big ugly tank. It sits quite nicely above the washer, although it had to be mounted a bit lower than we thought because there’s another pipe in its way. The washing machine is portable, it can move anywhere, and eventually we’ll do something with the laundry room and this won’t even be where the washer and dryer need to sit.

The nice installation man showed me how it works and pointed out all the important shut-off valves. The small little digital box to the left of the tank is the thermostat, which you can set easily with the push of a button. I set it to 120 F because there’s no need to scald myself with all the hot water I can made on demand now.

The nicest change was all the space that opened up in the workout room:

Buh-bye old tanky! Please forgive the horrendous mess, the installation folks aren’t responsible for cleaning up what was under the old tank or mopping up their water spills.

Oscar inspectsLeftover pipes a-danglin'Such a big change! The awkward black pipe you see still in place is the drip pipe for whatever liquid comes out of the furnace. Again, it’s the same problem of someone who installed something and didn’t want to do the right thing, just the quick thing. One day we’ll come up with an alternative that isn’t running an ugly leaking black pipe into a floor drain in the other room. We’re thinking a pump that sends that water out somewhere else. Or chiseling up the concrete floor and making a drain in the same room as the furnace. Yeah, one of those.

The nicest part was watching them haul away the old clunker:

On the truck with you, beast!As for other mechanical things, the site inspection man from Reliance quoted us on a new furnace and AC to replace our somewhat-old-but-not-aging-and-dead mechanicals. Even with their “deeply discounted promotional” pricing, $6,400 (regularly $8,400) is really expensive, and far more than we plan on spending for a furnace and AC. They don’t need to be replaced yet, and we’ve been servicing them regularly like good little responsible homeowners. Dan knows for a fact that we can get a furnace and AC for way cheaper when the time comes.

As for our water heater, we were paying $25-ish a month for the old one through MorEnergy, and the price didn’t change when Reliance took over our account. The tankless unit rents for $39.95 a month plus HST and some garbage fee I didn’t pay attention to when it was explained to me on the phone. It should be between $45 and $50 a month. Now, “that’s a steep increase”, you say. I hear ya, but I’m curious to see what the savings in other utilities will be from not filling and heating a whole tank of water that we don’t use. I’ll keep you posted on the progress as we see our utility bills over the next year. I’m optimistic, and even if it doesn’t come out as huge savings, or savings at all, I’m happy not wasting the water and the energy. Go planet!

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Basement bathroom, here we come!

It’s happening, readers.  Like, for reals.  Our basement bathroom is becoming a thing.  Now, before you get your hopes up, this post does not show you a completed bathroom, because it’s not even close to done yet.  But it’s getting there, and the process is taking longer than we thought, so it deserves a progress update (or two).

Here’s the “bathroom” as you’ve known it since our basement flooding incident of early 2014:

Future bathroomAfter Simon patched the cracks in the walls around the future bathroom site, I roughed in where I thought the bathroom could go with painter’s tape.

We got as far as having studs where the walls were going to be, and that was where things sat for the better part of a year.

Bathroom!Simon had a slow January this year and wanted to get going on basement projects, but our funds were feeling a little pinched so close after Christmas, and someone (me!) having laser eye surgery (it ain’t cheap).  He finally got cracking at the basement in mid March, and one day I came home to this glorious sight:

The view coming down the stairsThis is the view as you come down the basement stairs and turn right into the workout room.  We have walls!  With insulation and drywall and everything!  Here’s the view from the other side:
Drywall, baby!

Entrance to bathroomOur plumbing is set up and ready to receive our vanity and toilet, which I’m guessing will be one of the last things to go into the room (what do I know, I’m not the one doing any of the work).  We picked up a toilet, faucet, and tile from Lowe’s in early February when they were having a DIY Days sale.

One toilet, for poopin'We got this throne for $99.  !!!  It’s a round bowl style, which apparently is less desirable than the elongated bowls that you might have in your solid gold mansion with your gold rocket car parked out front.  We have the round style in our upstairs bathroom and I’ve got no complaints.  Plus it was $99!  Did you know many toilets are significantly more expensive than $100?  I was a little surprised when we first went out toilet shopping that the kind of quality and features we wanted were going to cost us upwards of $200.  The model we got is high-efficiency with a MAP rating of 1000 (I believe that has some to do with numbers of flushes in its lifetime…?  The man at the store said a higher rating was better).

The tile we got is nothing special, it was on clearance and it’s a light grey with slightly darker grey wisps running across it.  It cost us $0.99 a square foot, and we only needed about 30 sq ft for the whole bathroom.  It was not the beautiful hexigon penny tile I had my eye on, but that would have cost us $400 for the same amount of coverage.

We picked up a cheapo vanity at Rona, as well as a light fixture.

Looks pretty good for $99I think it would be fair to say that the theme of our basement bathroom is $99.  This vanity also cost us $99, and we already know we like it because it’s the exact same one from our master bedroom ensuite bathroom at our last place.  Look familiar?

Rental house ensuite
We have no complaints about this piece – it’s modern looking, simple, and has a very small footprint, which is important for such a teensy little powder room.

The faucet we chose was from Lowe’s and I believe we got it on sale for $60 (thanks DIY Days!).  None of these pieces have been installed yet, but that will come in good time.

Our tiny little powder room now has a door too:

Bathroom doorSimon asked us what kind of door we wanted, and our answer was “the cheapest one”.  We originally asked him to hang the door with the hinge on the other side since it’s a tight space and we were concerned it would smack into the vanity.  He did, and it was a terrible choice.  You had to open the door, weasel in between the wall and the future-vanity, then close door before you could move over to the toilet.  He swapped the swing of the door and moved the light switch to the other wall and we’re much happier with the results.

Simon had to do some creative drywalling around the new basement window to accommodate the plumbing from the upstairs bathroom:

Awkward plumbing situationAnglesThe ceiling in the bathroom is going to be a drop panel style, so it will be easy in the future to access all that plumbing if there’s ever an issue.  No idea yet what kind of drop panel we will choose, but there are some pretty options available.

This is the mess we need to cover up with some kind of ceiling:

Ceiling messSimon also has a duct work detour splitter to work in, so that the existing duct work that goes up to the bathroom upstairs can also heat this tiny little basement room.

Most recently, Simon has been adding layer after layer of drywall mud to the walls to even out the seams between pieces, and he poured some stuff on the floor to level out the slope before he starts tiling:

Leveling out the floorAnd this is where things are right now.  I hope the rest of the stuff goes in quickly now that the fiddly behind-the-walls bits are mostly done.

April 6 updateOur involvement in this project will be priming and painting the walls once the taping and mudding is done, and before the tile goes down.  Quick, what colour should we choose?  You are limited to the colours we’ve already used in the house:

Paint colour paletteI’m leaning towards Greige, which so far has only been used in the upstairs living room, or Green Moss, which is the dining room colour.  Thoughts?

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