Seven years ago, I made the best purchase of my life, that being my house. Its incredible that its been so long and the place has come so far in the last few years. I started out redoing the kitchen, making it functional and up to modern standards. I moved on to the living room, the bedrooms, both upstairs rooms and the dining room. I’ve added a deck, done a full landscaping job, put better insulation in and redone the drainage for the basement. Its been a long, long road to get the house to this state, as it was a large, beige nothingness when it came to my possession.
But the one thing that I have been most proud of and most disappointed with is the bathroom. Four years ago, I gutted it. It was the most two horrible weekends of my life and the first salvo of me v/s plumbing war. As of right now, the score stands at me 2 and plumbing a few dozen. I lose, badly I might add, most of the time, and this was one of the worst.
When I ripped open the wall, removing the shower insert, I found a nightmare. The 18 inches of plaster wall above the shower had been removed and replaced with plywood. Above the wood was the original green, plastic, ungrouted tiles. The controls for the shower were original to the house and impossible to reuse once I started to remove them. This happened on Friday night and by Saturday morning, I was on the phone with my dad, begging for help as there was no way I would ever be able to fix all these problems on my own. He came, we had the plumbing work done in a couple hours and he went home. Given that I had to complete the work by Sunday night and it was late Saturday, I was under a major time crunch.
It was at this point that I came to a very important realization… there are three important inputs to any project: time, money and quality. I knew my schedule, I knew my cash supply and realized that the only thing that could give in this was quality. The right way to do this project would be to rip out all the plaster, the plywood and put back in concrete backer board.
As you can guess, I sacrificed quality. I could have sacrificed it on an alter with a fatted calf for all the good it would have done me in making the job last the test of time. Within a year, the grout turned black and started chipping off. I did my best to save my beautiful project, regrouting a few times and eventually resorting to the most horrible of cheap fixes… caulk. Yet, nothing worked and the black stuff kept growing and growing and growing.
A few months ago, I broke down and decided it was time to rip the wall out and fix it correctly. This time I have the cash, I don’t have a real schedule to keep and thus, quality will return! My biggest fear was not the plumbing, as I didn’t plan on touching the controls more than to remove the knob and then work around the rest of the unit. No, what worried me the most was finding matching tile.
Lowes, you amaze me. You haven’t carried this particular type of tile in years, yet you could special order it for me! It may take you a few weeks, yet eventually my package does arrive and the tiles are a perfect match with those on the wall.
So last weekend, I had all the items I needed to start this project and no good reason to put it off any longer, so Friday night, me and my favorite sledge hammer took a beating to that old, nasty wall. The demolition goes amazing. It all comes down in a little over an hour, with the cleanup from that taking nearly twice as long.
Saturday, I get up, head back to Lowes to purchase a few more items and begin the creation of new walls. I put on the underlayment and then add the backerboard. I set out the mortar and water, unwrap all the tile and get ready to mix it all together.
Its at this point that I need to step 20 years into the past and tell a little story. One of my pastors growing up once remodeled his basement. He got all the drywall up, started the mud work and at that point he heard a noise inside the wall… his daughter’s cat. The wall came completely back down and the work had to be completely redone from the beginning.
Now, knowing that previous story, and knowing that I have one cat who is just a royal pain in my ass, I was EXTREMELY cautious about making sure my brat cat was not between the wall and the tub. I always looked down in the gap and never even saw her in the room. Of course, the reason I never saw her is that one of the times I was outside cutting lumber, she had crawled down in the space, not just between wall and tub, but all the way around the inside of the tub to the front side of the tub. She was so far in there I couldn’t even reach her.
By this point, I hope you realize that I had to disassemble the entire wall and wait 45 minutes for the stupid cat to crawl back out. Yes, I was very, very, very angry. But the wall did get put back together and the tile was applied. Eventually, with the help of my girlfriend, the grout even got applied.
The project was a success, as you can see from the above pictures. Yes, my cat lived, but had the tile gone on the wall before I heard her little meow, I would have found it difficult to take it back apart for such a brat. Yeah, I know, the smell would have been awful, but I think I could have dealt with it.
The story doesn’t end there, though! Sunday morning, I awoke with a splitting headache. That’s probably part ragweed allergies but a lot more from the dust cloud now inhabiting my house. To combat the headache, I downed an Alleve and a couple Excedrin… which promptly ate into my stomach lining, and I have been suffering for two days now in what I believe to be my first ulcer.
All I have to say to this is, getting older sucks.
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