Category Archives: antique house

Time Flies

It does… time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Remember, we started our bathroom project in early February and here we are at the end of April, still no farther along than we were a month ago.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. We have learned a few things and made a few decisions. We learned that no matter who comes in to finish this job (contractors) they will have have to back track to a point where they feel secure in the current state of the bathroom and comfortable going forward from there. We also learned that the little tiny  bit of money we have left from our renovation budget is not enough to even pay a deposit for anyone. That is where the decisions have come in…

We are going to finish this bathroom ourselves. Yup. And I am betting we can do a much better job that our ex-asshat thieving contractor.

We decided not to rip out the surround and reset the tub, rebuild the surround etc … yet. Last weekend, we scraped away the grout that was cracking and crumbling and caulked with a lovely 100% silicone caulking. It seems to have done the job to prevent water from entering into the surround cavity. The water pools up on the lip of the tub and tumbles into the tub and down the drain. There is still the issue of the front, exterior lip leaking (remember the tub wasn’t leveled or supported) and water still runs out of the tub into the middle of the floor. But, it’s not as much and it seems to be possible to staunch the flow using a strategically placed wash cloth or sponge.

Next up: taking down the wall behind the vanity. We are going to leave the vanity cabinets where they are, poor plumbing and all. We will take down the lights, outlets and switches, and we will cut the wall level with the top edge of the vanity and take it all down. From here, we will red0 the wiring and then rebuild the wall, paint and reinstall (evenly, leveled and measured) the fixtures and lighting. At that point, we should be ready to deal with the company for the granite counter top installation.

After that, we will deal with sanding and repainting the walls, rebuilding the closet and then cleaning up the trim. And voila… basically finished. We will, someday in the future, have the surround and tub taken out and reset, rebuilt etc. But right now we haven’t the money or the expertise to do that, ourselves.

It certainly feel just like – starting over!

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I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die

Some days are just right for a little Johnny Cash…

I haven’t cried myself to sleep since I was young. Until now. Now I cry myself to sleep almost every night because I am at such a complete loss for what to do with this bathroom situation. We can not afford what contractors and contracting companies are asking to come  into a half finished, poorly done job, correct the problems and finish the job. So we’re stuck either doing nothing (and so not having ONE fully functional bathroom in this whole house) until we can save up the money -or- doing little bits and pieces ourselves. The problem with that is: Ron has the ability but not the time. I have the time but not the ability. Again then, we’re at an impass and can’t find our way to doing anything.

One of the unfortunate side effects of this whole rotten situation is that once again I am reminded about how very much I hate this house. I HATE THIS HOUSE. And as long as we’re in this house now, I will never be able to go into this bathroom and not think of what a complete ass this contractor was. He showed NO consideration for us in doing such a poor job, taking such a long time and not getting the job finished. He showed no respect to our house or belongings with the way he just cut into the brand new cabinetry so mindlessly, in the way he just slopped paint onto the rough and unsanded walls, the way he just so haphazardly put the closet together without forming corners or even measuring, clean cutting or sanding the wood. It’s like a giant “fuck you” to us though I fail to understand why as we paid exactly per the contract and paid for all the supplies as the ex-con tractor asked – and – without ever receiving a receipt from him.

The anxiety this situation is causing me is tremendous: I don’t sleep, I dream about this bathroom, I worry constantly, I’m edgy and snapping at my family, I’m frustrated with an entire industry, I’m terrified that another contractor will be as bad or worse. I have headaches, I have tension, I have shortness of breath, I have chest pains, I have upset stomach. Every single day.

The friction it is causing between my husband and myself is unbelievable, as we search for a solution to this dilemma, try and find a bit of money here and there to put towards this, to come to some kind of a decision. I’m sure the ex-contractor isn’t passing sleepless nights over this. I’m sure that he’s not worrying about what this family of three is doing without one fully functional bathroom in their house. I’m certain he’s not going to call me, apologize and start paying me back. In fact, I doubt this even crosses his mind at all.

I hate this house. I hate this house.

Beginning of the End

I feel a little like Chicken Little running around yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Maybe I’m being overdramatic, feeling used and abused, feeling duped. But the reality is, there are some major though perhaps not (yet) catastrophic, failings with this bathroom that lead us to believe that we’re probably going to have to rip the whole thing out and start again. It’s a thought that is making me sick to my stomach. I feel consumed by this whole fracking thing.

And my biggest worry is, do we confront the contractor? How? I do not want him back to make repairs because through out the course of this “renovation” I’ve had to ask him to fix things, do things over and he’s done worse every time. Why would this be any different? I will most certainly file a complaint with the state contractor licensing board but in the end that could take a very long time to get money back from the contractor to be able to pay for the next round of materials and labor. And what makes me most upset is the thought that we don’t truly know that the next contractor will be any better, any more or less honest about his abilities.

Snails Pace, Like Molasses, Glacial Speed

Snails pace, like molasses in winter, glacial speed – these metaphors aptly describe the speed at which this bathroom project is moving. I had a whine fest last post and I want to try today to let that go. So I will review the bit of progress we have made in the last 10 days.

Over the last ten days:

  1. the floor was tiled for the second time
  2. and grouted (though it will need more grouting because he managed to wash out a lot of it when wiping down the floor)
  3. the walls were painted (they were previously primed; they will need more coats as after painting he decided to spackle and sand some spots)
  4. the new tile surround was started (it does look good)
  5. a closet light was installed (off center to be sure but I have got to stop expecting perfection now I guess)

Am I expecting too much? To me this at most, 3-5 days work. I don’t know how C.T. manages to stretch it to 10 days without actually finishing any one of the tasks. I don’t know why we can’t get any one part of this project done to completion and move on to the next part IN ORDER… yes, IN ORDER: demo, build up, walls, floors, -then whatever- bath surround, cabinets, closet – those items have some lee way regarding order of operations, the demo, build up, walls, floors do not.

Basically speaking, C.T. jumps around project to project without completely finishing any one item. Today he arrived with samples for closet fixtures (thinking ahead???) when I’ve indicated, asked, said 10 billion times that I simply want plain wood supports with shelves — NOT these craptastic light aluminum frames with aluminum supports that will bend and twist and break and are not what I’ve wanted. Ever.

This is what I want for shelves in my closet.

NOT this, no thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK.

This post was not supposed to be me bitching but rather looking at those things which have been done, in a positive light. So here we go…

A nice representation of the light blue color we chose for the walls.

The new and level (mostly) floor and tub.

The subway tile bath surround.

The color - yes, we're just looking at the color - of our bathroom.

SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED

I’m sick of my house looking and feeling like a construction zone. I am sick of mopping construction dust every single day. I am sick of navigating my way around boxes and piles and tools, every single day. I am sick of having someone in the house every single effing day. I’m sick of having to drive 15-min away to shower every single day or not getting to shower at all. I am sick of having the ONLY toilet in the house being as far away from my bedroom as it can get and still be in the house. I am especially sick of this at night.

I am SICK & TIRED of this project. It has officially gone on – WAY TOO LONG.

And it’s never going to end.

Here is my advice for the week, get an estimate for how long your project will take IN WRITING but temper this with the understanding that sometimes things take a little longer. It should not take three times as long …but…

When we signed on with this contractor, he said it would take two to three weeks. That’s easy enough to deal with It has been 5 weeks now and we’re 2 days into the 6th week. Unfortunately, C.T. arrives late in the morning, leaves early in the afternoon. This doesn’t leave much time for getting anything finished. Usually something is started or some small thing gets done and there is plenty of chatting and planning and often some shopping thrown in there too. But as for any significant amount of work, well – that doesn’t happen. It’s small things done in fits and starts and that is exactly why we’re into week *&@$-ing six of this project!

And it’s never going to end.

The counter people come tomorrow to template the cabinet tops for the counter tops.  But the cabinets are not yet installed because the tile under the cabinets is not yet sealed because C.T. would like to do a second round of grout which he can’t do until he finishes painting the wall which can’t be done until he sands then primes the spackle spots. (Just for the record, he hasn’t touched the grout, sealer, sand paper or paint today. He’s tiling the bathtub surround which has nothing to do with getting the cabinets installed. Nothing at all.) Is this starting to sound like the House that Jack Built? It is, except it’s the bathroom that C.T. built; is still building.

And it’s never going to end.

And here’s why: C.T. is ONE man doing this job ALONE. So when he needs to run out to the hardware store – the job stops progressing. When he gets sick or has an appointment or needs a couple days off – the job stops. Or when he is laying tile, the walls don’t get painted, the closet doesn’t get built, the door doesn’t get taken off the hinges to be stripped and painted, the fixtures don’t get mounted, the toilet doesn’t get installed. And I spend yet another day schlepping my stinky self 15-minutes away just to have a shower. I have to FULLY wake up in the middle of the night to maneuver down the stairs, through the dark living room, dining room, and kitchen to the little powder room and then back again to my bedroom where I lie awake wondering and worrying about the bathroom.

And it feels like it’s never going to end.

Holding Pattern

There are up times and down times involved in a remodel. It’s certainly understandable to me now why any contractor or contractor group would take multiple jobs in order to simply be working consistently, receiving a consistent income etc.

Right now, we are in a holding pattern, nothing has been done on the bathroom for several days and nothing will be done for several days more, bringing the cumulated downtime for this project to nearly two weeks.  I honestly don’t know if this holding pattern is because of something we, the homeowners, have done or because of some flaw in how our contractor does things.  I suppose it’s a little bit of both.

We had one day down waiting for the bathtub to arrive. We had a couple days down waiting for the plumber. We had a couple days off waiting for the tile. We lost two days because the tile installation was incorrect (contractor used a cushiony mastic adhesive rather than thin set and neglected to level the floor first.) The floor had to be ripped up and done over, plus time spent for new purchases for backer board, screws, self-leveling compound etc.

This has to be the hardest thing about a remodel… telling the contractor that you are not happy with something he (or she) has done. I had a stress induced stomach ache for about 12-hours while I mulled over what to do. Do I tell him? I have to! How do I phrase it? Who eats the cost? (You would expect the contractor but in the end it’s the homeowner. He loses a day or two of labor but since he’s paid by the job, it doesn’t matter. We lose several more days too, having a non functioning bathroom plus we lose the cost in having to purchase a second round of materials, and another trip to the dump to get rid of the 6 bags of garbage from the initial effort. Harrumph. Interestingly, having had to “confront” the contractor this first time made it infinitely easy for me to tell him that I prefer he use white thin-set mortar under our white tile and white grout rather than the gray he purchased. And it also made it very easy for me to check everything with a level to make a determination that the floor is up to my standard.

We are now waiting for the new floor tiles to arrive and until that point, I am told, nothing can be done: not the ceiling painting, not the wall painting, not the window casing, not the closet light … nothing. We will have the tiles on Tuesday and so won’t be picking up the project again until Wednesday. Sigh. That brings us to 12 days down. So far we have 29-days under our belt with this. It’s getting old but I keep my morale up by dreaming about how wonderful it’s going to feel when I take my first soak!! Also let the record show that the bathroom cabinetry has arrived and I love it!!

Enjoy the photos or let them serve as a warning to you –

  1. Do not use mastic adhesive on FLOOR tiles.
  2. Please level your floor first.
  3. Do not be afraid to speak up if it’s not to your liking or standards.

Happy reading!

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IT’S A DIRTY BUSINESS

So we’ve started right in with the main bathroom renovation: main bathroom, not master bathroom. There is no “master” bath in this house. There is just one full bathroom (the “main bath”) and one ½ bath – a small powder room off the kitchen.  We have a number of hygiene resources at our disposal including showers at the gym, at the homes of friends, neighbors and relatives. We have a shower at the office, though it’s a little weird to shower there. If nothing else, the powder room bath can provide a place for “bird baths” and dental hygiene, and the kitchen sink can be used for washing hair. None the less, I find myself feeling slightly dirty –and not in a good way- all the time. I think it’s is mostly being off a normal routine.

Looking into the bathroom, the right is where the big double vanity was, and will be again.

Renovations are a lot like archeology: every layer uncovered tells you something you didn’t know or reaffirms what you already thought you knew. And like any good excavating site, there is plenty of dirt, tons of dust and enough various sorts of debris to keep even the most curious excavator occupied for a very long time. Regarding our renovations, both of these are true!

For example, I didn’t know that it was fairly common for people to pour a concrete floor pad, even on the second floor, to more easily level the floors of a crooked house. And, while I could easily see that the previous homeowner fancied himself a handyman, I was further shown the depth of his construction confidence when we excavated the bathroom walls. The previous homeowner was able to practice a myriad of skills all in one tiny bathroom! Under the ¾” wood flooring used as paneling we found fully tiled walls on ½” plywood nailed ½” wall board with several layers of wall paper. (I’m just glad I didn’t have to revert to steaming and scraping.)

We’ve also drawn the conclusion that the previous tenants were short. The bathtub alcove had (I love that this is in the past tense) 12” soffit apropos of nothing. No pipes, no electrical wires, no vents. Just an empty, ornamental soffit that had the effect of dropping the already low (approx 7.5’) ceilings by a whole foot in the tub area and the neighboring shower stall. Perhaps it made reaching the tiled ceiling easier? Maybe for cleaning? Okay we can go with that.

Back wall of the tub alcove and the alcove soffit.

The amount of dirt and debris generated by the complete, down to the sub floor and wall studs, deconstruction of the bathroom rivals any real life archeological excavation site. We found evidence of a very old rat/squirrel/mouse infestation. Eighty years of the dust and muck of everyday life was embedded in this bathroom, in the walls, between joints, below the floor, under the shower pan. It is a gruesome thought and I am eternally thankful for dust masks, respirators and vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters.

As we continued excavating the bathroom we found that the copper pipes were worn and breaking, and the electrical wire covers were deteriorated in a way that surprised everyone. One wonders if these items can be dated by how quickly they crumble to the touch… Looking at the bright side: while there have been no water leaks or electrical fires in the three years we’ve been living here, we can now rest assured that there likely won’t be. But we will be changing the batteries in all the smoke detectors anyway!!

(More photos to come shortly; please check back soon!)