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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Remodel Report: Not One, But Two Bathrooms...

I will confess right upfront that I am partially to blame for escalating what was intended by my wife to be a very small project into something a little bigger. But only if she will take full responsibility for wanting to do the second upstairs bathroom as I was trying to put away the tools following the first.

This started with a mirror. When our home was built in the mid 1970's, there was a full sized wall mirror that was mounted above the 6 foot long vanity. I personally think that is a good thing. But after seeing some of the new modernized stylish mirrors that people put in their bathrooms, my wife was ready for a change. So the idea was to pull out the huge mirror and replace it with something smaller, and do some minor painting and maybe replace the light fixture. Technically, a one day job.
Then I suggested we replace the dual-sink, mint green Formica bathroom counter top with a single sink, tiled surface. And I thought we should remove the horrendous texture on the ceiling with some less noticeable smooth texture, and remove and replace the highly offensive combination light/fan/heater unit with a new one. Oh, I wanted to go further. I wanted to rip out all the sheet rock in the entire bathroom and start from scratch but she had to draw the line somewhere.

I don't want to turn this into some Bob Vila tutorial, because Lord knows, we are generally flying by the seat of our pants on this kind of thing, but I would like to offer just a few points to those of you who are homeowners and want to tackle something like this.

Do not screw over the next homeowner. The people who remodeled this bathroom the first time tried a few things that were just beyond their capability and it showed. When we bought the house, the crappy texture job was not a deal breaker because I knew eventually I would either pay someone to fix it or do it myself. But the wiring and the installation of the exhaust fan were problems that I had to deal with (with some help from friends) and some of the plumbing left some craftsmanship to be desired. So all I am saying is, unless you know that you are going to be the last person to live in a house, try to avoid making the next homeowners job that much harder.

Once we made the decision to install a new tile counter top, we hit several places looking. Here in San Antonio, we are lucky that we have numerous tile outlets so you can go in and pick and choose and generally get a good deal. We did go to Floor & Decor on Bandera and even stopped in at a few of the places on 1604 that were closed when we happened to be there. So being the impulse buyers that we are, we bought our tile from Lowes. I was expecting we would pay maybe $2.50 to $4.00 per tile. The one my wife chose was $11.00 per tile. Oh well.
So, not that I'm one in a position to give advice (or perhaps, I am in exactly the position), take your time and shop. I promise you can get a good look for less than $11.00 a tile. But it does look pretty good.

I do have to tell you the story of the wiring on the overhead exhaust fan. The previous owners had wired it backwards and we simply lived with it. No real harm. The Vent switch turned on the vent. The Heater switched turned on the light, and the Light switch turned on the heater. As long as you know what works, you can live in a house for 10 years and not mind it. So when it came time to replace the unit, I decided to wire it correctly so that the switch (which is labeled) would turn on the appropriate thing - light for light, heater for heater etc.

I simply left the wires hot and used my little electricity tester to make sure I knew which wires were which, and marked them when I was removing the old unit. A few days later when I had finished texturing the ceiling, I went to install the new unit and immediately was frustrated to find that things did not work as expected.

To hear my wife tell the story, I worked on it for almost two hours. I think a more accurate depiction of the chronology of events was maybe 20 minutes, give or take an hour. Either way, this was at the same time my wife was laying down the new tile on the counter top, so how could she know? Anyway, I decided to just forget the fixture and help her.

By the end of the evening, I had replayed the wiring diagram in my head, and it dawned on me that being a three-way switch, it was different than the standard black-goes-to-black, white-goes-to-white situation. But of course, it was bed time and I decided I would knock it out the following day after work.
Fast forward to me walking in the door the following day and finding my wife up on the ladder messing with the fixture. I immediately demanded she remove herself from my workspace before she messed up my wiring. Her response, "What, you don't think I can read the instructions?" With a few flicks of switches, the light came on, the vent came on and the heater came on, all perfectly assigned to the appropriate switch. WTH?Of course, I starting listing off names of people I suspected having come to the rescue, and she was able to keep a straight face until I mentioned friends Matt & Lea. That was it, she busted out laughing and the gig was up. She said Matt was able to diagnose and wire the vent in less than ten minutes.And I guess it was that time saved that caused my wife to get up Saturday morning and suggest we do the master bathroom. We didn't do nearly as much - just the counter top, a new GFCI plug, mirror and the new sink. Same colors, same $11.00 tile. And we are very happy with it.

And that's it. I'm not doing anything for the foreseeable future.

Need more pictures of the project? You can always hit the Flickr Page.


Anonymous said...

Eva Says:)

Ummm Hello Foreseeable future is here.I am off for 2 more months . I am not done with you by a long shot:). 2 more projects left maybe 3.I will give you 2 week breaks in between.hehe .Hard labor is good for you and makes ya manly.;). I like it ,I like it a lot whoohoo.

Anonymous said...

I am deeply in love, but I can't decide which of you I want to marry: You, Eva, or Lea. You are all just too bravely cool. I barely had the guts to get rid of that wall mirror that came with my house.


Dave said...

I can't decide which of you I want to marry: You, Eva, or Lea.

Time to start one of those '60's style communes...

Anonymous said...

wow that is a cool bthroom. i wish i had one

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