Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Why would I want to take a second-floor bathroom that looks like this...

...and allow my boys in with hammers and wrecking bars... make it look like this...

...then like this...

...then like this?

Because I can?


Because I want to?

No. Y'all know I hate plumbing and bathrooms are usually full of plumbing.

It's because it desperately needed it, for the following reasons:

The claw-foot bathtub had to go. Some prior owner framed it in by building a wall around it, making it look like some sort of bath-nook. His framing job was bad and his tile job was even worse. The grout was falling out and what was left was mildewed. The tub was also propped up on one end so it would drain properly. The house has settled significantly over the past 130 years or so, and the bathroom has a decided lean to it.

The floor was spongy. The prior owner covered up a problem by putting laminate floor over it. That just made the laminate floor look like it had a problem also.

The house and the plumbing have settled at different rates. The result is that the main waste stack is now at least three inches higher than it used to be relative to the rest of the house. This made the toilet lean forward at a rather precarious angle. The floor around the throne was built up slightly in an attempt to compensate for the plumbing. While that hid the pipes from showing through, it didn't do anything for the slope of the floor, or the obvious lean of the toilet.

This is one of those jobs that works like an onion. On the surface it doesn't look too bad. Peeling away one layer makes you cry and reveals another layer. Peeling away that layer makes you cry again and reveals another layer. And so on, ad infinitum.

So, let the extreme makeover begin.

It has to get worse before it gets better. Here are the steps to making it worse.

1. Remove the toilet and the sink.
2. Remove all the tile and the false wall around the claw-foot tub. This creates an enormous amount of dust and debris. The entire tub is now full of broken tile, dirt, plaster chunks, nails, and cement backer board.
3. Remove the laminate floor.
4. Observe all the moisture problems under the laminate floor.
5. Remove the rotten hardwood floor. I'm sure it was beautiful at one time. It's not beautiful now.
6. Remove portions of the subfloor to expose the plumbing. Actually, most of it was already exposed, having pushed itself through the subfloor.
7. Clean the tub out and remove the tub. I had the boys wrestle it down the stairs. They are younger and stronger than I am and need these colorful experiences. The tub was extremely heavy and the stairs extremely narrow. They are now much better for having experienced this.
8. Look at the plumbing and scratch my head. I'm either going to have to lower the plumbing or raise the floor. I vote for lowering the plumbing. Unfortunately this has other implications and eventually led to removing the entire waste stack, from the basement all the way through the roof. This affects the first floor bathroom also (not to mention every other plumbing fixture in the house). Now the first floor bathroom has large holes in the wall.
9. Rebuild the waste stack using PVC plastic pipe. It looks a lot better now. And it doesn't leak. Several of the sections of old iron pipe were split and leaking, and one broke completely in half as I was attempting to remove it. I think I made the right decision.
10. Observe how the prior owner fixed plumbing problems by joining pipe without glue. In one instance, he accounted for the difference in size between two fittings by stuffing the gaps with a plastic shopping bag. I'm sure Meijer would be interested that their bag was recycled in this manner.
11. Remove all the lath and plaster. It was in rough shape anyway. We'll start fresh with drywall.

I think I'm nearly at the point where I can start making it better. It can't get much worse than this. There's practically nothing left.

Now I just have to compensate for the slant of the house, install a new subfloor, install new plumbing for the bathtub and shower, insulate the outer wall, fix the window, modify the heating ducts, install new drywall, install new fixtures, including new tub and surround, install new finish flooring, and finally finish it off with paint.

Once this is all done, I get to do most of this over again in the bathroom downstairs.

Wanna help?

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