It seems fitting that the first major project in the house would be the bathroom, because it's really a crap job
If I were married with children, this would be almost impossible to live in during the process as my wife would be complaining about dust in her panty drawer and the kids would be peeing on trees,
but I'm older and more patient than my younger alpha self and been getting comfortable with the dust in my own crack for quite some time now. I will live, and most undoubtedly survive my crusty regions.
I have been a DIY junky in my own homes for years, staged, renovated and helped design for many others and still find it ridiculous how impatient and unreasonable that homeowners become during the renovation and design process. It generally takes twice as long as expected and costs 3x as much given their original expectations because, YES................shit happens. If we could actually look into the future to what damage the present walls reveal for what was not done properly in the past, we most likely wouldn't get out of bed to even make an attempt.
The fact is, this is the largest renovation that I have ever done for myself, and even with decades of history living in these walls, every skinning reveals another layer of botox that needs a full blown Joan Rivers. There's plaster and paint covering cracks. Windows leaning to the left. Floors sagging and bowing. Electrical maxed to capactity. Coroded plumbing and drains. Old wells, Ancient septic. Leaking roofs. Dated fixtures and cabintery......................and that's just the garage.
The original bathroom, which is also the main facilities for the 1500sq ft house, is no bigger than 8x5 which includes a multi use closet that actually opened to the hallway, not the bathroom itself.
So yes, the actual usable square footage was probably no more than 30 sq ft excluding the tub/shower combination. Since I have generally lived in older homes, or space confined city dwellings, most bathrooms that I have lived with were not much larger than that, and most of us can relate. Enormous bathrooms are generally something found in larger custom homes and even then good design, efficient use of space and fine finishes can truly feel more upscale than just extra frivolous dance space and a disco ball.
After "Cleaning the Closets" and moving forward with a general idea of the best use of re-configured space, the actual tear out and real first hand look at the bones of the house had to take place.
After the essentials of tub, toilet, sink, medicine cabinet and fixtures were removed, the drywall came out. We replaced the roof last year to give us a clean and dry environment hopefully for the remainder of my life and in doing so was not surprised at finding water damage and mold in the walls from years of neglect and quick fixes. This is a fairly common event in bathroom and kitchen remodels, so I didn't shake in my shoes too much.
Next the floor was removed and the ups, downs, slants, pitches, and bows of the floor in every direction, due primarily to age and a major under house leak 25 years ago ,was made painfully obvious to the bedrooms and on into the previous hallway and livingroom. Joists were removed and replaced in all the appropriate directions and slighlty sloping bedroom floors were jacked and braced so as to create a livable situation that had some common end in lieu of tearing down the entire house and starting over again.
You have to be reasonable with renovations as nothing is ever perfect and you have to pick your battles. It's like running your finger over a dusty black car. You might want to make it look like pinstripes or else you just have to wash the whole darn thing. The upside result however is a nice, flat, sturdy foundation to build upwards from.
I had hoped to just be able to retrofit the existing plumbing in an effeort to reconfigure the newer larger space which had taken advantage of two closets that will also house a stackable set of washer/dryer. That was not to be. One good mis-step on an old set of metal pipes and we had a nice big leak. At this point, as most everything to and from the house ran through this room, going ahead and replacing all of the lines in the house seemed like the smart thing to do. I wasn't surprised and would actually feel more comfortable going forward with some new pipes. Wouldn't we all? The added cost and time was worth it. Peace of mind is priceless. It's just a fact that the things that you can't see in a reno are going to far outweigh the things that you can in cost and importance. You shouldn't put $3000 wheels on a $500 car and you shouldn't buy a $1500 sink and hook it up to 60 year old lead pipes with new plastic fittings.
While hooking new pipes up to the toilet trap, it needed to be cleaned out from years of.........................well, you get the picture. It had to be power sprayed by a professional, but first the septic tank had to be emptied so as not to create a backwash of its contents into the crawl space of the house. One check, two check, three checks, two days later, four days off schedule, six degrees of separation and back to the job of all of the process you see after working and paying days of the necessary progress that you won't see.
The up side is that the plumbing and venting for the new laundry and all the new pipes for the kitchen, water heater and softener will help to expedite that process going forward. As much as problems can snowball, you have to have faith that proper planning while addressing current problems can create better building blocks for what comes next.
Last night the tub was set in place. I wanted to just do a stand up shower, and given the larger but still limited space, there would not be room for a tub. As this is the only full bathroom at this point (increasing the size of the half bath and adding a shower to creat a 3/4 bath in the family room is an option and plan for later) I opted for a tub/shower combo. We decided on a solid steel enameled tub for a number of reasons. 1. It's a better base for adding wall tile. 2. I personally don't like the built in textured, non-skid feature in fiberglass tubs. It always looks dirty to me. 3. I prefer the cleanability and substantial feel of an old school tub without grungy jets and scratched surfaces. Sometimes a good old work truck with a tune up and fresh coat of paint will look better and work harder than a brand new Chevette. This is not a huge house and everything needs to serve multiple purposes. Until you can afford the million dollar digs and staff, the tub needs to be the floor of the shower, bathe the kids, wash the dog, clean the paint brushes and soak the turkey roaster.
Let's not fool ourselves as we all know it is what it is. It needs to be able to be scrubbed, polished and sanitized repeatedly and with a surface that can take it.
One of the many benefits of taking my time with this reno is the ability to look forward with creative eyes. The beauty is in the details and having a moment or two to actually live with the space and fluctuating costs of the necessities, the fun part of envisioning custom touches while we still have the ability to do it with reasonable costs and time constraints becomes key. We have changed the general layout of the newly enlarged bathroom space a number of times. Each time taking into consideration current plumbing locations, future needs and the cost benefit of each option. The renovated bathroom will in essence be twice the size of the old one, but will also need to accomodate a stack washer dryer combo and provide enough extra storage to justify having lost two full narrrow hallway closets.
The doorway has been centered with the window on the oposite wall. It will be a sliding barn door so as not open in or out to use up any valuable walk space or create any awkward movement. To the left of the entrance will be the tub/shower combination with the washer dryer being housed on the same wall. Across from the laundry will be the stool with the vanity,storage,sink across from the tub. The sink will be the first thng to the right of the door and tub to the left. The shower will camoflauge the laundry and the vanity will give the stool privacy. In thinking of custom touches, the wall next to the vanity and beside the door, will house a long vertical row of glass blocks that will allow for light both directions, add some interest and mirror some block work that will be taking place in the kitchen. Copying custom touches throughout the home, especially a smaller house, can make it look cohesive, planned and visually larger.
Over the next few days the finish framing and then drywall and some damage control for the floors and ceiling will take place in about 1/4 or more of the house to help seal the deal on a section before moving on to the rest. Next will be the fun part of choosing finishes such as flooring, tile, faucets, lighting etc, So for tonight, one more trip to the tree and cold shower with the hose and my buddy Hemingway in the backyard, with sweet dreams for a nice new, shiny, power flushing indoor outhouse in my not so distant bubble bath future..................