Where has the Quirky Uncle been?


January 18, 2014 by quirkyuncle@gmail.com

As you might have noticed, there hasn’t been any new content posted to this blog in a few months. Why not, you ask?

We’ll, I’ve been in the bathroom… literally.

Minimalist Bathroom

What started as a simple paint discoloration on the wall next to our master bath shower has turned into the all-consuming bathroom remodel from Hell.

Eventually, you will see postings about the various tasks we performed and the things that we learned. This posting is merely an introductory summary and an explanation for my absence.

It all started so innocently…

…with a damp spot on the drywall next to our shower that required removal of the wall tile to determine its cause. We needed to take out and replace all of the tile on the bathroom walls so that everything would match after the repair. Since they used the same tile on the tub deck and floor as the shower walls, we needed to remove those, as well. In spite of the fact that we weren’t planning to remodel the bathroom , we saw it as a good opportunity to upgrade the tile to something nicer than plain builder-grade white.

Whiter than white

Of course, the glass shower enclosure needed to come out to remove the tile behind it. This removal was somewhat destructive and the enclosure was ugly, so we decided to get a nice, new, all-glass one to replace it.

Since we were going to all this trouble, might as well get the jetted tub we always wanted and upgrade our single shower head. It also seemed like a good time to replace the ugly vanity, too.

And then there was the bathroom window. It would be so nice to have a bathroom window that opened, instead of a big fixed pane of glass. This would be great for providing ventilation during normal use and during construction to keep nasty air out of our master bedroom. So, we decided to replace the window, too.

The project had increased in scale, but we could see many tangible benefits at the end to make it worthwhile. We assumed it would take us a month or two to complete. We’d just share the hall bathroom with our kids for a while.

That was last July (six months ago). Now you know what happens when you assume.

Don’t ever assume!

We opted to choose all the fixtures we’d need in advance, so as not to delay the construction process once we got started. This took longer than we expected, due to dealing with vendors who lacked interest or knowledge, and an exciting purchasing adventure that almost resulted in identity theft. We tried to order items as needed for each phase of the project, to spread the cost over a longer period of time.

Let the games begin!

Replacing the window was our first construction task, so we could easily vent the room externally if any mold was encountered. Being big proponents of reuse (and kinda cheap), we tried to find a used window. It was fun going through the salvage yards, but only ended up wasting a couple Saturday mornings. There were no decent windows to be had in the size we needed, so we ordered a new sliding window, this being the cheapest design alternative. Installation was unremarkable, taking two days (including the external caulking and painting, but not including the inside trim, which we’d take care of later).

By the time the window was done, the rough plumbing fixtures and tub had arrived. It was time to begin demolition!

This was where things started going wrong, real fast.

To call the double layer of drywall behind the shower tiles “drywall” was a misnomer: it was “wet wall.” Both layers of the water resistant gypsum were soaked giving it the consistency of peanut butter. The wall insulation was wet and even the plywood sheathing was damp. The grout had failed, in a big way.

Not good and it got even worse…

The original shower was a tiled unit with a curbed entry. The shower floor tiles were laid in a bed of cement poured over a rubber liner. This rubber liner is designed to separate the wet shower from the dry wood framing of the house. The liner acts like a big shower condom. Condoms and shower pans are not supposed to leak, ever.

Our liner was cut half an inch short at one end when it was originally installed. Once the grout in the shower degraded, the missing liner exposed the wood structure of our home to moisture.

We had a leaky shower condom… uh, shower pan! Bad things were happening.

I’ll spare you the nauseating details. Suffice it to say that there was water damage to areas that wasn’t expected. Water leaks can manifest themselves in places far removed from the place where the leak actually occurs. In our case, the sub-floor damage was in the center of the room, several feet from where the liner leaked.

The bathroom demolition proceeded like an evil Russian doll. Each layer that we removed seemed to reveal another time-consuming problem that needed to be addressed.


A mold inspection needed to be scheduled. Thankfully, and to our amazement, there wasn’t any mold inside of our wet walls or floor. We did, however, need to re-do some framing and replace the area of sub-floor that had rotted. A professional contractor that we knew helped us with that part of the job.

It all took time, lots of time, as did plumbing our crazy new shower configuration, building a shower enclosure that was certain to be waterproof (so nothing like this would ever happen again), and completely rebuilding the tub deck for the new jetted tub.

Six months later, we are still sharing the hall bath with our children, who have grown to despise our presence nearly as much as we hate being there. But, I think (hoping, not assuming) the worst part is over. After framing, insulating, plumbing (including removal of a toilet that was GLUED in place – more on that in another post), floor heater installation, and scary-but-not-so-scary floor leveling, we are now installing tile! We hope to put in the new tub, new toilet, and new vanity, soon.

“Soon” is a relative term, we’ve come to learn.

So, is there and end in sight?

With finished surfaces starting to get installed, it is beginning to resemble a bathroom again! Enough like a bathroom that the dark clouds of project-induced depression are starting to dissipate: my creativity is starting to return, giving me enough motivation to write this posting.

It’s funny how having your personal bathing/pooping/tooth-brushing/shaving sanctuary taken away, along with most of your leisure time and money, can affect you. These are what we call first world problems; as trivial as they might be in the big scheme of things, they do wear you down.

With my muse returning, check back for a (long) series of detailed postings chronicling our journey through, and our potential emergence from, Bathroom Purgatory!

Leaving purgatory

This is an engraving by Gustave DorĂ© of Dante’s group leaving Purgatory. I’m not sure why Dante didn’t include performing a bathroom renovation as part of his Hell and Purgatory chronicles. Perhaps it was a vision too hellish for even his imagination.


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