Okay okay okay, I know I owe you stories about the bathroom and I’m totally going to give you a story about the bathroom today, but first I just want you to know how hard it is to tell you about the bathroom when I just finished a whole other blitz that I really want to talk about right now: the floors.
I pulled up the last of the carpet on the stairs and second floor and then sanded and finished the floor, in 2.5 days. By myself. Because everybody was like, “Sarah, when are you going to start working on the baby’s room?” And I was like, “GAH! The pressure!” So, everybody who kept asking me about the baby’s room? This was your fault.
Anyway. Today is about the bathroom, so the Floor Blitz will have to wait.
You might recall that the goal in the bathroom was to gut it and return it to functionality in three days. It took us five. Which is PRETTY. DAMN. GOOD. Especially considering that these things always take twice as long as you think they should. By that standard, we actually finished ahead of schedule.
My original schedule went like this:
Day 1: Demo and plumbing
Day 2: New floor and walls
Day 3: Toilet and sink
In reality, it went like this:
Day 1: Demo and minor plumbing
Day 2: Plumbing; structural reinforcement for floating vanity
Day 3: New subfloor; shim and prep walls
Day 4: New walls
Day 5: New finish floor; trim and paint one wall; install sink and toilet
So obviously we ran into a couple of problems and took on some unexpected projects. But still. Five days. I know this is the part where I’m supposed to make you laugh at all the mistakes I made, but I just renovated a bathroom in five days while 33 weeks pregnant and right now, I kinda feel like this:
Does that look like the kind of person that makes mistakes to you?
I’ll tell you what, the biggest problem was with my planning, and it was a rookie-parent mistake rather than a rookie-renovator mistake: this being our first major renovation since having a kid, we did not realize that our workdays would be several hours shorter than we were accustomed to. The work stops at 4:30 to accommodate child pick-up (more like 4:00 so there’s time to clean the mess up before exposing a toddler to a work site), and there’s no making up for lost time after she goes to bed, because she’s sleeping, and renovation is noisy, and the two things do not coexist peacefully.
So I was planning on three 10-12 hour days, and what I got was five 7-hour days. If you do the math on those hours, my time estimate was actually in the ballpark — I just framed my answer using the wrong units.
Okay, brass tacks: demolition is hard work and I roped a friend into being my stunt double. Lindsay and Chris did 90% of it. And now Lindsay and I are even for that time I helped her break up and haul away a concrete sidewalk. Because this is what girlfriends are for.
Here’s me doing my 10%. You can’t see it, but I’m holding a wrecking bar.
During demo, we discovered three unexpected things, two of which added to the scope of work:
- The reason that the subfloor was rotted around the toilet was because the 113-year-old cast iron flange was crumbling to rusty bits. We could just replace the subfloor as planned, but the toilet would continue to leak, possibly worse than before now that we disturbed it, which would make the new subfloor rot just like the old one.
- The walls had several more layers than anticipated, and no matter which layer we stopped at, we were going to have to somehow shim out the entire lower half, all the way around the room, in order to make it flush with the upper half, rather than simply slapping the new wallboard up with some adhesive and a couple of brad nails.
- Original floors! Fancy original floors, with window-frame detail like what we’ve got going on in our living and dining room!
It was unsalvageable, of course, due to the layers of plywood screwed on top of it and the truly impressive amount of rot around the toilet, but still, it was a shock to see that fancy flooring in the bathroom. None of the other floors on the second story have that fancy detail. Despite being clearly beyond my capabilities to restore (and even if I could, I would never want hardwood floors in a bathroom because I’ve seen what happens when they get wet), I felt really bad about ripping it out. But out it went.
And that was pretty much all of Day 1. Except for that “minor plumbing” I mentioned, which involved replacing one of the shut-offs to the sink supply. Why? Because three-quarters of the way through demo, I went down to the basement to look for a tool and found a not-insignificant amount of water dripping from the ceiling.
In the basement.
Which is two floors below where we were working.
And between the bathroom and the basement lies our still-new kitchen. Or our still-new powder room, depending on what path the leak was taking. Or our freshly painted dining room. Maybe all three. But none of which, in my opinion, would look particularly good with water damage.
And that’s how we discovered that one of the shut-offs didn’t work properly and had to be replaced. I spent the rest of the day waiting for water spots to show up on the ceiling somewhere on the first floor.
But they never did.
We ended Day 1 by enjoying a shower in this luxury spa:
The next step was plumbing, which we originally intended to be a pretty straightforward task: Move the sink supply lines into the wall (they were coming out of the floor, which wasn’t gonna fly with our new floating vanity), and add a second set of supply lines because we were going from one sink to two.
But Day 2 started with Chris and I standing over that rusty, crumbling toilet flange. He looked at me and said, “Do you think we should replace it?” And I looked at him and said, “Do you think we should replace it?” And the fact that both of us were even considering replacing it probably meant that we should replace it, but we were both really hoping the other one would say, “No.” Which neither of us could bring ourselves to do.
So while Chris went to rent a cast iron pipe cutter and buy and assortment of plumbing supplies, I did a little strategic demo to expose the newly-expanded work area. Translation: I made a bigger hole in the floor.
I also took the opportunity to do a little structural reinforcement to make sure we’d be anchoring the new vanity to a solid wall. Because hanging a 175-lb sink and vanity from a 1/4″-thick hardboard panel sounded like a bad idea. So I stuck more wood in the wall.
Then Chris came home with the cast iron cutter and, having never used one before, were both like, “Welp, here goes nothing,” and we managed to cut a 4-inch cast iron pipe in like, 30 seconds, with no mishaps whatsoever.
And the rest of the day went pretty smoothly for me, because the plumbing is Chris’s thing so I just go-fer and try not to ask annoying questions like, “Are you done yet?” Of course I failed at the second part because the carpentry is my thing and I couldn’t start my thing until he finished his thing.
Also, if you were to ask Chris, he would probably tell you that the rest of the day did NOT, in fact, go smoothly. Because plumbing sucks. But he got it all done and none of it leaks and you should all give him a round of applause.
And I was eventually able to patch the floor and install one piece of the new subfloor – right in front of the bathtub! – before it got too dark outside to use the circular saw. Which means Day 2 ended in a slightly more luxurious showering experience than Day 1 did.