Renovation junkie


Recently I wrote a series of columns detailing our upstairs bathroom renovation. It was a long and painful process (the bathroom — not the writing. The writing came easy. A toilet on the lawn is always good for a paragraph, or six.)

The entire process took six weeks of nights and weekends, including the Thanksgiving holiday, (and may the Lord forgive me for the Sunday when we chose grouting and drains over attending church. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows any plumbing project requires copious amounts of prayer).

We spent weeks climbing over and under construction supplies and debris. We breathed drywall dust, paint fumes and certain other unmentionables I’m certain. There were days when I simply shut the door on the black hole that had become the gutted room.


It was daunting, dirty, and cost easily 2-3 times what we would have expected. In a world where I pride myself on thrift, it turns out a bathroom rebuilt from the studs out is not a frugal proposition.

At the close of the last essay I wrote that, while we knew the downstairs bathroom was also in need of attention, I pledged to steadfastly ignore the problem even if the toilet fell through the floor.

In essence, I laid down a double dog dare to the house gods. Rookie mistake. If this were a horror movie you would hear the ominous music right about here.


The downstairs bathroom would not be ignored. Last Tuesday I stepped in a puddle of unexplained water on the downstairs bathroom floor. On Wednesday I discovered the tile at least a foot across in two directions had cracked. (I engaged in a brief inner struggle where I tried, in vain, to convince myself it had always been like that). On Thursday I left Mr. Wonderful home alone for a mere two hours and came home to find the bulk of our downstairs bathroom in a trash can on the porch.

As an aside, it should be noted that children raised in a constantly-under-renovation home have bravado like no other. A certain chutzpah if you may.

Passing bits of our house scattered about the yard, BoyWonder simply shrugged. My first inkling we had effectively lost the downstairs bathroom was when he said, passing the trash can, “There’s our floor.”


A certain amount of constructive chaos is in his blood. We renovated this bathroom when he was a toddler. Fascinated with the fact that his toys would roll quite easily across the noticeable slope in the floor, he spent quite a bit of time in there.

I remember freezing in fear the day the floor visibly bounced under the minimal weight of his footie-pajama clad feet. I plucked him up, slammed the door, and we set to work making the rotted subfloor safe.

Too cheap to afford a plumber to temporarily remove the cast iron radiator, we (read: Mr. Wonderful) suspended the entire system from a series ceiling hooks and removed the floor from underneath it.

For a short period of time I nervously provided toddler patrol around the gaping holes that led directly into the basement, while Mr. Wonderful worked diligently to put everything right while a cast iron radiator seemingly floated in midair.

Soft spot

I had the last laugh on that one. House Beautiful Kitchens and Bath found merit in my tale of the time we hung the radiator for treason and effectively launched my writing career. As a result, I’ve always had a soft spot for this bathroom. The soft spot under the floor was another matter.

Just six weeks after shaking my fist and pledging, Scarlett O’Hara style, that as God as my witness I would never renovate a bathroom again — I am staring at scarred subfloor and demolished walls that call me a liar.

Of course in this case the damage is minimal. It’s mainly a quick check of the subfloor, new tile and some cabinetry, lighting, plumbing and paint (ominous music would also fit nicely here).

Having used terms like “just” and “minimal” and “this shouldn’t be too bad” it’s as if I have waved a red flag in front of the Seven Horsemen of the Apocalypse of Home Repair — and poked them with a flaming stick to boot.

On one hand I embrace the blessing that is a handy husband and enough funding to get the job done. On the other hand, these things don’t come cheap. Clearly the children won’t have college, but they can enjoy the comfort of two passably nice bathrooms while they live at home until they’re 30.

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