It was the best of DIY, it was the worst of DIY...

My daughter's bathroom was nasty. Moisture damaged blown up MDF baseboard paired with a toilet plagued by brown mold conspired to take it to the top of the "needs updated" list. Unfortunately, there was a lot of other stuff on that list. I painted the whole house in preparation for new carpet. We built a deck and paved the driveway. Time slipped by and soon four years had passed. The shower curtain became unusable in that time (the tropical fish print flaked off and stuck to the tub). I cleaned and cleaned, but it never felt clean in there, just depressing.

So it was my fault the toilet got clogged. Apparently, a portion of my toilet
brush broke off and I flushed it. Since Tim had it out, he thought I might want to
give this old potty a good scrubbing. In our gravel driveway. It still never
seemed clean enough.
So in the spring of 2014, I completed my first (and last) bathroom renovation.

Step One: I'm good at painting. A largish house with tragically holey walls will improve a person's patching and painting skills. So I started painting everything I could get to in the small bathroom without doing any demolition work. This included three out of four walls and seemed like a really good start on the whole. I chose a neutral color called "coffee cream." Julia had requested teal, but I couldn't fathom removing the toilet and putting some dark color behind it where I will hopefully never reach to paint behind again. So I overruled her vote. 

Step Two: After painting what I could, a bit of a break allowed me to mentally prepare for tackling the floor. I still hadn't decided on a flooring material. I wanted it to be ceramic tile (or porcelain or travertine marble or something) but I have no experience with installing a floor. I considered the vinyl sticker kind. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and visited eHow. I finally decided to go for it with porcelain tile. 

Step Three: I imposed upon my husband to remove the old toilet, vanity, and huge 1980s mirror. None of the sinks in the house had shut off valves when we bought the house (CHEAP) so Tim had to install shut offs. 

Step Four: I removed the old gross baseboard and the linoleum flooring. This is the point where I realized I am DIY delusional and also the project was past the point of no return. In thinking this through (which I did each night before falling asleep and in all spare moments), I envisioned the linoleum rolling up, much like a throw rug, and being carried to the curb in one piece.

I was wrong.

It was like removing wall paper except better (and worse) because it wasn't wall paper. There were bubbles where the floor was not glued down at all, but oh, there were globs of wet glue holding fast to a few areas that never wanted to be removed ever. Ever ever.

I picked and scraped at that floor for hours beyond the carefully constructed time estimate created for my project. When it was done I carted four grocery bags of linoleum chips to the street for the garbage man. I had one bloody knuckle and my knees ached. Also, I discovered there was no underlayment (that thin little board that makes a nice smooth surface to cover with nice flooring) under the old vanity. Of course the old vanity is bigger than the new vanity and of course, I had to plan another trip to Lowe's to get a 12"x17" piece of wood.

Of course!

Step Five: More painting. I patched and painted everything on that final wall. Or I tried. You see the old vanity was caulked to the wall in a way that caused the wall to nearly fall over when it was removed. The patching was moderately successful. There are no holes in the walls. It looks good from far.

Step Six: Cut and lay out the porcelain tile. At this point, I felt really good at myself because, buddy, can I ever use a tile cutter! I put each tile in its special place and measured the ones that needed cut. I scored that tile like no body's business. Then this little dangly thing-a-ma-jig slammed down and SNAP, perfectly cut tile. At least, by the third try it was a perfectly cut tile. I broke two, but this was my first time.

I was ready for a new career as a floor installer! It was a true DIY high.

One minor hiccup was the two tiles that needed to be cut to go around the toilet flange. My tile cutter couldn't do it. The Internet advised me to go to Lowe's which was fine because...

Step Seven: I had to visit Lowe's for a 12"x17" piece of sub-floor. You can't buy just a 12"x17" piece of sub floor. You have to buy the whole sheet which is approximately a square mile in size. I had the presence of mind to have the guy chop the leftovers into manageably sized bits that would fit in my car.

Meanwhile back at the wet saw, my toilet flange markings were giving the Lowe's flooring guy fits. Lowe's can't cut a curve and I was in no position to hold up my project waiting to find someone who could. I was not at all interested in renting a wet saw to cut two tiles. This was all going down at the beginning of the week and it didn't make sense to call on my dad to rescue me. So I used my freakishly long eye lashes and the fact that I was the only women in Lowe's on a Tuesday to persuade the man into cutting the tile.

"That's a really big flange," he said. "I'm afraid your flange isn't really that big."
"It will be fine," I said. "Even if it's off, it's under the toilet. No one will ever see it."

Famous last words.

The Lowe's guy still wasn't sure how to make the cut. A contractor happened to be waiting for me to be done so he could get supplies that were supposed to be waiting for him at the Pro Counter or some special contractor-man area. He advised the Lowe's guy to use the wet saw in a way that I'm sure is discouraged in the employee handbook.

Still, I walked out with my cut tile, a whole lotta sub floor, and the employee remained a dude with ten fingers. I called it a win.

Step Eight: It was finally time to get down to business. I nailed in the little bit of sub floor, hiked up my big girl pants, and started spreading some thin set.

Easy peasy.

Except... ooh, I put too much on the first two tiles. Oh crap, they're going to be really high. I'm going to run out of thin set. I'll just pull them back up and start over. No, I won't. Wow, that stuff dries fast. Okay, less thin set on the next two. This is going okay. I'm doing it. This is just like icing a cake. I'm horrible at icing cakes. This hole is way to big for my flange. The Lowe's guy said this hole was too big for my flange. What if I'm not getting it level? Everything is going to rock. The toilet is going to rock. I need to make sure this is level.

By the end I was sweating bullets and had to scrape every last morsel out of the thin set container to have enough. Reviewing my work at the end of the day was rather dismal. Tim thought my grout lines were uneven. He mentioned that it would be an appropriate time to pull it back up and try again if I really thought it was that bad.

I realized that flooring projects are kind of nice in that they offer built in breaks. I had to leave the room for 24-hours. My knees needed the break.

Step Nine: The next day I grouted. Grouting was actually easy. You squish it in, shape it with the special grout sponge, and clean up the leftovers. With the grout in place, the floor looked astonishingly beautiful. You should never, ever judge a tile floor before it's grouted.


Step Ten: Tim cut the miters for the new pine baseboard and quarter round. Then I painted the baseboard and quarter round. At this point the project really started to slow down. It was the Thursday before Easter and I envisioned having the bathroom up and running by Easter Sunday. My patience started to wear thin.

Step Eleven: On Easter weekend, I attempted to nail the baseboard to the wall at which point I realized the wall was so terribly bowed the baseboard could not be fastened to it. I'd purchased these little nails at the advice of a woman at Lowe's that was busy doing inventory. Looking back, she told me they were the right nails because I was in the way of her little blooper-bloop scanner gun.

They were not the right nails.

Step Twelve: Breakdown, crying, and fight with husband. I won't go into too much detail on this except to say that I announced I will never do another project like this (as in a bathroom) ever again.

Tim told me to go take a nap.

I did not take a nap! Ha!

Step Thirteen: Tim nailed the baseboards and quarter round in place with yet a third size of nails.

Step Fourteen: I helped Tim install a new duel flush toilet, vanity, and faucet. The toilet does not cover the hole I made for the flange. There was a moment when water sprayed out of our wall. The good news was that for possibly the first time, I managed to turn the main shut off valve the right way, successfully turning the water off instead of more on. (Righty tighty, Jo. Righty tighty.)

Step Fifteen: I installed a new medicine cabinet, TP holder, towel bar, hand towel ring, robe hook, shower curtain rod, and wired a new light*. In the midst of all this, I had to go down to the basement to get another wall sinker. My foot slipped on the last step of my descent from floor 2 to floor 1 and I fell and cracked my head. I might have also hyper extended my neck because it really hurt after that.

My fall made a sound, I'm sure of it. No one, not even a shih tzu, came to check on me. Thirty minutes later, I saw my husband and confessed that I'd fallen down the steps. He got me an ice pack and suggested I take a nap.

I took the nap.



Step Sixteen: It is done. Julia really likes it. I'm not permanently injured. It is beautiful and as of this moment, nothing has fallen apart. I call it a success. It is the alpha and omega bathroom DIY project.

*When I took the old light down (think of the fixtures that surround the mirror where a stripper applies her make up and you'll have a mental picture), there was a ladybug painted to the wall. An actual once-was-alive ladybug petrified and glued to the wall with paint. Just when I think I've seen everything in this house!

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