It’s time to think about home improvements. I love to try DIY projects, but I’ve learned to be careful when undertaking home renovation. Years ago, I decided to refinish a bathroom in my family’s first home; convinced I could save money by doing it myself.
DIY with a vengeance.
My husband owned the home when we got married. I moved in I did what any woman would. I started changing things: wallpaper, closets, bedrooms and bathrooms.
Everything was fine, until I started the bathroom.
I had been anxious to get to the bathroom for some time. I never understood why there was carpet in there. It was difficult to clean and impossible to dry. Forget using Clorox.
The first step in the DIY bathroom renovation was to rip out that carpet. It seemed easy. I would tear it out and replace it with linoleum squares tiles. Ceramic tiles weren’t even an option, at the time.
Carpet removal crisis.
The carpet was easy to get up. What I was not expecting was to find the subfloor in bad condition. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Most of it was fine, but there was one significantly rotten spot beside the tub.
I didn’t need to replace the whole floor, nor did I know how. That one spot, however, crumbled away until I could see straight into the basement. Not good. I was too proud to call a contractor or ask for help. I decided to work around it.
I cut a 2 x 2′ square eliminating the rotten wood. I went to the basement and worked through the bottom of the floor to attach a couple of plastic tubes (trash cans with the bottom cut out). This was my exciting idea of a laundry chute.
In the bathroom the chute needed a closure. I needed a trap door. It took time to figure out how to create one, as I’m not a carpenter.
The hole above the home-made laundry chute was there for about a week. I warned the family to be aware of it. Unfortunately, my four-year old stepped out of the tub forgetting about the hole. His feet and legs dangled down the chute while I clung desperately to his upper body and pulled him out. My DIY bathroom innovation turned into one of my worst Mom fails, ever.
Renovation priority: close the Laundry Chute.
I found a salvaged, wooden 2 x 2′ box with no bottom and a hinged lid. It was a perfect cover for the chute. It was secured with a few squirts of Liquid Nails. Painted and trimmed out with shoe molding the cover was complete. It wasn’t pretty, but it was done.
Laying the new floor: the easiest part.
With the new laundry chute in place, I measured from the middle of the room, trimmed tiles, and laid them with tile adhesive. I didn’t know anything about self-adhesive tiles, so the job was sticky and messy. Nonetheless, when we were finished the linoleum looked great, better than the red-neck laundry chute.
Working backward; floor to wall.
It didn’t occur to me that you need to paint a room before you work on the floor. I wasn’t thinking about paint drips. I started at the bottom to work my way up. I had to paint the walls without ruining the floor. Cleaning high gloss paint from the floor wasn’t difficult, but by this point I realized it is not a good idea to undertake DIY projects without a lot of research and proper tools. I was willing to admit that DIY bathroom renovation was a bad idea.
Determined to finish the room I didn’t simply paint. I sponge painted, it was trendy in the 90s. When I finished this bathroom was going to look like it was covered in expensive wallpaper. That’s what I thought.
I painted a base coat and lined the walls with ¼” tape to create a tiled look. Faux tile and faux wallpaper don’t mix. I don’t know why I did it. I sponged light gray over the base, layered on dark gray and sponged maroon over that. It was as bad as it sounds, not pretty, not even close. At least the retched mess matched the hackneyed laundry chute.
Tearing down the shower.
I thought renovating the shower would be the hardest job. I pictured laboriously chiseling out grout to release tile. It took only a few strikes with a sledge hammer to loosen a mesh wall of tiles. Once lose, it broke away in large pieces.
It didn’t occur to me that no one would be able to shower until the shower walls were refinished. Water would ruin the Sheetrock. I didn’t have the materials to fix the walls that night.
I think it was at this point that my husband wanted to hire a contractor or get a divorce.
A look around Home Depot made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to buy or lay ceramic shower tiles. I opted for an ultra, cheap alternative – heavy, fiberglass sheeting.
I wanted a new bathtub insert but I had thrown so much money into this bathroom project I couldn’t afford one. Besides, I was not thinking about removing a porcelain tub. I didn’t know how to begin that, and I wasn’t about to muck around with plumbing.
I swathed on sticky adhesive to install the shower walls. It wasn’t easy. Several pieces overlapped. I couldn’t cut them. It took hours just to get them in place. For a minute it looked like a shower in a fun house.
When all else fails, calk.
With the major projects done I attacked the bathroom with waterproof calk. Every crack, corner and crevice was thoroughly sealed. There would be no leaks.
Once this was finished, I vowed never to undertake a DIY bathroom renovation again.
Hiring a contractor would have been a lot cheaper than fixing, repairing, and hiding my many failed attempts.