Bathroom Maintenance

Step 1: Tear the whole damn thing down!

Rita knocking it down! I think this was her favorite home remodel job so far. I do admit she was pretty good at breaking stuff.

That’s how it went down.  You can read Rita’s take on went went down before the tile went down here. This is my version.

I had been noticing that the caulk I put around the bottom of the shower pan was starting to mildew. I ignored it for a few weeks, but it didn’t go away on its own. I tried spraying some of that bleach-based cleaner stuff hoping it would just kill it all and that would be that. Didn’t work. Of course I knew all along that I’d have to get a bit serious about it and find out what was really going on.

Missing grout around this tile. This was at the bottom back corner. A great spot for water to get into the wall.

I set to work pulling off all the caulk. What I found was that the caulk was covering up some places where grout was missing. A couple of tiles were loose. Now here’s where some serious thinking and soul-searching has to happen. Rita and I are both big believers in the idea that “good enough is good enough.”

That sometimes means slapping some new caulk on and hoping for the best would be the thing to do. We also know that there are times when slowing down and doing it right is the best course of action. It took me about two lattes to think on it. I opted for the slow do-it-right course.  I’d already tried the good enough solution and it didn’t work. Reluctantly I decided I’d have to remove some tiles to see what was going on. I purchased a multi-function tool from Harbor Freight. (I never miss a good opportunity to buy a new tool. )

Multi function tool form Harbor Freight. Made great work of the grout between tiles. Comes with several blades for different purposes.

I removed the first two rows of tiles at the bottom of the shower hoping to replace the wall board and reset the tiles.

Of course I managed to damage tiles in the process, which meant I’d need to find some matching tiles. How hard would it be to find exact replacements for 1970’s tile? (Pretty damn hard.) The other issue was that the wrong kind of wall board was used behind the tile. The builder did not use cement board or blue board. Instead he used general purpose sheetrock. I don’t know if that was the thing to do back then, but you’d never do that now. A small amount of water leakage with this kind of wall board will cause disaster. It’s not water-resistant at all, so it will swell up and cause the tiles to pop off.

So, here’s where the whole thing spiralled out of control.

My version of the conversation with Rita summarized:
(I made mine sound more diplomatic so it sounds like we are both equally to blame for the remodel. For a more accurate description of our conversation see Rita’s post. She thinks mine sounds like an infomercial. You be the judge.)

Me: I don’t think we are going to be able to find exact matches for the tiles I took off.

Her: Maybe we should just replace them all. It would look funny to have just the bottom row a different color.

Me: That shower pan is in terrible shape. Maybe we should just replace it while I have the tiles off.

Her: Good idea. How hard would it be to put in a tub?

Me: That sounds awesome. We should check on that.

Me: If we replace the shower with a tub there will be a bare spot on the floor where the shower used to go. We’ll have to replace the flooring.

Her: Well, if we replace the floor we should replace the stupid vanity. I hate that thing.

Me: That’s a good idea because if we wait and replace it later I’d have to deal with the floor all over again.

Her: We should also replace the toilet because it will be a different color than the new tub.

Me: Good idea! We can move that one to the other bathroom and put a new one in here.

Disclaimer: We don’t really talk like that. I just couldn’t remember what we said and didn’t want Rita to be blamed for anything she wasn’t responsible for.

To tally it all up-

  • New cement board in bath area
  • New tile
  • New shower and tub hardware
  • New tub
  • New floor
  • New vanity
  • Paint
  • New toilet

So there it is. I’m certain that in a few weeks or so I’ll get that caulk put down just like I set out to do in the first place. When you decide that it’s time to do things the right way you just have to follow it through to its logical conclusion, you know.

In the meantime I’m going to have to learn how to do some plumbing and tile work. I’ll also learn how to install a glue down cork floor. Hoping I don’t catch the house on fire or flood it in the process. (Don’t worry Rita, I’m just kidding. )

This is me demonstrating the most thorough way to remove caulk from the shower. Yes I know that's a dust mask and not a hat.