Dust, mud, and progress: This year’s bathroom makeover
I have a heart for the funky optimism of the 1950s that Americans like my parents expressed in their houses, and it is this character that my husband and I have sought to preserve in our fifties house throughout our updates, repairs, and improvements. We have lived and wreaked change in this house for six years.
Our fifties house came with its original fifties bathroom sink. Said sink, surrounded by fifties tile set in fifties concrete matrix, and bounded with crinkly fifties caulk, had lost its glaze over time and had a demoralized look. The yellowed, crinkled caulk escalated the look to tragic.
I was so happy we were able to find a sink, a Kohler, the same weird size as the original one. To install the new sink, my husband had to remove the bullnose tiles surrounding the old one. He had to trim the concrete with a skillsaw, Dremel tool, Sawzall, and chisels. (A tax lawyer can never have enough tools.)
We had hoped to remove only the bullnose and leave the rest of the tile in place. The walls are the same green, and we would not have been able to replace it. But a couple of tiles failed to survive the exploratory surgery, and we had to redo the counter with new tile.
I decided black would be a nice touch with the brass faucet, and it would look cool with white grout, which we already had. People go to Home Planet Hardware-type stores with their own concepts and aspirations, but in the end, they buy what the store sells.
In this case, the black ceramic tiles all had scratches on their glazed surfaces. Our concept morphed into Sienna Almond porcelain. What sold us on the color was the fact that it was the only color Lowe’s had in a basic porcelain tile. We didn’t want to go to a tile store and special order enough for the counter, because if a broken tile caused the project to extend to the backsplash, we’d need to order more tile and wait another two weeks. We wanted open-stock tile with a good back-up supply. We wanted porcelain because it is the most durable counter surface there is. We replaced our kitchen counters with black porcelain tile because it is more durable than granite. It’s a beautiful counter.
Last year, my husband removed the old cast iron tub and the old sheetrock and tile surrounding the shower, and replaced it all with an acrylic tub, hardibacker, and new tile.
This was going on shortly before my diagnosis of Addison’s disease, and the noise made me pretty sick. I was also too sick to escape. This year I’m able to enjoy the ruckus and take pictures. What a difference hydrocortisone makes. In addition to the difference between life and death, it enables me to enjoy the destruction of my familiar surroundings.
Triumph surged in our hearts as my husband placed the new sink in the sink base. The sight of its unpocked glaze was…very white. Of course, Hardibacker is thinner than the old concrete matrix, so it was necessary to build up the surface with a new plywood frame. But if you’ve been tracking along the same path of experience so far, you guessed that.
The complete image overhaul took three weeks of Saturdays and evenings, from excavation to cover-up.