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Dust, mud, and progress: This year’s bathroom makeover

August 30, 2008

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.

 

Concrete tile matrix symbolized the strength of the 50s.

Concrete tile matrix symbolized the strength of the 50s.

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. 

Context of the present destruction

Context of the destruction

 

I took a picture of the original caulk to belay any thoughts that I'm merely fussy.

I took a picture of the original caulk to belay any thoughts that I'm merely fussy.

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.

Panoramic view of surgical excision of the first slab of concrete-bedded tile.

Panoramic view of surgical excision of the first slab of concrete-bedded tile.

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. 

Last year we overhauled the other side of this 50sf bathroom.  Remodeling helps us appreciate the vastness of our holdings.

Last year we overhauled the other side of this 50 sf bathroom. Remodeling helps us appreciate the vastness of our holdings.

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 pitted sink's replacement.

The pitted sink's replacement.

For whatever reason, the new sink had a different faucet hole set-up from the old sink–a single hole instead of three holes.  The old faucet, which was really a new one last year, didn’t quite fit. This inconvenient fact brought the number of trips to three Home Planet Hardware establishments up to five for the day. 
On the first trip, we bought the tile, which we thought was the only thing we needed and didn’t have.  On the second, we revisited Lowe’s and found no faucet the proper size.  The third excursion was to Home Depot, where we bought a promising faucet.  On the fourth trip, we returned the promising faucet and found one other faucet in the entire store that would fit, but it was a sample and there were none in stock.  The fifth trip was to another Home Depot across town that had ten of these faucets in stock.  By 10:40 that Saturday evening, sink, faucet, and Hardibacker were all in their places.  We were unable to supply bright shining faces.  At 6:40 that evening, I learned that Judy Collins was singing in a park concert at 6:00.  Oh well. 
The new sink and its new faucet, set in Hardibacker laid over new plywood.  A piece of the new bullnose tile is the faucet's rear right corner.

The new sink and its new faucet, set in Hardibacker laid over new plywood. A piece of the new bullnose tile is in the faucet's rear right corner.

The new tile, Sienna Almond porcelain and Dark Taupe ceramic.  It was tough picking through the ceramic bullnose tiles to find enough that weren't pre-chipped.

The new tile, Sienna Almond porcelain and Dark Taupe ceramic. It was tough picking through the ceramic bullnose tiles at Lowe's to find enough that weren't pre-chipped.

decently built and finished in drippy honey-birch varnish.  We aren't sure whether they are original or from a 1970s makeover.  We got the ceramic knobs earlier this year.

The bathroom has the same cabinets as the kitchen: decently built and finished in drippy honey-birch varnish. We aren't sure whether they are original or part of a 1970s makeover. We refinished the kitchen cabinets in Orca white last year; this is the year for the bathroom to retire the honey-birch. We got the ceramic knobs earlier this year. They match the green tile: an incredible find at a local cabinet shop.

The brighter, whiter look; the new sink and counter and newly painted cabinets. We might eventually get a medicine cabinet, but the situation behind the huge gold mirror on the wall is complicated. . . .
The brighter, whiter look; the new sink and counter and newly painted Orca white cabinets.  The hinges are original and now shiny.  They were dull with old drippy varnish, and my husband cleaned them with lacquer thinner.  We might eventually get a medicine cabinet, but the situation behind the huge gold mirror on the wall is complicated. . . .

The complete image overhaul took three weeks of Saturdays and evenings, from excavation to cover-up.

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One Comment
  1. Jane permalink
    September 2, 2008 6:52 am

    Wow—what a lovely improvement. It looks great, and I’m thankful to be the recipient of the Former Faucet. It caused an update in our bath, since the cheapy nickel towel bars looked really tacky with the brass and oak faucet. We now have all oak towel bars and tp holder. Thanks!

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