The bathroom project: planned 9 years ago, completed (almost) during quarantine…

It’s a bit ironic; the online articles and posts suggesting that perhaps you should do a home project while you’re quarantined at home. Or the other articles that snidely suggest you’re an overachiever if you even attempt a DIY project now. (The good thing about a quarantine DIY is that no-one is going to show up at your house, when there is junk, tools, and sawdust covering Every. Single. Surface.)

Dueling ladders…

Our bathroom has looked like a third world bathroom for 9 years. When we inherited this little cottage, it was the room we planned to redo first. The smallest, the most-in need, the most bang for our buck… Plus, the kitchen was daunting because, well, it was the kitchen. Truth is, the bathroom has the access into the attic, and it took us a long time to figure out how to get an attic ladder in such a small space. Before, one had to bring in a ladder, and push a piece of plywood away to get up there. Here is how the access door finally turned out:

The attic access door that stopped all progress…

Nine years later, after Covid-19 has relegated us all to our houses, we tackled it. No excuses, nothing else to do. So we’ve actually utilized our time well. Of course, there were times of distress, and interruptions, and arguments, but that’s just routine in DIY projects, and anyone who has ever done a home project knows that to be truth.

It was a great day when this old sink went out for garbage pick up. We put it out a couple of days early, but no one was in the market for a sink and cheap faucets.

When we uncovered the bathroom vanity that we had purchased at a Restore in Pittsburgh, we found a sticky note that had the date of purchase: Sept. 9, 2011. We had gathered supplies in fits and starts since that date.

  • We bought floor tiles for the shower early on right after the vanity and the mirror;
  • a round copper sink that we found in Deep Creek Maryland one summer on vacation before this little cottage was even ours;
  • Mr. H.C. got a pricey toilet for free, and we had it for such a long time, we gave it away to someone else who needed one;
  • we had tile for the top of the vanity for so long that when we got it out, we couldn’t figure out how we had thought we were going to put it on, gave up, and bought a new wooden countertop instead. We went to Burton, Ohio to pick it up, two days before the PA lockdown started;
  • that same weekend we went to a small independent plumbing place to get some pipe and ended up buying a commode from him. He was so grateful, and it made us aware of how much we just shop at the big box stores because it’s easier. Nothing is the same now, and we all need to think carefully about what stores we want to support.
  • Faucet, sink drain, and shower fixtures were purchased a couple of years ago when we thought we were getting ready to do the bathroom. We did the ceiling and some electrical work, and then we ended up doing the back porch instead.
  • the replacement window came in just after the PA lockdown started. We have been grateful that plumbing supply and hardware stores are considered essential…

We still don’t have the shower in, but here are some before, during, and after shots:

THE FLOOR: (tongue and groove yellow pine, still available at fine lumber yards everywhere…)

THE HEATER VENT:

THE TOILET ALCOVE:

SAME SHOT, DIFFERENT YEARS….

THE VANITY TOP, SINK, AND FAUCETS:

Here are some close ups:

We still have the shower to do…But we’re taking a short break to recover, and try to remember: how was it we were going to put the shower in, anyway?

Porch Work

I started this blog six years ago to keep track of the renovation work we were doing on the new old house we’d just acquired. It was a house and acres filled with history on both sides of our families and I wanted to document it. You can read that story here.

We’ve become complacent lately, and though the place is far from finished, the work we did this past winter is far from noteworthy. (What bathroom?)

Except for the last few weeks.

I finally found time and money (they don’t usually go together) to get window box planters for the front windows.

I also found time to paint the other front door that’s been white forever. Let me tell you — painting  those muntins around each pane of glass was a definite pain. (A small DIY tip: If you ever have to paint a door with many glass panes, don’t bother taping it off. I laboriously taped every one, and it just didn’t work. The best thing to do is just paint on the glass, and then scrape off the paint when it is dry). I also spray painted the metal chair and put it next to the door. And lest it sound as if I did all the work, the door trim had to be put up, primed, and painted too. The carpenter did that.

So now that the front is finished — it only took six years —  we can concentrate on the back.

The Back Porch. I’ve written about it before — here and here. I always say I have a love-hate relationship with it. And now? Now the hate parts are mostly gone:

  • The ugly sliding glass doors that were so cloudy it always looked like a foggy day? GONE!
  • The ugliest screen door ever? GONE!
  • Thirty-three year old indoor-outdoor carpet? GONE!
  • The closet that once held the largest hornet’s nest ever documented? GONE! (The door was opened cautiously every single time.)
  • The cedar shakes that were un-sweepable, un-scrubbable, and un-cleanable? GONE!

What’s left? Well, at this point, it’s still ugly.

Once the cedar shakes were taken off, the old clapboard siding was in remarkably good shape. If you were under the delusion that cedar is an insect-repellent wood, you are Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Under each one of those cedar shingles lived at least two stink bugs, an unknown cocoon, and/or a wasp nest. Taking off those shingles was one of the more disgusting jobs I’ve had. I got really good at killing stink bugs with one blow from the hammer. After awhile I didn’t even notice the smell, and although I got buzzed by more than one wasp/hornet/carpenter bee, I didn’t get stung.

This cupboard is now gone. The siding on the inside of the closet was painted porch red and will have to be painted white, but the porch looks much larger without it.

Here is Mr. H. C. Getting rid of the ugliest screen door ever made. He put it out by the road with a “free” sign next to it. True confession: I told him not to bother–no one would take it. It was gone within an hour. I think the guy took it for the aluminum.

It was a Memorial-Day-Work-In and while we were taking down the closet we discovered this writing on a 2×4:  it dated the closet from another Memorial-Day- Work-In in 1985.

It seemed appropriate that Mr. H.C.’s parents were putting the closet up on a Memorial Day weekend, and we were taking it down on a Memorial Day weekend thirty-three years later.

The Circle of Life, indeed.

In the midst of noise, trouble, and hard work

There’s a ladder living in our bathroom.


A small seven-word sentence. It doesn’t even have an exclamation point at the end. Although it should!

In 2011, when we became official owners of this little cottage, the bathroom was the first room we intended to refinish. It’s small, we thought; yes, start small. But then we ran into a few problems, so Mr. H.C. decided it would be better to redo the kitchen first. Now, six years later we are finally starting on the bathroom. The photos below show you what we’ve lived with for lo, these many years…

Yes, it would definitely win the Ugly Bathroom Contest. And just so you won’t think us total Appalachian hillbillies, I will show you the finished door that goes in to this contest-winning bathroom…

Through these years, we have collected most everything we need. Remember it was the first room we were going to tackle? Practically the first thing we bought for the house was the bathroom vanity and mirror. They’ve been against the wall in the garage bedroom covered in plastic all this time. The truth is often Not Pretty; but there is a glass-half-full outlook  — We already have:

  1. the sink,
  2. the sink faucet,
  3. the shower head and handles
  4. the vanity,
  5. the mirror,
  6. the lights,
  7. the toilet,
  8. a lovely cabinet with glass doors that was left over from the kitchen project,
  9. the tile for the shower floor,
  10. the tile for the vanity top, and, drum roll please….
  11. the pull-down attic ladder that will go in the ceiling — which was the initial problem that stopped this bathroom project all those many years ago.

That long list above, makes the list of still-to-purchase items rather short: subway tile for the shower walls, a shower pan, some incidental plumbing materials, and ceiling boards. Oh, and paint. And maybe a glass-block window. We haven’t really decided about the window yet. That’s the least of our worries; we haven’t gotten to that wall yet…

But can I just be honest and say, this prolonged bathroom project has made for a lot of anxiety and needless tension? The last unnecessary comment I made was earlier this year: Mr. H.C. thought maybe we could invite some folks over for dinner.
We have a lovely kitchen.
We have a lovely dining room.
We have a lovely porch.
We have a lovely living room.
Did I focus on any of those? No.
I said, “No one is getting invited here for dinner until the bathroom is finished.”
I mean, let’s face it: you can’t invite people for dinner and then shove them out the door right after dessert because you don’t want them to use your bathroom….

Bathroom wall — looks like old Italian plaster, eh?

Yes, there it is again: the ugly truth. It’s right up there with those ugly bathroom walls.

And no, I never have had peace about living in the midst of a really ugly bathroom. Oh, every morning when I take a shower, I’m grateful for the hot running water. I lived without running water for several years, so I know about praise for hot showers…

It’s just that I really appreciate beauty, and there’s been no beauty in this bathroom for a long time…except in my mind’s eye. And I can’t show you any pretty photographs yet, because we are still in the midst of noise, trouble, and hard work. In fact, it’s only just now begun… But I can say that it is certainly easier to have peace knowing that the noise, trouble, and hard work will soon morph into that finished bathroom that has lived in my head for so long,

The longer the wait, the more we appreciate.