It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young(ish) woman embarking on a minor remodelling project, must suddenly find herself in the midst of a major one.*
It starts simply enough. Oh, you think to yourself, I could easily make [insert room here] look so much better if I [insert small project here]. A couple of days work and it will all be lovely.
Occasionally it works out that way. Frequently, though, you uncover something else minor that needs fixing while you are at it, which leads to something else, and before you know it your whole project has avalanched into something huge.
Which has been my experience this week. And, as a result, I crossed a line that I drew for myself only last week. Never say never.
After the kitchen sink distraction, I settled in and started work on the upstairs bathroom. I thought it would take me a few days. A week, tops. So, here we all are, a week later, and … well you will see soon enough.
In truth it would have taken that long but for one thing. You will remember a few weeks ago when I was writing about my plans for the upstairs bathroom, I discussed how, egged on by my beloved, I pulled up a corner of the vinyl stick-on tile in the bathroom. In case there were mosaic tiles underneath.
Given the height of the floor, and the age of the bathroom, it was not an unreasonable assumption. It transpired, however, that not only were there no funky 1950s mosaics hiding under there, there were no less than 3 layers of stick-on vinyl tile, all laid one on top of the other, in an archeological strata of decoration fads from the last 60 years.
Great. Pulling up one layer of stick-on tile is bad enough, but three? Eeeesh. I affixed my ‘Pfft! I can do that blinkers’ firmly on my face, decided I would do just that, and then paint the plywood subfloor as a temporary improvement until we replace the dead-enamel bath, and water-guzzling toilet. Then we could finally lay the beautiful marble tile waiting under the house for just this occasion.
Because, when you put floor coverings in a bathroom, you really should remove everything first, and tile (or whatever) underneath. Taking your floor covering up to, and around vanity cabinets, toilets and baths is lazy, shoddy and asking for trouble.
You see, if one of your bathroom fixtures (or fittings as we would call them in Australia) leaks, as they do, the water gets under your floor covering and plays havoc. And if you do want to replace your bath, toilet or vanity cabinet at a later date, and it is a different shape to what was there before, you have to do another bodgy fix job to make it work, or totally replace the entire floor.
Plus anyone who has ever laid a floor and had to cut around things knows that it is tricky, and it is actually a whole lot less trouble to remove the fixtures and have a blank slate to work from.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, it is pertinent to what happened in the upstairs bathroom this week, and is the reason that the whole thing ballooned from being a prettification to a major upgrade.
Things got off to an auspicious start. My first task was to do something with the dreadful vanity light. I was inspired by a project I clocked on pinterest a month ago in which Kristine at The Painted Hive upcycled an ugly dated wall sconce into an industrial-chic wall light.
A huge thank you to Kristine for allowing me to use her image. You can check out her blog here. I knew when I saw it that I would use this idea some day, giving it my own twist.
Here is a reminder of what the light looked like before:
The first stage of this project involved taking off the back panel so I could spray paint over the aged bronze finish. I took out the globes.
And unscrewed the screws, pulled out the bronze globe surrounds, and ran a craft knife around the edge to break the paint seal, then I tugged. Pulled, levered the edge with a screw driver (carefully because I didn’t want to destroy it). Could I get it off? No.
So I decided to spray paint it in situ. I masked off the area, and covered everything with drop sheets (spray paint has a remarkable ability to drift everywhere).
I sanded and deglossed the back panel.
I opened the window as wide as possible, fixed my fume respirator firmly to my face, and primed it.
Then followed it up with two coats of pale blue metallic spray paint in hammered metal finish.
Looks better already. I left it to cure for a good 48 hours, and set to work on the wall.
If you remember from my bathroom planning post, I had decided to paint the walls and the vanity cabinet hot shocking electric pink, which I thought would work beautifully with the existing blue and white damask-look wallpaper, and blue and pink tiles. After replacing the vanity top with the marble one I found in the salvage yard, I changed my mind about painting the vanity cabinet pink, and decided to go with blue instead. More on the vanity cabinet next week.
The pink I chose was Benjamin Moore Cactus Flower in their Advance formula (which is supposed to be extra tough) in full gloss. That wall was going to be hot pink and shiny as all get out.
Exciting. But first I sanded, deglossed and primed the wall. Why did I do this? The wall was already painted with an off-white gloss paint. Paint does not like sticking to gloss surfaces, so I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t going to have any adhesion issues.
Then on went the first coat. Even though the Advance paint is a water-based acrylic, it takes 16 hours to dry, so while I was waiting, I started work on the floor.
Those stick-on tiles had to go, not the least because I now had an ugly corner of the room where I had pulled them up.
6 hours of sheer grunt labor later and I finally was down to the ply sub-floor.
Which is where things began to get interesting.
It was clear that at some point the toilet had a major leak. As a result a large area of the ply sub-floor around the toilet was rotten.
That, right there, is the problem with using stick-on tile in a bathroom. You can never seal it, because there are gaps between the tiles, and water will inevitably find it’s way to the lowest level. In the case of our bathroom, this was the sub-floor, where it was trapped by the layers of vinyl tile above, and had its way with our sub-floor.
Ugh, ugh, triple ugh.
So, you can just cut out the bit of floor that has rotten, and replace it, but given that this represented a third of the floor space in our tiny upstairs bathroom I decided (after getting a second opinion from the beloved) to rip out the lot. And then paint the floorboards that we knew were underneath.
Cue another six hours of sheer grunt labor. It involved cutting a section out with my lovely Bosch Multi-X (I love it more every time I use it), getting under the edge with a pry-bar and slowly prying up it up, releasing nails as I went.
While some of the floor came up in gratifyingly large bits, even this was not easy to get up. Where it had been wet, the ply disintegrated into little splintery flaky bits and it was long slow demoralizing work.
The whole time I was worried that the rot would have spread to the floorboards, and we really would be in a total pickle. The upstairs bathroom is directly above the man-cave, so I knew they looked ok from underneath. As it turned out, luckily they had put a water-proof membrane over the boards, so they were fine, but as soon as I pulled up the membrane I knew painting those boards was not going to work.
There were massive gaps between the boards. Sigh. I thought I could fill them, but then it was starting to become a major project in its own right, and if I was going to have to take the time to fill and sand, it was no longer a quick fix, and I may as well do something a bit more realistic for a bathroom.
The beloved said: ‘Why don’t you just lay those beautiful marble tiles?’ So, I explained all the reasons why laying tiles at this stage was not a great idea.
Which left me a little stumped as to what to do with the floor. Some quick and easy floor covering? Anything as long as it wasn’t stick-on vinyl tile. Shudder. Some other tile? A thought I quickly dismissed as I would have to jack hammer them up when I went to lay the marble. Sheet vinyl? Hardwood floors?
We have a budget of nothing at the moment, so buying anything temporary seemed insane and extravagant. I spent a couple of hours on Craiglist, looking for cheap fixes, but my mind I kept coming back to those lovely marble tiles in our undercroft. We already had them, and they were what I wanted on the floor in the long term.
I did what I usually do when facing a dilemma. I took the dog for a walk, cleaned the kitchen, put through several loads of laundry, made 2 batches of muffins, and paid attention to the children.
And I put the second coat of pink on the walls. Which looked spectacular.
First a reminder of before:
And here is what it looks like now:
I think the 13 year old’s reaction summed it up perfectly. After he got home from school, he walked into the bathroom, closed the door, and a very loud shocked ‘Wow!’ emanated from inside. Mission accomplished with the pink.
Eventually I decided I was going to lay those tiles. I would suck it up and tile up to and around the vanity, bath and toilet. And keep back enough tile to replace them when we replaced those items.
Then I took the dog for another walk, ran some errands, poked around on the internet, spent way too much time on facebook, and beat myself up for procrastinating when I should be getting on with it. Until I realized what the problem actually was: I really, really, really didn’t like the idea of not doing it properly.
I kept thinking about the tile cuts I would have to make to get around the toilet and vanity, and I just couldn’t bring myself to start. Once I decided that it would be relatively easy to take the vanity out and tile under it, I felt massively relieved. So I removed the vanity.
And pulled up the subfloor under it. Which was also rotten, so I felt instantly justified for doing it. My tiling job just got a whole lot easier.
Which left the toilet. I couldn’t pull that out, could I? I mean, I stated on this blog only last week ‘I will get down and dirty with the plumbing (although I draw the line at anything to do with toilets)’. Toilets are eeewww. Super phenomenal eeewww. It’s bad enough cleaning one, imagine how disgusting it is to take one out.
I spent a restless night, filled with dreams of floods of water and rotting surfaces the children tumbled through. And I got up the next morning, and crossed the line. I removed the toilet.
Yes, it was as revolting as I feared. Apart from that, it actually wasn’t hard. Way easier than the kitchen sink.
Best yet, it left me with a beautiful blank slate for tiling. Which is what will happen next.
Before I did that, though, I decided to finished the vanity light. After a couple of days the lovely hammered blue was cured, and I could set to work on putting the new shades on. I found these work lights with wonderful metal cage covers in the hardware store and thought they would make perfect steam-punk-esque light shades on the vanity light.
You see with everything pink and blue and flowery in there, I felt it needed something to shake it up a little. I have said before that I am a total sucker for anything vaguely industrial, and these were p-e-r-f-e-c-t for what I wanted to do.
The only problem was the little yellow rubber thingys on the end. A simple wave or two of spray paint fixed them.
I was ready to install them. When I bought them I noticed that metal cage part I wanted to use was attached to the work light with a nut and bolt.
So it was simply a matter of unscrewing this, removing them, then attaching them to the globe holders on the vanity light.
While at the hardware store, I also came across these great light globes. I thought they would look perfect in there.
Getting them into the metal cages is easy, as they open up so you can change the globe.
I screwed in the bulbs, and it was done. Here was the vanity light before:
And here it is now:
So there you have it, this week’s progress on the upstairs bathroom. Now I need to get the floor layers and tile down as soon as possible. Because living with a teen and a pre-teen and only one toilet – the one in our ensuite – is no fun. No fun at all.
*(Massive apologies to Jane Austin. I stole, and perverted, her sentence only because I love what she wrote so very much.).