“I Do My Own Home Renovations” Club

I used to think it was just the contractors who conspired to give us all two-week estimates for projects which end up taking two months. Or worse, four months and a trip to court.

When we moved into our apartment, we conducted a major renovation including new hardwood floors, all new closet doors, wall rearrangement, repainting everything, fixing the “popcorn” ceilings and other minor repairs. Our Contractor from Hell walked out on us with 13 unfinished closets and no doors. We abandoned the renovations after the legal battle, leaving two ugly, yet functional bathrooms still ugly yet functional.

Four years and three cats later, the indoor/outdoor rug I used as temporary flooring in the bathroom had experienced an unfortunate bout of accidental cat urine. The consequent stench was one we could not get accustomed to and rather than replacing the gray, thin rug for the third time, this was the momentum we needed to finally try this small bathroom renovation project on our own.

We measured, planned, researched, learned, and finally, shopped! With two carts loaded full of tiles, grout, mortar, sink, lights, wainscoting, paint, spray paint and some other jars they insisted we must buy (tile sealers and stain removers).

We came home energized, with a plan in hand.

    1. Remove old sink.
    1. Pull up the disgusting cat-piss soaked rug.
    1. Clean and disinfect under the floor.
    1. Sand the well-functioning vanity below the sink.
    1. Spray paint vanity.
    1. Remove old light fixture.
    1. Install sink on top of newly painted, modern vanity.
    1. Install new faucet.
    1. Paint the bathroom covering the neon green.
    1. Install wainscoting base, wainscoting and wainscoting top molding.
    1. Install new light fixture.
    1. Mortar the floor.
    1. Lay the tile.
    1. Grout the tile the next day, seal the tile.
  1. Yay

A few steps I didn’t anticipate/ account for:

Turning off the water. I was able to turn the cold water shut off valve easily. (Beginner’s luck). But the hot water valve refused to budge. I scrutinized under the sink, plumber style, with the flashlight in my mouth, so I can use both hands and concluded the valve was rusted shut. We attempted every plier type tool and even a sock soaked with vinegar (I thought it might loosen the calcium and mineral deposits). Nothing worked. We even chipped a piece of the warped metal valve off.

The super comes the next day and as we predicted, he needs to make us wait another day while he notifies the rest of the building’s tenants that the water will have to be shut off on our entire line. (Read: more money, more delay, welcome to home improvement).

Another thing we didn’t take into account: repairing the holes in the walls before painting. Two pieces of framed artwork and two metal street signs created huge orifices in our walls but the renovation of the 1970s light fixture turned shoving compound into the holes into a full-fledged spackling job. Then sand the walls down while holding breath.

I love to begin a project and work on it tirelessly until it’s completed and inconveniences, like waiting for the super and waiting for hole cream to solidify really, puts a damper on my otherwise non-spinning wheel!

Delays seem synonymous with home improvement. Surprises lurk behind walls, under floors, and in the pipes. While this is frustrating, it’s reassuring to know we haven’t cut our fingers off (yet) or got scalded by the hot water when we broke the valve.

This is a ride, like every other journey in life. Sometimes you follow a course unwavering, and sometimes the road leads you at a speed, or direction, you hadn’t predicted. And as Hunter S. Thompson says, “you buy the ticket, you take the ride.”

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