My bathroom renovation evolved into the perfect metaphor for life.
The renovation plan seemed simple enough; just a small bathroom, nothing major. No real organs would be touched; this was mostly a cosmetic procedure. We did extensive research, educated ourselves on protocols and materials, and always followed the mantra, “measure twice, cut once.” We gathered our supplies at Lowes and came home gung-ho, excited to begin work immediately.
The first step was to turn off the water because we were swapping out the sink on top of the vanity. No plumbing should have been involved. I crouched under the vanity, with the flashlight in my mouth like a proper plumber and easily turned the cold water valve to off. The beginner’s luck was short lived because the hot water valve refused to budge. On inspection – and through Google verification, we deduced it had become corroded, rusted and cemented shut by the build up of calcium and mineral deposits. My husband and I took turns using various techniques and pliers, to no avail. We were forced to call our building manager for help, which wouldn’t come until the next day.
I find lessons everywhere; the first one was sometimes you have to ask for help. The second one was deadlines are fruitless anywhere besides your mind because life doesn’t abide by deadlines.
Jimmy came the next day with proper tools and new valves. We showed him the sink we purchased and he tells us the drain it came with would most likely leak – do we want a metal one rather than the plastic shitty one it came with? He can give us one from his shop downstairs. Only $10.86. A bargain for a better pipe. By the end of the day, we had a functioning sink, but the tile floor would have to wait until the next day.
In the morning, I noticed a small puddle of water near the back of the toilet. Ironically the toilet was not being touched or replaced and yet it too had sprung a leak. It was as if they went in to fix the appendix and accidentally nicked the gall bladder. Luckily my husband’s grandfather taught him to repair toilets when he was a young lad because apparently he had two sisters who had regular shit storms and a house with bad plumbing. My husband diagnosed the toilet with a leaky tank and for which we’d have to get a new washer…on our next trip to Lowes.
The next item to replace was the light fixture. The old one came off easily but we noticed it had previously been installed erroneously without the necessary junction box. Real life is what lurks behind those mysterious walls. You can’t see inside the walls, any more than you can predict what tomorrow will bring. You cut them open and adjust. My husband got the junction box and then realized there was no wood into which to drill it. So we MacGuivered a way to get it to fit. It seemed like a series of comedic errors and ghetto-rigs but we did it.
Our old light fixture was one of those 1980s Hollywood lights with protruding bulbs and our new one came with domed glass shades which we now realized would protrude below the medicine cabinet, rendering it useless. We had to unscrew the medicine cabinet off the wall and move it down. After we removed the mirrored cabinet, we had to repaint the section of the wall. So we repainted the wall and reattached the medicine cabinet.
We had to install three tiles above the sink as a splash guard. My husband found the ideal solution in these beautiful porcelain white wave-like tiles, which were marked as 12” each and together would give us the perfect 36” we needed. Only when we got home we noted the tiles were 13” and must have been mismarked. No one’s fault, but required another trip to Lowes for them to cut the tiles to fit.
You can’t foresee what you find behind the walls or how many times you’ll need to go to Lowes. Most disappointingly you can’t even account for a budget because surprises lurk with their hands out even in small bathroom renovations.
By the time we got to tiling our floor, 3 days later than intended, I was anxious for the unexpected caveats which may stump our path. Surprisingly we mixed the mortar effortlessly and began work, proud of our progress. We learned as we laid and midway through took a mandatory tool-washing break. This is when, unbeknownst to me, our 5-year-old daughter decided to take a test walk to see “how the tiles felt under my feet.” The mortar was still wet and our diligent application went to shit as her weight forced the mortar to explode from the cracks. This wouldn’t have been so bad, had we not decided to use small mosaic tiles on the floor.
Life is like Bathroom remodels: they could be a comedy of errors and sometimes even a fucking tragedy, but at the end of the day, I stand back, grateful for a problem which can be fixed by a trip to the hardware store and a call down to Jimmy.