Home Improvement, Again

It's been a terrible month for blogging. There was the earlier crisis and then  a ton of home improvement. All those lingering projects that we've ignored over the years have suddenly become imperative. 

The biggest project has the been the bathroom. In houses from this vintage, they used to pour cement under the floor boards in bathrooms. A full foot of cement that encased all the pipes and the beams for the house. I asked the contractor why they did that, and he said he didn't know, but it was probably a bunch of new immigrants who used to make houses that way back in Italy. 

So, there was a leak in one of those 100-year old lead pipes, but the plumber couldn't get to it, because it was encased in 100-year old cement that could fall through the kitchen ceiling. We didn't even know there was a leak until they took down all four ceilings in the kitchen during that renovation three years ago. The many ceilings sucked up the bath water like a big tampon.

We discovered that if we took two showers and didn't use the tub, water wouldn't leak into the kitchen. And that's how we've lived for the past few years. Yes, there was a minor problem during the holidays when the relatives used the shower, too, but we looked past it.

We also looked past the fact that it was an incredibly ugly bathroom.


Well, we weren't allowed to ignore the problem anymore and we had to put in a clean, sensible, leak-free bathroom.

Here's what it looks like so far: 

DSC_0001 DSC_0005

Two more days to go. And then I'll get my office back and I won't have to shower at the gym anymore. Wahoo!


12 thoughts on “Home Improvement, Again

  1. In houses from this vintage, they used to pour cement under the floor boards in bathrooms.
    They did it for the same reason all the pension funds are underfunded. They knew it would be someone else’s problem by the time it breaks.

  2. We lived through a bathroom renovation in our old house that wasn’t as problematic as yours (no poured cement!) but was vexing.
    One of the joys of our newer home is the well-built and mostly accessible nature of the utilities. We had to punch a small hole in the garage ceiling this summer to repair the shower drain: much simpler than the two thousand dollars required to replace the stack and repair all the walls when that, too, failed in our old house!

  3. We’ve been putting off a bathroom renovation because we only have one tub/shower. We’ll probably get one of those tub-shower liners because the tub has rust spots where a shower door sat and because cleaning tile in a shower is a pain.

  4. Grout is in now. This isn’t my dream bathroom. We didn’t demo the place and take it back to the studs. This way was much more affordable.

  5. Is it? We have ugly 80’s pink-beige tile highlighted with a healthy layer of soap scum. The tile is in good shape, but the tub needs replaced. We will probably wait until we want to move, but I don’t see how to deal with the tub any other way. The door of the bathroom isn’t even the width of a regular interior doorway.
    I’m supposed to redo the grout on the floor of the other bathroom. I have the stuff, but not the energy.

  6. If you want to replace the tub, you can get an inexpensive one for $350. We didn’t replace all the tile around the tub, just the bottom row of tile. We went for a contrasting color to make it look like a border. It’s impossible to perfectly match old tiles, so don’t even try. The demo of the cement floor was the biggest cost in this renovation. I think it cost two grand and took a full day. Then we needed new pipes in the floor. The contractor reframed the floor, leveled it, and put in a subfloor. The tiler did the floor and the edge around the tub. We didn’t deal with sheetrock or electrical. The plumber has to come back and hook up the new vanity (another $350 from Lowe’s) and the fixtures in the tub. Almost there.

  7. What a terrible experience! And the worst part is the thought that you had to take your baths elsewhere when there was a bathroom in your home, up and running except for the problem with your floor. You should change your tiles while you’re at it, too.

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