Posted in Commentary, Desert Life, Lessons Learned

Just one small room…how hard could it be?

When we moved into our house 8 years ago, there were some broken tiles in the master bath.  When we did the inspection, we didn’t ask for them to be taken care of, because it was small stuff, and we could do it.  No biggie.

It was such a non-issue that we didn’t get around to it at all in all that time, but fixing it was near the top of my project list now that I’m home, and frankly, I was afraid of what 8 years of neglect had wrought.  Would I find the entire wall rotted out behind it?

I hammered and chiseled out the damaged tiles, and of course there was water damage behind them; the drywall crumbled when touched.  They’d been installed on green board, a type of drywall that was supposed to be water resistant, but by no means waterproof.  Bathroom tile isn’t really supposed to be installed on drywall, but back in 1980 when the house was built, cement backer board was new-fangled, if it had been invented at all yet.  I reached up into the wall to see if I could determine how far the damage went, and it seemed to be about 2-3 courses of tile in either direction.  It was kind of a mess when I opened it; I found little roots in the wall that must’ve creeped in from the outside somehow.  And dirt.  Where’d the dirt come from?  Also?  If I’d known I’d find mouse turds in the wall when I opened it up, I might not have been so quick to stick my hand up into the dark unknown spaces between drywall.  Ignorance really IS bliss.

It all started here

I sent photos and details to my brother, who knows about these things, and asked him what I should do next.  He said the two words I feared the most:  “Gut it.”  He said that unless I opened it up, I wouldn’t know the extent of the damage, and since I was planning to cement over the works, that could cause problems down the line.  As it turned out, the damage WAS extensive (and probably would’ve been much worse if I didn’t live in a desert), and I’m glad I took it all out and watched it be put back together.  Now I know what’s there, and it should last the rest of my life.

Demo began soon after, and it has been a work in progress for I don’t know how long now.  (Since January 26th, says my Flickr account.)  I don’t know how long it’s been, because I’ve moved into the portion of the project where I’m wiped out, tired of thinking about it, and just want it done.  I start all these DIY projects with a fair amount of enthusiasm, but a month in, the hopefulness inherent in the dream of a new bathroom gives way to the reality of ruined shoes, a cough that won’t go away, grit between your toes every time you go into the bathroom, and general exhaustion, because despite it being a small bathroom, the amount of work to do it over is, evidently, endless.

I can almost see the end from here; I still have to finish texturizing the walls, then paint them, complete the plumbing in the shower (my brother did the hard stuff, bless his little tool-wielding soul), and tile the floor.  Pix in progress here (if you click the “Show info” link in the upper right-hand corner, you’ll get the captions, too); I’m hoping to unveil the finished project by next week’s blog, but I am beat, so we’ll see what happens.  That said, I’m pretty proud to have done this all myself, but for the cement and glass block work that I hired out to professionals.  (I know my limits.)

Anybody else DIYing it up?



I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.

7 thoughts on “Just one small room…how hard could it be?

  1. DIY? Ha. If I can’t pay someone to do it, this single mama doesn’t do it. ;o)

    Which would probably be why I have a gorgeous remodeled kitchen; newly insulated and sealed subfloor and ductwork; an overly large yard that looks like #%(@ 6-9 months out of the year (every month besides the dead of winter); and a peel in the drywall above my shower that I hope and pray is just peeling drywall from the moisture of a poorly ventilated shower and not, as a I fear, a leak from my roof that I know one day soon I’ll have to replace. Like your shower, my home inspector said 3 years ago when I bought the house that the roof would need to be replaced in the imminent future…but of course it wasn’t bad enough then to require the seller to replace the roof. Argh.

    No way in hell I’m touching that roof myself, though. I’m not stupid. And like an ostrich (and like with so much else in my life), I stick my stubborn head in the sand, plug my ears and say “la-la-la!” at the top of my shrieking lungs, and hope to hell it doesn’t bite me in the ass.

    Which doesn’t bode well, as the tooth/teeth I was told 18 months ago would need a crown in about 6 months have started to hurt (and note that math–I’m about a year or more overdue)…and it’s, uh, impressive how quickly it’s gone from a mild, barely noticeable, sporadic twinge to a nearly constant, light, but there, ache. Yea. I’d SO much rather spend $2000 on something, anything!, more enjoyable.

    So…good luck with the end of the project!! Regardless of when it officially finishes, I’m sure it’ll look fabulous!!


    1. Your kitchen IS gorgeous.

      On your roof: we had a leak in the living room (hence the living room project on my list) and we had roofing companies out this past spring to get estimates on what we were sure was a complete expensive reroofing. As it turned out, both the companies we talked to said all we needed was some sealing redone. We went from fearing a $10K reroofing to a $420 sealing and patch job. Not cheap, but at least we stopped hyperventilating. So you might have an actual roofing company give you the news. If it’s the worst, you can still put it off. But it may not be the worst.

      I would not recommend the roofing company look at your tooth, however. Owie. 😦

      1. I should add that the reason we thought we were in for a reroofing is because OUR inspector said it was in the offing 8 years ago, too. When roof guys tell you you don’t need a new roof, and they make their money doing new roofs (rooves? why isn’t it rooves?), I tend to credit them more then a general inspector, no matter how good (and ours was).

  2. It is looking so good….can’t wait to see it finished (a sentiment I know you share). I am at a point in the current guitar build where the finish work is being done. It is the part of building I like the least, and I am always just ready to be done with the build by this time in the project. So I feel your pain!

  3. Looks really good. How did you do the shower – did you paint over the cement board? (If so, I didn’t know that was possible.)

    1. No, a local company called Rogo’s, who does decorative cement, came in and put up the cement board for me, and then coated it with 2 layers of cement, then a sealing primer, then stained it that color for me, then sealed it again.

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