DIY Master Bathroom upgrade

We finished this particular DIY bathroom upgrade project a year ago, but I never got around to scratching out the details. And since I have lost my motivation to finish the kitchen remodel, I needed a boost. Especially now that Zach is wandering around and asking when we can throw a big party thus providing me with a deadline.

So, here’s how we spent about $1500 dollars on a bathroom upgrade that has an estimated value return of at least $10,000.

In the beginning, there was a HALF bathroom and it was f-ugly. A woman was forced to share a shower with three males, and many toilet aiming fails.

A wall full of sink and counter, but no shower in sight. Surely you see how this situation just isn’t right?

A grizzled old toilet that gushed away 9 gallons of water per flush. Then a beauty with buttons swept in with a demure hush: 0.4 gallons for #1, and 1.4 for #2– a hippie heart filled with joy– what about you?

Alright, enough rhyming. Thank me now.

The only perk of the old bathroom was that the giant mirror let me photograph the whole thing. See that peculiar corner cabinet, because the giant counter was somehow lacking in storage? Now there lives a lovely little sink.

How’d we do that?

Step 1:
Decide one afternoon to start peeling wallpaper, in order to encourage husband’s enthusiasm for the project. By the way, I’m a fan of asking for forgiveness over permission– that doesn’t mean it always works in my favor.

Encourage your then 4-year-old to peel wallpaper when he’s pissed off about something. Which will work until he realizes that he’s working.

Step 2:
Fight with wallpaper for several weeks (I have a focus problem, remember?)

My removal method included scoring holes in the paper, wetting down small sections of wall with fabric softener, and carefully scraping away at the loosening paper. For about an hour.

Eventually impatience and cussing smacked careful right out of the house.

Scrape, Cuss. Scrape, Cuss. Scrape, Cuss. Gouge holes in the drywall with the arrival of an unnatural focus to WIN against paper and glue.

Step 3:
Remove the massive sink vanity. JB did this while I took the kids to a mud and i-phone filled renaissance faire. I thought it would take an hour. Four hours, a broken circular saw, and lots of scraped knuckles later he finally peeled it off the wall. But he had to cut it in half first. They didn’t skimp on much back in the Sixties.

Quickly, why would someone wallpaper a wall behind a large mirror? Why? Archaeology?

At this point we had to make a decision about the walls. Either we did a whole bunch of mudding and sanding, bought new drywall, or I applied a faux finish– Venetian plaster style. Lemme see… Yeah, faux plaster won.

Step 4:
Spend a few days pretending to be a 17th century master plaster. I have a lot of fun with plastering having done it around a fireplace as an accent wall in our previous house. It’s like grown up play dough, kinda.

There are many internet resources on faux techniques, and I took what I liked best from from several. This is a good general overview.

    1. Patched the largest of the holes.
    2. Primed the walls– mostly to seal the stale ashtray smell that wallpaper removal had released.
    3. Grab assorted trowels, scrapers, spreaders, and giant bucket of joint compound. I didn’t purchase special plaster– since I had the other in the basement already. A year later and my walls have suffered no ill effects from this choice.
    4. Small, thin coats of the plaster (or joint compound) and let each one dry completely.
    5. Lightly sand between each coat.
    6. Repeat until you are satisfied with the look, or tired of dealing–whichever comes first.
    7. Prime.
    8. Finish coat.

Seven years ago, I bought a bunch of tools for $5 from a Habitat Reuse store. And JB said we’d never need them!

Step 5:
Start laying the new floors. I highly recommend this particular flooring option from Allure: inexpensive, peel-n-stick vinyl, that is also water-proof and gorgeous? Yes, please.

Gorgeous, simply gorgeous.

Step 6:
Remove the old toilet, stuff cloth diaper into the smelly nastiness that is the sewer line. Scrape old wax ring.

Puke in your mouth. A lot. Use all the crime drama TV acquired knowledge, and rub vick’s vapor rub under your nose.

Lay new floor around the hole in the toilet.


Install new toilet. Note: Read the instructions carefully. Don’t ignore the part that mentions leveling and shimming the toilet bowl. Unless noticing a toilet leak as IT DRIPS ON YOUR HEAD IN THE BASEMENT sounds like fun.

Step 7:
We did use a plumber to install the new lines, because neither of us wanted to cut into the main cast iron pipe down in the basement. And by neither of us, I mean JB. I think we could have handled the plumbing– but wasn’t enthusiastic enough to argue my point. After that, paying the electrician to run new lines for the wall outlets–since neither bathroom came equipped with a place to plug in a hair dryer. That was just laziness on my part.

The plumber was nice enough to install the shower pan (we only paid for roughing in), though he didn’t read the instructions, either. Which turned out to be a good thing, since I had purchased the wrong size shower pan (my focus needs more focus).

This is the wrong shower pan, which was supposed to be laid and leveled with plaster of paris. And the drywall needed to come off the studs.

One new shower pan, 30 minutes of blaring Godsmack, a crowbar and a mallet, and we were back in business. Good times, destruction.

Then we had to put up the fiberglass wall surround. In retrospect, tile would have been just as easy and cost-comparable. Actually, tile probably would have been easier, once you factor in what a PITA it is to get those surrounds perfectly level and plumb.

The accent tile around the top came in 12×12 sheets, and took a few hours one Sunday morning. Which is really nothing, considering the damn wallpaper.

Plumber and Electrician: $500
Flooring: $1.99 per square foot x 30 square feet= $59
Tile: $40 (and I have enough leftover to do a backsplash around the sink
Sink and Cabinet: $99 (it was on sale!)
Sink and Shower Faucets: $200
Shower Surround: $245
First Shower Pan: $100
Second Shower Pan: $158
Paint: $40
Toilet: $199 -$100 state refund for replacing water-hog toilets = $99

Total Cost: $1540 + tax Estimated added value: $12,000.

Hunh. Yeah, I think I DO feel sort of motivated toward the kitchen now.

Bunk Bed Tents

Before anyone starts doing the cough-laugh thing whilst whispering “bless her heart” to themselves… I know. I feel the same way about the tent portion of the bed tent. The images on the inside? I traced what they wanted from that google place onto leftover scrap material, added some acrylic paint (and some glow in the dark paint) and was done in an hour. JB did the Millennium Falcon, after he fell to the floor laughing about how my version looked like a penis with some sort of testicle disease.

I had many,many dreams for the bed tents (damn you, pinterest!) But dreams are dreams and reality is, well. Life. 😀

Dream: You wait until the last minute (December 21st…) for stuff like this, while blithely waving your hand, saying, “it’ll take me an hour– tops”.
Reality: Your youngest child will puke that night followed by your oldest, 48 hours later. In between they will seek your love and attention. You will feel like a douchebag for ditching them to sew. You sigh and sit with your children. As it should be.

Dream: You will decide to wait until Christmas night, since you know you are getting a new sewing machine.
Reality: Sixteen seconds after you get motivated to unpack the new toy, you– and the rest of the street, oy he’s loud– hear your husband vomit. He will then spend the first 2 days of vacation either holding down the couch, or sitting really still on the floor watching cars spin on a track. I must pause and give some love– he was made a strong effort to play enough with the kids that I wasn’t bombarded the entire time.

Dream: Your husband is finally well enough to take kids away from the house for a 3 hour window. You can finish the tents!
Reality: You realize that the very reinforced window is crooked as hell. You will also realize that the up-cycled bed sheet is so old that ripping out seams is not an option. You nash your teeth, figure out a way to hang the monstrosity in the living room window and stare at it for 2 days.

Dream: You’ll just start over, you think.
Reality: Your kid has already said he didn’t care about the crooked window. If you start over you are in direct conflict with the “not everything has to be perfect”** life vibe you keep preaching.

Solution: You do your tracing thing and hot glue gun the pictures over the crooked window, which will now face the wall. Then you glance at your shiny new sewing machine and the now-hated bed tent. You feel the weight of the already heated glue gun. You hot glue gun the rest of it– sewing be damned.

**will resist urge to obsess about making upgraded bed tents. will…resist…**

My Creative Mind

Long before I had my own children, I overheard a stranger lightly scold her child’s use of his “creative mind” at a grocery store. That child was 1) old enough to know better, and 2) opening all of the freezer doors to knock down the carefully arranged boxes of food.

What does that story have to do with this post? Um. Nothing. Except I can’t use the phrase, creative mind without also thinking troublemaker. And considering that my husband reacts to 85.3% of my creative project ideas with the same thought, it seemed apropos.

One of my biggest ADHD challenges isn’t focus. Watch me read a book from a favorite author. 600 pages in a day? No problem. They refer to that as hyperfocus, and while challenging and disruptive, I cope okay.

No, my catastrophic problems occur more in the time estimation/management arena. For example, I think I can do almost anything in an hour, and that it only ever takes 15 minutes to get from Point A to B. Nevermind that nothing can be done in an hour anymore (Small People!) and it takes me 15 minutes to transition activities. That my tried and true time management methodology includes crisis and looming deadlines is problematic. But when some “normie” (aka, a typically thinking, non-ADHD person known as husband) tries to help me plan effectively, my immediate reaction is, “WTF—I’m not an idiot! I use to be a project manager!” And while both of those statements are true, I still slid right up to every deadline, often making them only by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin. Just a teeny bit of an adrenaline junky.

It’s that complete lack of time management that took me from webmd (checking for early strep throat symptoms– just in case) to facebook, to pinterest, then to here. It’s not a lack of focus– I’m hyperfocusing on NOT putting away a Mt. Everest sized pile of laundry. I’m totally smitten with pinterest. The possibilities. The creativity. The ability to symbolically collect magazine clippings without having a bunch of magazine clippings.

It brings joy to my heart, people.

Homegrown Superhereos

Okay- so I understand the obsession between little boys and superheroes, and little girls with princesses. They are both marketed as being good and strong and, most importantly, magically strong. As a kid, I definitely had Princess Leia Underoos. I’m reasonably sure that I pretended to be Wonder Woman– and if not her, definitely Indiana Jones-ette.

But I also pretended to be an Indian Princess after watching a Gandi miniseries with my Mom, complete with a green-checked tablecloth tied around my face. It is that memory that prompted me to make them superhero capes of a more specialized variety.

Thanks to hot wheels, Zach is obsessed with flames. Not fire, thankfully, just flames. Elliot loves water–especially pouring it, which is why he still uses a sippy cup. While I was in the cape-making mode, I also had a belated birthday cape (as in from August!) for a friend of mine’s daughter, and a birthday party coming up for another little girl, the tinkerbell-loving daughter of one of my favorite feminist friends.

Superhero Capes for everyone!

I use the pattern from the Puking Pustilles website and imagination for everything else.

Since I can’t draw worth a darn, I did a google search for the type of clip-art I needed and found excellent examples for the flames, water splat, fairy (then a sword, see above about feminist friend), and a crown.

Once I decided what I wanted, I sized them appropriately in the photo editor and then printed onto regular paper.

Next I traced the designs onto interfacing. Then you choose your felt colors and iron on according to the package directions. Cut off the excess felt and iron-on the felt to the cape.

Now– all of this went without a hitch and is actually the most time consuming of the process. In theory. If you actually sew with any regularity. Me? Well, it took forever, but that wasn’t the capes’ fault. First, I had knotting and breaking problems with the bobbin. I took off the sewing plate to clean it, found this.

Which of course led me to take the rest of the machine apart (following manufacturers instructions) and clean/oil inside. Then, since I had already read 6 pages of the manual, I decided to stop a read the rest of it. Which sent me back to the store to get new needles. After that, I needed to practice my stitches before sewing the capes (I have never followed that step in sewing instructions before–it actually made a huge difference in the final product.)

Then it was time to sew.

Elliot’s superhero cape, aka Commander H2O:

Zach’s superhero cape, aka Captain Fire Flame:

I wasn’t even surprised when Zach, instead of falling onto the cape with love and amazement, just looked at me and said, “that doesn’t look like a Batman cape.” I was annoyed–but not surprised.