Bathroom Renovation, Neighbor Amy on St Charles Ave



Amy Shell, a neighbor on St. Charles Avenue, has just won Mary Kay Andrews’ Contest whereby contestants were asked to submit their stories about worst/best renovation projects. Amy’s story is presented on a video posted to Mary Kay Andrews’ website ( Mary Kay Andrews is author of the New York Times bestselling Savannah Breeze and Blue Christmas.


Amy submitted a blog (and in case you don’t know, this is a personal log of thoughts published on a Web page) she had written about renovating her upstairs bathroom in January 2007. Amy’s full essay, including pictures, is posted here for your entertainment! 


Amy, congratulations on winning the contest (this is where she does good). As for the renovation, well, during the process it wasn’t all good but it turned out to be a good thing!


Allow Me to Recap

Tuesday night I began to work on my upstairs bathroom. I was working by myself, so I opted not to remove the toilet yet, but to begin tiling the floor and put all the solid pieces down that wouldn’t need to be cut. I also left the sink in place since it is fixed to the wall and doesn’t actually touch the floor. I can’t even begin to tell you what a big mistake that was. The removal of the sink and toilet in the downstairs bathroom was so easy that I had a very skewed idea of how easy removing these should be. Those do-it-yourself shows that tell you to do ALL demo first… weren’t kidding.


Last night, I lured my good friend, Q, over with pizza for dinner in exchange for his help. While I had somebody to help, I figured the first thing we should do is remove the toilet since I didn’t think I could carry it out of there by myself. I had no idea what I was getting us into. The tank came off the toilet with minimal water on the floor, but the bowl was a different ballgame. For whatever reason, the bolt that hold the toilet down will not come out, so I am going to have to get a metal saw or something and just cut them off. So, we moved to the sink next. Very quickly, he realized that I didn’t have a pipe wrench or any sort of tool to disconnect the pipes in order to get the sink out. Before leaving to fetch the tools from my brother’s house, we notice that the water supply for the toilet is dripping on the floor, so we put it in a bucket to keep the water from getting on my freshly laid tiles.


We trek across town (in a small Honda with a large daisy painted on the hood I might add) to get the tools and end up running a friend of Q’s to get his truck and taking a little longer to get back then we expected. We get back with the tool and go upstairs. Q sits on the floor under the sink to disconnect the sink and suddenly his rearend is completely soaked. Apparently that little drip had overflowed the bucket and had made its way over most of the bathroom floor. There was water everywhere! We dried up what we could but I knew that getting all the adhesive wet meant that I was going to have to take up all those tiles and start all over again.


The sink came out without too much work but the mounting plate that was screwed into the wall was a different story. I get out the power screw driver and Q starts to take the plate off. On the first try, the screwdriver spins out of his hand whirling to the ground, bouncing off his foot and then breaking one of the tiles. (And, yes I laughed at him). After what seemed like an hour of drilling and wrenching the stupid plate, we finally got it off.


The next project was to knock off the tile toothbrush holder, soap dish and towel racks which are mounted into the wall. After the other frustrations, we were both ready to swing the sledgehammer a little bit. I knock them all off, managing to break yet another new floor tile. Then, trying to make the leftover broken pieces smooth, Q uses a coal chisel and the sledgehammer. His hand slips off scraping against the broken tile and suddenly, there is blood. And do I have band-aids in my house?? Of course, not! So, what do we use? That’s right… duck tape!


So, after we get him all patched up, we start removing the newly laid tile from the floor. Might I remind you, that I had decided to tile over the existing tile on the floor rather than demo it up. Yet, another bad idea. The old tile was coming up with the new tile. Now, I have to demo up all that tile before I can begin laying the new tile. So, basically… last night we undid any progress that I had made. And yes, the drip is still going. I managed to rig up some larger buckets to catch the water and I only hope its large enough to hold it all until I get home for lunch today to empty it.


Luckily for me, Q has agreed to come back tonight for round two. I’m surprised since every time he comes over he seems to get hurt. This past summer, he worked in my yard and got stung by wasps. I think he even tripped on my stairs once. My house is a Q-danger zone. Maybe I should buy him something better than pizza? So, wish us luck that tonight goes a little better… or at least that there is no blood involved this time!


Bathroom Update

I am officially a moron. My dad came by on my lunch break and looked at the damage and helped me figure out how to cut the bolts off the toilet bowl to get it out. I had the toilet tubing running into long tray catching the water which drained down into a large tupperware container so that it wouldn’t overflow by the time I got home from work. Dad said it looked like a rube goldberg contraption.


His question, which never once crossed my mind… or Q’s either apparently… was why we didn’t just to do THIS:


Can you really call this progress?

This is a picture that was taken of my icky pink bathroom before the renovation process began. The walls were pink… the floor was pink… Can you say “YUCK!”?


This is the current condition of the bathroom…


I got the beadboard on the walls last night, but they were pretty warped. So it required wedging 2x4s in there to hold them flat to the wall while the liquid nails dried. My bathroom looks like a jungle gym!! But the tiles are looking great and I am really happy with the color I chose.


I’m getting really excited. I think I have at least reached the halfway point on this project. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that I will be able to get a lot done this weekend since it is a 3-day weekend. I’m so glad it is Friday and I can work on it late tonight and not have to get up early in the morning.


oh my…

What a mess…


This was earlier tonight and I got almost all the tile off. We duct taped some plastic sheeting up in there so I can take a shower. Sigh… I am so ready for this to be finished.


30 Things I Learned This Weekend


1. Concrete is heavy, even if broken into small pieces.

2. Just because you have a masonry bit for your drill that says “for concrete” does not mean it will drill through it easily or even at all.

3. When using tools in a two story house, what you need will always be downstairs when you are upstairs and vice versa.

4. Flying busted concrete is unpredictable and painful, especially when it is unexpected. I highly recommend eye protection.

5. There is a maximum number of times one can swing a sledgehammer in one day.

6. Montgomery City Waste Management cans have a maximum weight. Wheels and the can will bend if this weight is exceeded, possibly turning over and spilling heavy concrete in your front yard.

7. Concrete is not flexible and this is not negotiable.

8. Large chunks of concrete in your front yard serve as not only lawn decoration, but a new perch for pigeons and other birds.

9. It will rain as soon as you put wood in the back of a pick-up to bring it home.

10. Sheets of concrete backer board will fit in a convertible if you just put the top down. (Note: they will also scratch the paint if you slide them across the car as you put them in/out)

11. You should always be friendly to your neighbors. You never know when you might need them to help you carry something heavy from your car into the house (See 10)

12. When cutting pieces of wood, you should mark which piece you intend to use and make sure you have the right one before you pound nails into it and carry it upstairs to put in place.

13. People who say, “measure twice, cut once” know what they are talking about.

14. When you call someone and ask them to bring you a tool, you will most likely find another way to accomplish your mission before that person arrives with said tool.

15. What you planned to accomplish today almost never translates into what you did accomplish today.

16. Don’t laugh at someone when they hammer their own finger. Remember karma. If you laugh, it will happen to you moments later.

17. Sometimes spare parts can be found in a wall. Don’t panic if you unexpectedly remove a piece of pipe, as it may not have been connected to anything in the first place.

18. If you are sitting in a tub pounding on the wall and you feel something wet on your head, don’t accuse the person behind you of spitting on you. Consider first that they showerhead may be dripping.

19. When using a sledgehammer on one side of a wall, don’t be oblivious the fact that you are affecting the next room. You should check the status of the other side of the wall at random intervals. The wall may crack and chunks of plaster may fall out in the next room.

20. If you are a good climber, you do not necessarily need a ladder to get into an attic.

21. Make sure an ice pack, tourniquet, large bandages, and a crow bar are at least close by as they may be necessary at some point in the process.

22. Color is subjective to its environment. Just because golden brown looked good in the downstairs bathroom, doesn’t mean it won’t look like poop smeared on the wall in the upstairs bathroom.

23. Demolition dust can travel much farther than you think it can.

24. A loyal dog will follow you up and down the stairs as many times as you go, even if you tell her you will be back in one minute.

25. You can’t convince a barking dog that the knocking she just heard was your hammer, and not someone at the door.

26. A dad who’s back hurts too bad to push out the garbage can at home can still use a sledgehammer on his daughter’s bathroom wall.

27. Do not say “I told you so” to someone with a sledgehammer in their hand.

28. Do not say “Measure twice, cut once” to someone still holding a power tool.

29. Allowing someone to break for dinner, usually translates into letting them quit for the night.

30. The most necessary tool to survive a renovation project is a good sense of humor.


Amy E. Shell