Friday, January 7, 2011

The blessings of a shower

I had a home remodeling contractor come this past Monday morning to start a three-day job of replacing my main bathroom ceiling because the paint had begun to bubble and the drywall was soft. The first step was to wash off the mold with bleach. He found bleach didn't wash it off completely. He then apologized for not attempting this while he gave me the estimate.

Anyone familiar with bathroom mold knows what that means -- the mold had burrowed into the drywall and all of it in the bathroom would have to be removed (well, unless I wanted to repeat the process in 6 months). So a three-day repair suddenly became a seven-day gut and rebuild. Yes, gut -- remove everything down to the studs.

The cause of this mess was because the bathroom fan, which I had put in 14 years ago, was not vented correctly and was not strong enough for the size room (though I was told it was at the time). The contractor later found that extra insulation above the bathroom had not been removed from its plastic liner, which meant it didn't dry out properly, and had also gotten quite moldy. He told me he was amazed I'm not sick from the mold.

After his news about the stubborn mold we had discussion about what could be saved and what couldn't. The house was built in 1960, 50 years old. The tile on the floor was original and many tiles were chipped (the pattern is still available, though is now "retro"). The tub and the toilet were lemon yellow and the toilet was not a water-efficient model. The vanity was built into the wall and could not be saved (it wasn't that special anyway). The sinks (white!) and faucets were only 10 years old and were kept. The large mirror and medicine cabinet will also be reused.

The work didn't start on Monday. The contractor called back a few hours later with a new estimate. Work began Tuesday morning. He and his crew ripped everything out.

I was handed a list of things to choose -- vanity cabinets, floor tile, shower controls, vanity lights, fan-light combo, shower and towel rods -- so I have spent several hours in Lowe's looking over my options. I've bought or chosen most things, but I need to go back for some more.

The good news in all this was I have time this week to get it done. Classes don't resume until Tuesday. The contractor didn't have another job scheduled this week. He came highly recommended, so I felt I could trust him when the budget was suddenly four times larger. He is also thorough enough that he found the moldy insulation and removed it. There were lots of little things in that bathroom that needed improvement, but none bad enough to warrant the expense. They're all taken care of now.

Alas, with a rushed schedule and in need of a working shower by Tuesday there have been a few annoying moments when he has said, "I need you to decide this right now."

Drywall was installed yesterday. The mud guy was here today and will be back tomorrow. That means a lot will happen on Sunday and Monday.

I visited a friend for a shower this evening. It was refreshing. The next one should be Tuesday morning -- at the college fitness center if necessary.

Modern shower controls have one handle that controls temperature with the assumption that pressure would be constant. Adding a second handle for pressure control adds another $100. At a time I was feeling particularly stressed I talked to the Lowe's guy in the bath department. My new kitchen faucet manages both controls in one inexpensive handle. It's amazing that shower controls can't manage the trick. He said it has to do with scald prevention but didn't know details.

So with no pressure control I went looking for low-flow shower heads. Yup, that would give me two of them. The display of shower heads seemed to describe each one of them in glowing terms that implied how extravagant its water usage would be (I didn't check flow ratings). All this in an era of conservation? I did find a few that emphasized their green credentials and bought one.

I've heard that composting toilets are a good idea, so checked into them. They're about eight times the price of a standard low-flow model. My contractor has never dealt with them before. I wish I had the time in this project to do enough research into them. Alas, that will have to wait.

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