A few days ago, I mentioned that we’d bought a few items to upgrade/renovate Rebecca’s bathroom, also called “bathroom #2″ or “the hall bathroom”. It’s the one that isn’t the master bath. The transformation occurred Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
The bathroom is about 6′ x 7.5′ in size, about as small as it can be while still containing a full tub/shower, a toilet, and a vanity with sink. Like the rest of our house, the walls were painted a boring light brown (“Brazil nut”), which you can see in this photo. For the last year or so, we had dark red shower curtains and bath mats in the room, which made it look darker and smaller. We had a cabinet over the toilet, which held a lot of stuff but made the bathroom feel even more cramped. And its right leg was right next to the tub and kept getting splashed during bath time. The builders had installed a very cheap light fixture over the mirror.
Tuesday (June 19) morning, I began prepping the room. I took out the old cabinet and bath mats. I cleared the sink area, removed two frames from the wall, took off the light switch and outlet cover plates, etc.
Then I took off the light fixture. Knowing that the base of the new fixture is smaller than that of the old one, I knew I’d have to paint that area too — which is why the light fixture and paint had to be done at the same time. So I used my halogen work lights with an extension cord running from another room. The breaker for that bathroom also controls the outlets in the living room (on the other side of the wall), which meant no TV or DVDs for my two ladies. About 11 a.m., they left to go shopping.
This is when it got interesting. The base plate for the old light fixture wasn’t attached to the electrical box in the wall; the builders had used toggle bolts in larger-than-necessary holes — holes large enough that spackle wouldn’t fill them and located where they’d now be visible. I’ve never repaired drywall holes larger than a nail. Internet to the rescue. I learned about drywall patches and joint compound. So, not having begun painting, I left for Lowe’s to get a drywall repair kit (less than $10).
It was about lunch time, so I returned home by way of McDonald’s, where I ran into my wife and daughter. Rebecca was overjoyed to see me there, and hugged me like I’d been gone for days. After a bit of play in the Playland, we returned home.
While Rebecca napped, I patched the two holes left by the builders. (Briefly, we’d considered that the two half-inch holes could be reported as a warranty issue for our house, but discarded the idea because: (1) it would mean delaying our painting till who-knows-when, (2) their patch wouldn’t look any better than ours, if they agreed to fix it, and (3) the builder could easily say it was something I’d caused by removing the light fixture. I’d have never known about the holes if we hadn’t decided to replace the fixture.) It wasn’t difficult.
(I capped off the loose live wires and turned the breaker back on so I could run the exhaust fan in the bathroom — mostly for the heat of the lights, but also for the humidity — so the paint would dry more quickly. This meant Rebecca got to watch a couple of afternoon shows.)
While the compound dried, I began painting the rest of the room. I’ve already mentioned the room’s size. Now subtract the vanity/cabinet, the toilet, and the tub. And the space it takes for the work lights. And a newspaper on which the paint can sits. And a step stool so I can reach the upper areas of the wall. This means there’s little floor space left. Just turning around means clambering over things (carefully, so I don’t knock over paint can or lights). It also meant I brushed the wall by hand (no roller), since I felt there wasn’t enough room for a handle and a paint tray. I used a “Handy Paint Cup” (website) to hold the paint — it also has a magnet to hold the brush.
The hardest part was behind the door, where there’s about one inch of wall space between the corner and the door trim, all the way down. It wasn’t even a wide enough space to mask with tape. And I figured if I could do that space without masking, then what’s the point of masking the rest of the stuff? So I painted the HGTV way — no drop cloth, no masking… Just a steady hand.
Every time I had to move the step stool, it meant I had to move the work lights, which meant I had to move the paint can and its newspaper. And I had to move the step stool every few minutes. This took more time than painting.
Did I say the hardest part was behind the door? Later, the even harder part was painting behind the toilet tank. I’m pretty sure I didn’t cover all that area back there, but you can’t tell.
My narrow brush was a cheap brush. By the time I’d almost finished the first coat of the room, the brush was worthless. I went to Lowe’s again to get better brushes.
It was now almost supper time, but the new brushes were amazing. Lesson learned: Don’t skimp on the brushes. I finished the first coat in a matter of minutes, then ate supper. The second coat went much more quickly, mostly due to the new brushes, but also because I was in a rhythm by now. Still, I painted until after Rebecca had to go to bed, finishing at about my own bed time.
The next morning (Wednesday, June 20), I installed the new light fixture. The base plate attached easily to the electrical box in the wall, and I got the wires connected without issue. But when I pressed the fixture up to the base plate, the screws built into the base plate weren’t long enough to fully attach to the front of the fixture. Ugh. I’m not sure what the manufacturer was thinking. Fortunately, I keep hundreds of unused screws in the garage. I found two that were the same width and the same thread size, but just a little longer. This meant I had to disconnect the wires and remove the base plate, since those screws come in through the back of the base plate. Repeat attachment procedure, and we finally had a new light fixture.
And, because of the position of the new light fixture, you can’t see the two places where I had to repair the drywall holes. Even before putting up the light, they looked pretty good.
Then it was time to work on the wall-mounted cabinet, something else I’ve never done before. Oops. It says it must be attached to wall studs. I have photos of every room in the house before drywall, so I know the approximate location of wall studs, but not enough to be exact. And I’ve never acquired my Dad’s skill of tapping on walls and correctly locating studs (all my taps sound the same to me, whether I’m on a stud or not).
So, you guessed it, back to Lowe’s for a stud finder. I spent a few minutes online first, reading product reviews, so when I arrived at the store I bought exactly the kind I wanted without dilly-dallying. It was $20, but required a 9-volt battery, which was another $7 (for a two-pack). Then lunchtime at Mooyah. We hit Hastings on the way home to get a book for my wife.
Then Rebecca napped, so I waited to drill (her room is next to the bathroom).
After her nap, it was back to work. The stud-finder worked perfectly, locating the studs I needed. (I’ve never used one before, so I was impressed with how well it worked. It also warns if there’s a live wire behind the wall — but of course I already know the locations of the wires from my old photos.)
Then, hold the cabinet up against the wall while the wife walks into the room to see if it looks right. Move it up. Move it down. Center over toilet. Arms getting tired. Rebecca underfoot. Finally decide on exact location. Mark cabinet for drilling. Drill through cabinet. Match holes with stud marks on wall. Drill into wall for starter holes.
Wife holds cabinet against wall while I start all four wood screws. Then realize I forgot the washers. Wife continues holding cabinet while I remove screws one at a time and add washers. Finally get it going. The screws on the right went in relatively easily. On the left, neither screw would go all the way in, as if the stud was made of a different material. Tried shorter screws from my stash; still didn’t work. Drilled out the holes slightly larger. Still didn’t work. Finally, I tried narrower screws from my stash, and was able to get them all the way in. Cabinet finished.
While I showered, wife and RLF cleaned the bathroom. She kept saying how great a job I’d done with the paint, though I can easily spot the few places I went over the lines. Despite my no-masking, no-drop cloth policy, she found only a couple of specks on the toilet and floor.
Then to Target for brighter bath mats (the yellow ones you see in the top photo).
The bright blue walls, pink and green shower curtain, white cabinet, and bright yellow (“pineapple”) bath mats all combine to make the tiny bathroom a bright and happy place. It seems larger now too.
(Now wife is listing other rooms and walls that desire better paint colors, etc.)
Addendum, June 21, 2012
I forgot to total the cost of the project:
$88 — cabinet (Estate by RSI, “boardwalk” style)
$48 — light fixture (Portfolio, 3-light vanity bar, brushed nickel finish)
$28 — bath mats
$26 — paint (Olympic Premium, semi-gloss, “Ocean Breeze”, 1 gal.)
$20 — stud-finder (Zircon e50)
$16 — paint brushes (Shur-Line, teflon, 3pk)
$9 — drywall repair kit
$7 — battery, 9-volt, 2pk.
$6 — shower curtain (Dora the Explorer)
$4 — wood screws (#12, 3-inch)
$4 — washers (assorted)
$3 — paint brush (generic)
$3 — Handy Paint Cup
Total Cost: $262
(Or $242, if you count the stud-finder as something I should’ve owned anyway.)