Good on Paper; Terrifying IRL


I think my plans are greater than my ability to put up with getting there – but it’s far too late. My plan looks so nice and neat. My house does not.

I’ve ripped out most of the old second-floor bath down to the joists (the rest still has to be done), torn out three plaster walls, opened joist space to run new plumbing (and lifted those floorboards in a toothed pattern so they look right when they go back– that’s a bitch of a job), and will be rerouting some HVAC this weekend. I also need new electric, which I’m trying to talk myself out of doing, but my bank account has different ideas.

On the left above is what was a kitchen (for what was the second-floor apartment). I’m putting a second bath there, and will eventually turn the front of it into the laundry room (which has to wait until I redo the kitchen on the first floor, so I can run a drain to the basement in the wall. I couldn’t bear tearing out the kitchen counter and cabinets right now on top of everything else.) That one will almost certainly be done first, because I had to order the clawfoot tub so my plumber knows exactly where to put the drain and water lines (it’s in the front hallway right now. Of course). And the sink has been in my garage for a year. (I should get a toilet….) The floor boards I uncovered in there are in pretty good shape and already sanded, though I’ll need to sand a bit more before applying a finish. That has been the only good surprise.


What was the bathroom is currently a disaster zone.

In “my” bath, I’ve uncovered mold in the sub floor around the toilet (and on the back of the waste-pipe access wall in the pantry below – blech), more knob-and-tube wiring and the craziest jigsaw puzzle of sub floors I’ve ever seen. Plus I can’t get the tile off the tub wall, so the entire wall is having to come out in sheets of tile backer, with all the tile and mastic intact; I have only one of those out so far. (And then there’s the cast iron tub….)

What was a narrow hallway (and dead space) will be my shower, accessed through the original door into the bathroom. But before I build that, I have to tear down more plaster and put a door from my bedroom through to the bath.

Plaster is heavy. And dusty.


All this open floor will be the walk-in shower.

The plumbers are here now, running all the water and waste lines, and taking out the still-live gas pipe from the old stove that I keep tripping over. I suspect it will take multiple days for them to get everything done – and that’s OK. It gives me a short and welcome break from what has turned out to be punishing physical labor. (This is not my first bath rodeo, but I seem to have forgotten the pain and suffering from last time – also, I’m a decade older.)


All the waste lines in the new bath are being tied into the already existing 4″ pipe in the old bath. This limited the layout a bit, but saves a lot of headache and, more important, a lot of cash.

When I started, I thought I could get at least one bathroom on the second floor up and running before Christmas. Hilarious. I’m now shooting for April Fool’s Day.


The most vexing problem has been cat wrangling – two of them are awfully interested in the interstitial space.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
This entry was posted in Baths, Renovation/Restoration. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Good on Paper; Terrifying IRL

  1. Jerry James says:

    Oh what fun ? I have spent a fair amount of time wrangling cats out of ductwork, etc. Wasn’t a problem until feeding time and one was missing then the search began. Best of luck ! !

  2. JC says:

    Darn cats! Mine will follow me into the attic and NOT tell me they’ve done so. When they don’t show up for dinner, that’s where I start my search. It took us six months to get our new kitchen installed and functioning. And that was starting with stubbed plumbing, bare walls and finished floors. Fun fun.

  3. nrhiller says:

    You have my sympathy and my admiration. A dear friend claims that Churchill is the origin of the following quote: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” It will be worth it!

  4. Dave Fisher says:

    I admire your perseverance! As a fellow owner of an old house, it helps me to think that the house appreciates my efforts — although it sometimes seems to resist.

  5. Anthony Kennedy says:

    I am very impressed with your gumption. Way to go and remember this too shall pass.

  6. I took the coward’s way out and found I could live with what I had. I don’t generally have my glasses on in the bathroom anyway.

  7. toolnut says:

    It’ll look great when you are done. In the mean time, keep the bath in the front hall, fill it with ice and beer and eggnog and other liquor and throw a Christmas party!

  8. Ronald Carl Dennis says:

    Have you considered professional help for this continuing masochistic endeavor?

  9. I’m looking for a wife with your skill set. What is your availability?

  10. nbreidinger says:

    I was always good at the demo part. Putting it all back together took 10x as long. Which is why my wife insisted that our recent home purchase require no work to be done. I got benched.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s