Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DIY Bathroom Redo

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I like to do DIY home repairs, mostly because I can't afford to hire a pro. And I like the challenge--we have a house built around 1920, so it makes things...complicated.

This DIY is a water closet. Yep, originally this bathroom was a closet. At some point, the owners turned the closet into a WC. And it hadn't been updated since. Sadly, I don't have photos of what we started with because this DIY started off piecemeal. For example, the faucet stopped working. I thought, "Simple, I know how to put in a new faucet." Except the sink was very, very old (and also very pink) and the openings in the sink didn't match modern faucets. So we replaced the pink sink with a white sink. Then, the toilet guts stopped working. And, of course, new toilet guts don't fit old toilets. So the hot pink toilet with the oh-so-attractive white toilet seat was replaced with a white toilet.

Then, the lighting died. We actually lived with a bathroom with no lights and no window for quite some time. Actually, it wasn't until my daughter moved out and I inherited her room as an office that I realized how useless it was. But I didn't want to pay an electrician. Electrical work is bit scary to me, so I didn't want to DIY it. I asked my son who's a college junior studying electrical engineering (he's getting good grades, I think that's important when you're putting your house and life on the line) to put in new lights. Queue first photo.

Why yes, that brown crumbly stuff is
"cellulose" insulation, i.e., shredded paper.
 Now I know what you're thinking, there's big hole in the wall! Yep, the original lights were wired into the medicine cabinet. EE son was appalled--do you know what kind of fire hazard that is? Son removed wiring from the medicine cabinet and commented, "Wow, I've never seen wires like these." He commenced Googling the very strange wires and told me to add a day to the completion of the lighting project.

Me in my painting gear.

Once the lights were installed and the mirror re-installed (this happened while I was shopping because EE son didn't want to teach me how to do wiring--I'm still sad about this. In any case, my youngest son helped EE son and, according to youngest son, when EE son turned the power back on he told youngest son, "Yell, if a fire starts." Apparently, it was supposed to be a joke. Youngest son (and mother who was shopping) were not amused.

Then came time to paint. The walls went from odd pink-white, perhaps the result of faded paint to bamboo green. I painted the walls. I painted the trim and the door white. It looked gorgeous. I even shined up all the brass door hardware. Check out photo. Left side, ugly hardware. Right side polished brass.

Everything was perfect. I bought a cute throw rug. I found some white towels that would accent the bathroom. I sewed an eyelet sink skirt. I even found a cotton-scented white candle in the back of a cupboard. I celebrated.

No longer are there any metal pipes. Everything is
modern PVC.
I celebrated too soon. An hour later, a drain pipe started leaking. And not just any drain pipe. It was the wall drainage pipe. So I removed all the pipes. I bought replacement parts. It seemed to work.  I did the happy dance. After all, I'd fixed hundred year old plumbing with a minimum of stress and inconvenience. I was a fool. Of course, the pipe leaked again. I fixed it again. It leaked again. I finally figured out the problem. One hundred years ago, they didn't mill pipes with the same precision that they do now. My pipe was about 1/64 of an inch off in interior width. So it looked good, but it would never be watertight with modern plumbing. I enlisted the help of my dad, a retired airline pilot/engineer/DIY extraordinaire. He made suggestions and bought parts. I installed the pieces. Fail. I tried other pieces. Fail. Finally, my dad found a rubber O ring. I put the pipes together using the O ring. No leaks...for 48 hours. Then, it leaked, a lot. I was ready to pitch a hissy fit. I got a flashlight, put on high-powered reading glasses, and discovered that O ring was so stiff, it twisted the nut off.  So I asked my husband, who is the strongest person I've ever met, to twist the nut back on. He did. It hasn't dared move since.

My bathroom is done! Here are photos.

Cool light installed by EE son.
Even the mirror looks normal now.

Sink skirt.
Scented candle and fluffy towels.
It all seems worth it now.


  1. Well done, Connie. You had me laughing all the way through. You could submit this, or little vignettes about your DIY projects and get published. For my part, I would never have the courage to try remodeling. But it came out well! Have a great day.

  2. Whew! I would have caved and abandoned the project until I could hire a professional. Way to go!

  3. Having the drain pipe link probably was no fun at all! Nice job working through it!

  4. That looks lovely! Though the candle that close to the towel makes me quite nervous :)

  5. Very nice! I have yet to tackle the bathroom...but I've been up to my elbows in repainting ugly walls :)

  6. Wow, that looks fabulous - I am bowing to the DIY master!!! I can do things but not plumbing - you totally rock!

  7. It's not often that people have the guts or the audacity to take those things on themselves. In your case, I'm giving you an eternal salute. I hope that the DIY plumbing saves you headaches and money strains in all the right and charming ways. Thanks for sharing that! All the best!

    Martha Ward @ Son-Rise Plumbing

  8. Wow! DIY bathroom renovations and plumbing activities really help us save a lot of money. I think you deserve a round of applause, Connie! Despite being a confused at first, you didn't hesitate to seek help from your dad, particularly in fixing the leaks of the pipes. Good thing it has been now dealt with. Hahaha! In any way, thanks for sharing that! All the best to you!

    Lovella Cushman @ Perfection Plumbing

  9. Sink skirts are a great investment, and they really make your bathroom look much cleaner. I have all sorts of tools and cleaners under my sink, and it was a real mess until my wife got me to install a skirt. Now, everything looks pretty organized, and there’s less risk of knocking things over and creating a mess.

    Wilfred Andrews @ LB Plumbing and Heating