Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Labor Day Labor

I started writing this entry Labor Day and meant to post this the Tuesday after, but it’s been a hell of a ride these past few weeks, so ta-da! Here you go:

Well, happy Labor Day, people. Did you have a good holiday weekend? You know, it’s the last holiday, 3-day weekend that’s standard in America until Thanksgiving, which is still almost 3 months away.

I spent the entirety of my Labor Day weekend putting a new shower surround in my bathroom. Everything we read said a novice could have it done in 8 hours, but we aren’t novices. We’re not half-assing it either, which is kind of a surprise if you know us. I guess I can’t truthfully say we’ve ever actually half-assed anything, but I suspect we would have if we had attempted any significant home repair prior to now.

Really, see the bathroom is the prelude, the beginning, the first step in us moving our kitchen into another room. You may have heard me mention this before. We refinanced our mortgage 4 years ago and have been planning on redoing the kitchen since then. I’ve gone through 4 seasons of Ikea catalogs and 4 versions of the Ikea Kitchen Planner. I’ve had the flooring for 2 years. We picked out the cabinets, they were no longer carried, and then after a season, they started carrying them again. I’ve priced appliances 4 times. I’ve found four different of everything. Since I started comparison shopping, Sears has moved their appliances to K-Mart. But back to the bathroom…

It’s been raining lightly in our kitchen for the past 2, maybe 3 years. Not that big of a deal, because the ceiling fell out quickly after the leak started, and it’s been easy enough to put a bucket on the floor in the middle of the room that is to be our new kitchen. We can’t do the ceiling or floor until we get the shower surround fixed.

So, finally, this Labor Day, we decided we would fix the shower surround. Waking up after sleeping in on Saturday, we couldn’t decide what to do with our day.

“We could do the shower today, so we can relax the rest of the weekend and do whatever we want,” one of us said.

“Excellent idea,” the other one of us replied.

And so we went to Home Depot.

With everything we needed, a new shower surround unit, 2 tubes of caulk, 2 tubes of adhesive (1 more than the guy said we needed), a Milwaukee sander, 2 packs of two buy-one get-one free sander discs in 60 and 120 grit, a 100-pack of razor blades, a 50-lb bucket of joint compound, joint compound tape, joint compound shovels (I can’t remember what the fuck they’re called – trowels?), cement backboard, and two candy bars, and we were on our way and set to begin.

Step 1: Demo. Sounds like fun, except we didn’t initially know we were demo-ing as much as we wound up demo-ing. After we peeled off the paper-thin 20-year-old shower surround, we needed to scrape the excess glue residue off of the walls and add cement backboard to the bottom of each of the 3 shower wall to prevent mold and mildew. At the end of the two hours that it took me to scrape most of the glue off the walls, we realized that the previous building materials were shitty, to say the least, and why don’t we just tear out the three wall all together and replace them with cement backboard? After all, we were already in there. It would be the right thing to do – absolutely no chance of mold or mildew with cement backboard. We went back to Home Depot.

After we returned with the added backboard, we started to tear out the existing walls and surprise! Asbestos insulation. Insert mad dash for me to get all towels and other items that touch my skin the heck out of the bathroom, even though I’d have to wash all of them because they were exposed to the insulation anyhow.

Step 2: Rebuilding the walls. Okay, it’s still Day 1, we’re doing good, right? The short story here is that when you cut cement backboard, you must score both sides, not just one. We ruined a piece of backboard that was to attach to the ceiling, but figured we’d just spackle the fuck out of it. We correctly scored the lower piece of backboard, hung it, and then we had a thunderstorm.

Why is a thunderstorm a big deal, you ask? Because we were cutting the backboard outside, and now we no longer could. Guess that means we’re done for the night. Shit. We really wanted to have everything up and spackled by the end of today.

Day 2: We realize that perhaps we went about the initial wall of backboard wrong, that there’s a better way to do it, and what were we thinking about spackling a hole the size of a stapler right under the ceiling? And so we removed the backboard we installed the night before. Back to Home Depot.

Knowing how to “do it right” we get the area we tore down back up properly as well as the other 2 walls, and we indeed do it right. It looks great.

One thing you may not know about me is that I’m a master with joint compound. A m-a-s-t-e-r. That’s right, so Sunday afternoon I lay down the joint tape and spackle like a pro. Next step? Wait for the joint compound to dry.

We sat around for 2 hours. We put a fan in the bathroom. We went to Five Guys for Burgers and Fries. We sat some more. We realized it would not dry that day. FUCK! We went to drink beers with Tiff and Jay, and we made plans to all go sailing the afternoon of the next day.

Day 3: Getting started at the crack-a-dawn. Today will be the day that I lose my shit, but more on that later. We start the day by sanding the joints and the surrounding walls, prepping them for the (wait for it) shower surround (oh yeah, that’s what we were doing…).

J sands. I clean. We prep the walls for the surround and place silicone caulk between the tub and the cement backboard. We take the 1st piece of shower surround out and the Liquid Nails shower surround “glue” (which you should never ever buy) and read the instructions:

1. Place circles of Liquid Nails on surround.
2. Press surround into place.
3. Pull surround back off wall and wait 3-5 minutes.
4. Press surround back in place.
5. Twenty minutes later, securely press surround in place.

We got through the 1st two steps when we realized the caulk around the edge of the tub had not dried and was making a mess. We remove the caulk to prevent further mess.

We get through step 5, but then the surround piece pops off the wall. J loses it. We press it back into place. He goes for a smoke, and the fucker pops back off AGAIN. Shit! I press it in place again and pray that the sucker holds (pray is not an exaggeration here – I was pleading with a god I don’t particularly believe in to keep my shower surround in place in exchange for my first born child – good thing I don’t want kids).

After 30 minutes, it seems stable, so I pack up and head to Home Depot for more Liquid Nails, because the 2 tubes we got is in no way enough to do what we need (even though the guy said we’d only need one). Sailing is cancelled.

I’m secretly starting to lose my shit at this point. I feel like a crazy woman. I can’t even keep track of what number trip this is to Home Depot, but I do know it’s two full days later and I’m wearing the same clothing, which you probably could have guessed had you gotten close enough to smell me.

At Home Depot I get 10 tubes of Liquid Nails and 6 tubes of caulk, only after I drag a locked orange staircase over to the caulk I need, because the shit is just out of my 5’1” reach, and no one (and I mean no one) in the aisle who sees me struggling will help. I almost ran two rednecks over with the staircase, but when they saw the look in my eye, they got the fuck out the way – no questions asked.

The women at the register were so nice to me, which almost made me feel bad for almost running down the 2 rednecks with the metal two-story staircase.

“Let me get you a box for all the caulk, sweetie,” the cashier said. How nice. Finally, I thought – a break.

I get the cart out the door and grab the box to take to my car. The bottom instantly falls out, as well as 16 tubes of caulk – all over the main thoroughfare of the parking lot. The secret is now out. I’ve officially lost my shit.

Caulk makes it to my car, I drive 50 yards to Wal-Mart (shudder to think I actually shopped there) and go in to get J’s requested soda fix. It’s Labor Day, packed as hell, but I must have that look in my eye that the rednecks saw, because people just jumped out of my way, thank buddha. All I wanted to do is get home and get this shit done.

I get home, and take my angst out on the shower walls by spelling out profanities and expletives in Liquid Nails.

We use all 10 tubes of Liquid Nails (I think the shit that comes with Lee Press-Ons would have worked better, personally), and we finally get the bad boy up. We wind up having to pull one panel down to trim it, but it goes back up quickly, and now all we have left to do is clean, install the new tub fixtures (including a new fancy showerhead I selected), and (re)caulk.

The rest happens without incident, but also without fanfare. We complete the project at 8pm on Labor Day. Neither of us had had a shower in 3 days, and we’d still be forced to wait until after we got home the following day (the Liquid Nails and Caulk had to set).

I woke up the next morning and sprang out of bed – I was excited to get through the day, come home, and take a shower. I had a plan that would make that shower the best shower ever: I was going to make myself sweat profusely immediately prior. I went to the gym and ran during lunch, coming back with a fully-soaked head of hair, and then when I got home I cleaned the tub like it’s never been cleaned before; I scraped the entire surface with a razorblade and scrubbed my heart out, working up a big ol’ sweat. The shower was officially done. J went first.

“Go downstairs and see if it leaks,” he said.

“Don’t joke,” I replied.

He got in the shower and I went downstairs to take a picture of the dry floor and ceiling. When I was done, I looked up into the gaping hole in my soon-to-be new kitchen ceiling and a single drop landed right in my eye, causing my mascara to run and burn.

You’ve got to be kidding – I thought. All that and it still leaks, albeit way less. SHIT!

Turns out we just needed to recaulk something. It also turns out that I’m not as gung-ho about redoing our kitchen as I was before we started the bathroom. Oh, well.

I know this much: next Labor Day I refuse to do any labor.


Midlife Crashes said...

wow. don't you just love home improvement? there's a tiny bathroom in a house in Philly, that when someone decides it needs a new floor, they are gonna see similar profanities scrawled on the subfloor.

Anonymous said...

And this is why my parents taught me this lesson: Pay someone else to do it.

Sandi said...

They say if a relationship can survive a bathroom remodel, you can get through anything together... Yay to you guys!