Sippican Cottage

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glass door in place


A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Gantt We Still Be Friends?

Wait. Saturday and Sunday aren’t work days? Who knew?

I once held the title of Project Manager for a large-ish commercial construction company. Your job was simply to make sure that the material necessary to complete a job was purchased and delivered to the jobsite when it was needed, but not before if you could help it. Stuff grows legs and gets broken if it’s hanging around too long. You’re also supposed to make sure the correct crew or subcontractor was there to receive it and bang on it until they broke it and called you to get another one. By tomorrow, preferably.

The project manager job seemed really, really simple compared to slugging it out on my own in the residential subcontractor landscape. The main reason it was so easy was that there was a budget with plenty of zeros, and you spent it to get what you needed. You had to shop around a bit, but essentially you were a drunken sailor wandering around with tens of thousands of dollars in your pockets. Speaking of zeros, there was always plenty of zeros in pickup trucks available to do the work, instead of me hitting my thumb all by my lonesome.

Well, now I’m the crew and I’m always at the jobsite, either tiling the shower stall or brushing my teeth or something, so scheduling me isn’t a big undertaking. Buying stuff in advance was a problem, though, because we don’t have much money. I have to shop around a lot, which wastes time that could be spent tiling or brushing my teeth. And we have to “settle” sometimes. But we don’t really compromise all that much, truth be told. We just completely do without many things many other people find essential, and concentrate on the things we think are important.

So we had to have a budget for this debacle before we started, and have a plan of attack, of course. There were no Gantt charts or anything, or detailed spreadsheets for the materials. That’s a waste of time. We simply had to know if we had enough dough to finish, or we wouldn’t ever start. You can’t tear apart the bathroom and lose interest halfway through. That’s college, not construction. We had to save our pennies for a decade or so to get to this fairly expensive project. It cost more than lifting the house, or roofing it, and even more than the kitchen remodel. We had to buy stuff, and bathroom stuff ain’t cheap. Even the cheap stuff ain’t cheap.

So, here’s our budget: I figured I needed $500 for the Schluter shower stuff and assorted showery things. I figured we’d need $500 for a decent sink and the various things grouped around it, like a mirror and faucet and shutoff valves. I figured we needed $500 for all the tile, drywall, light fixtures, paint, woodwork, and band-aids. And we’d need $500 for a glass shower door.

So when I told you that the Orange Place said I wanted a $30,000 bathroom, and I said pshaw, I want a $2,000 one, I wasn’t joking. I could have spent a couple of hundred dollars and changed out a few knobs and painted the place, but we’d done that already back in the mists of antiquity and the Great Recession. It wasn’t worth doing again for less than two grand, and it couldn’t cost a penny more. That’s an easy budget to figure.

So like a good project manager, I ordered a glass sliding shower door and frame just enough in advance to get it in the house before it snowed three feet and made deliveries hinky. We didn’t get an expensive one. Holy cow the really ugly ones cost over a grand. We didn’t get the cheapest one, either. We got the cheapest acceptable one. That’s different. The cheapest ones aren’t much less expensive, but the glass is thinner than Karen Carpenter (too soon?). We got the least expensive one with slightly thicker glass. We worry less every day about busting it. It came by truck freight on a big pallet, and we worried about them busting it instead:

But they didn’t. It weighed a lot. It was as fragile as a teenage ego, but somehow it arrived unscathed, a testament to good packaging or dumb luck, take your pick. Either way, we were careful not to scathe it ourselves. We leaned the pallet against the plywood you see there, to keep it from being a hazard to navigation in the dining room. Knowing how the cat operates, I screwed the pallet to the floor so it couldn’t slide down or tip over and dash our shower door dreams to tempered bits at two AM. We’ll be renovating the dining room in blogposts shortly, so drilling holes in that floor didn’t give me the willies.

The instructions were great. I’m not being sarcastic. They were the best instructions I’ve ever seen, because there weren’t any. They sent you to a webpage and had a video of how to install it instead, recorded in a sort of cartoon world. I loved disembodied hands drilling holes on orthagonal trajectories with eighties muzak playing in the background. It sure beats reading the Chinglish version of Ikea instructions which usually come with these things.

We helped ourselves a bit with other forms of planning ahead. There was plenty of wood blocking in the walls to accept the anchors for the frame.  The opening was damn near square, and curb was level and more or less at right angles to the walls. Those are the things that make the difference between having a hard time with these things or not. I gave my wife a seven-dollar industrial diamond spade bit to drill though the porcelain tile to set the anchors, instead of a diamond ring for our anniversary, but she didn’t seem to mind too much. I sleep with one eye open for any number of reasons, not just that one.

Nothing left to do but put in the shower valve and head.

And here you see how we solved the built-in bench conundrum. We bought an inexpensive teak-ish semicircular bench instead of very expensive Schluter bench accessories. It’s quite sturdy and out of the way in the corner there, and my wife loves it, and me sometimes, I guess. I didn’t have to tile it, thank jayzuz. And elegant? It’s just like Central Park in June: There’s an occasional bum on it.

[Tomorrow: Before and after pictures!]

9 Responses

  1. “I gave my wife a seven-dollar industrial diamond spade bit to drill though the porcelain tile…”

    It’s a very nice shower, nicely tiled, teak bench, sleek glass enclosure. Maybe diamonds ARE a girl’s best friend.

  2. m m m . . . ? I don’t know. I have had a glass shower door for 12 years now–I hate the thing! Shhh . . don’t tell your wife, but after all this time I dream of a good old-fashioned shower curtain with liner. Why is that you might ask? Well. . . I am really sick of trying to scrub the scum of that dang door on cleaning day. Either that or drying it off (where’s the squeegee)after every shower and working up a sweat before even getting out of the shower.

    With a nice shower curtain and liner, I can throw both of them in the washing machine when I feel they need washing (takes about six months to get to that place). It’s easy to do and all I have to do is re-hook the hooks about every six months. DH helps and that little task is done in 2 minutes.

    Like I said, don’t tell your wife she’ll figure it out in a couple of years. In the meantime, that door and the shower look lovely!

    1. Shower curtains are disposable items in our house, since they’re pretty cheap at the Dollar ($1.25+) store. And, the need-a-good-wash ones make great drop cloths or outdoor furniture covers.

  3. This is great. I’ve started a controversy on the intertunnel over shower curtains. It’s got to be the first one, ever. We’re breaking new ground here. Trailblazers. We love that sort of thing at the cottage.

    Just think, years from now, we’ll all look back and remember the Epic Shower Curtain Contretemps of 2023 with a wistful tear in our eye, and whisper to ourselves, I was there.

    Interestingly, Epic Shower Curtain Contretemps is the name of my Duran Duran tribute band. But I digress.

    1. We’ve only scratched the surface. The Big Shower Curtain Question here at Casa Loca is “curtain-with-liner or liner-only?” The wife and I are divided on this one. We only coexist peacefully because we have separate baths.

  4. So when I told you that the Orange Place said I wanted a $30,000 bathroom, and I said pshaw, I want a $2,000 one, I wasn’t joking.

    I am in the midst of rehab projects. New AC replaced the 20-year-old one at a good price compared to what some or most are charging these days. (I am comfortable without AC up to about 95 degrees outside, but 2 months of 100+ degrees makes it rather uncomfortable without AC.) Plumbing work done by a friend of an electrician friend who charges half the going rate – $74/hour versus $150/hour. My plumbing skills- installing a faucet or replacing a washer- were not sufficient. I was very impressed by his fitting things together.

    The current project is to replace the kitchen cabinets, where particleboard peeling from water drips necessitates a change. I have gotten quotes of around $15,000 from people I got from Angies referrals. The Angies website estimates $26,000-$40,000 for a kitchen redo. No thanks. That is in a par with your $30,000 quote for a bathroom redo.

    I went to Habitat Restore for a quote on cabinets built to my specs and delivered: $1800 for one side of the kitchen- probably $3000-$3200 for cabinets on both sides. Only the cabinets. (At Craigslist I found a teardown that was selling kitchen cabinets for $850, but they were for an 8′ ceiling, and my cabinets are hung from a 7′ sunken ceiling. I got quotes of $4000 for changing the ceiling, which meant that the $850 cabinets were not cost effective.)

    While the countertops and installation would add to the price of just cabinets, I fail to see how the $12,000 difference between the new Habitat Restore cabinets and contractors’ quote pays for just taking down the old cabinetry, keeping the plumbing intact, & installation % countertops. Sounds to me like a lot of profit built in that I’d rather not pay.

    I suppose I could learn to build cabinets. There are YouTube videos on same, but all I have built have been bookcases, and the equipment purchase would also have to be factored in.

    My electrician friend will call some people he knows- countertop and carpenters.

    1. Projects in the YouTube videos take a lot longer than they appear. A couple months back I embarked on a workshop remodeling. After sorting through a couple dozen workbench designs, I settled on a simple modular design made from four 2×4’s and a sheet of plywood, plus casters. And screws, lots of construction screws. The designer’s video gave the impression you could knock one of these babies out in an hour, two tops. The five I needed took at least three hours each, even with cutting all the parts in batches for uniformity. The good news? W-a-a-y cheaper than anything from a store, whether Orange, Blue, or Red, and solid as a rock. Thank goodness I kept that old heavy-duty variable-speed Craftsman drill Dad bought me decades ago.

      1. That doesn’t surprise me. Which is why, even though it was fun to watch a YouTube video of building a cabinet, I considered it probably more as entertainment, given my lack of experience in woodworking. Though I might give it a try. I would add that building the bookcases took a lot more time than I had anticipated.

        I have consulted the written Internet & YouTube videos when the CheckEngineLight comes on. I use a scan tool to identify the code. There are usually about five possibilities presented. My experience has been that if there is an easy possible solution presented, try it. The easy solution has often worked. If instead, there are only complex solutions presented, take it to the shop.

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