Chris' Old House—Building My Bathroom


This is the project I'd been looking forward to ever since meeting the house. Then, the 2nd-floor bathroom was functional but just barely. And it was supposed to have been redone, as evidenced by the tiles filling the bathtub and the new toilet and medicine cabinet stacked in one corner. But the guy who was supposed to redo it had gotten sick and not gotten around to it. I promptly said stop! Do not do anything more! I want it the way it is. You see, the materials they were going to use were not much better than the 70s sink and vanity already disgracing the room. Also, as you can barely see, the flooring in there was just some nasty old subfloor coated in lots of old, gross goo from vinyl tile and who knows what else. Ick. I am now recalling the smell of it when it got wet. Ack.




















Having carte blanche to do whatever you want with your bathroom space may sound marvelous, but it's also difficult. There are money, labor and practicality restraints. And I appreciate the old character of the house and want to install something that isn't outlandish when considered in context with the rest of the house. So I decided to cut certain corners and reuse as much as possible to allow me to splurge on things I really wanted, like old-style hexagon tile and the assurance that this bathroom would function very well for a very long time.

Ever since my parents hauled our clawfoot tub to the curb when I was a kid, I've wanted one of my own. Then I thought hard about what that means to me as a homeowner and do-it-yourselfer. So I skeptically gave the original tub a chance, and I found out it's really quite nice. Not as deep as the deepest clawfoot I've been in, but mighty respectable and sturdy (enameled cast iron) and in good shape. And not getting rid of it meant not moving it (at all, I thought, but turned out to be wrong) out and another one in.




After putting off the project and living with the bathroom as is, I found I like some aspects of the old toilet. The lid has a nice lip that lets you use it as a shelf. But the bowl was cracked. So I resolved to keep the tank and find a bowl. But I didn't—my fabulous friends did. The new old toilet is lovely and cost $2—allowing more to be spent on other things!

Things like a pegleg sink! I learned about this variation on the pedestal sink from the book Bungalow Bathrooms by Jane Powell. I was instantly obsessed. Looked all over the Web and local outlets searching for my very own pegleg. Even took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Indianapolis on the tip that there were some there. But there was always something holding me back from committing to the few I found. And there were several that sounded good but didn't pan out. Then I came upon some more on the Web. After much interrogation, I sent for my pegleg, and it came in this huge crate. Weighed 300 pounds, according to the truck service guy. When I was asking about the sink, the supplier said the maker was unknown, but within 10 minutes of uncrating it I found writing on the underside and etching on the overflow grate that proved it was a product of the J.L. Mott Ironworks, a company with a reputation for making some of the finest porcelain sinks ever. Right now, the sink part is on my kitchen floor, and the pegleg is resting in an easy chair in my living room. But here's a photo of it from before I bought it. I heart the backsplash, among other things.

Following are some shots of recent states of the bathroom. We decided to tear down almost all the walls. Ceramic tile is the plan for halfway up the wall. And the existing plaster was in various states of disrepair and would have presented many many problems if left. We did leave the ceiling and some angled wall parts. They're in good enough shape, and I think they can be preserved and blended into the new walls. The floor had to go to allow for new plumbing and installation of a solid and level subfloor for the tile. And, uh, yeah, we ended up having to move the tub. Out of the room. Me and the handyman alone. We are puny, yet we rock! Levers, my friend, it's all in the levers—and wheeled devices and much strategizing.














And now the tub is in my back bedroom. It's a Kohler. Not sure of the year.





Old gas pipes that fueled a water heater in the bathroom.



At left is a shot from when we were tearing the walls down. There used to be a radiator in the corner left of that window. It'll be going back in.















Below is what the handyman discovered when he was tearing out the floor—newspaper from July 31, 1929.

There's much much more to add, and I'll update as the work progresses. Don't ask when the work will be done. I only know that I'll have to spend all my spare time in the new bathroom appreciating it. It's going to be so cool.








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