Pesky Projects within a Project

Posted on August 26, 2013. Filed under: Home, Master Bath Remodel, Real World |

I had the pleasure of having my impacted wisdom teeth surgically removed in late June. I thought I had passed the point in my life where wisdom teeth would present problems. It’s a little unusual for wisdom teeth to pop up at 27 years old, don’t you think? Maybe this means I’m immature and going to live longer.

I’d rather be ironing, cleaning dirty toilets, or going to work, than to suffer the aftermath of oral surgery. But I had my mommy, husband, and great friends to help see me through it. Spoiler alert: I made it through. Thanks for all the milkshakes, ice cream, soups, Jell-O, DVDs, flowers, and books.

For you sick souls that want to see pictures of me bruised and puffy, you’re out of luck. No such things exist (at least that I’m aware of) and you’ll just have to use your imagination. I looked like a chipmunk with chapped lips. It was oh-so attractive.

While I was laid up on the couch with all the 2013 Oscar-winning movies, Pretty Little Liars, old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Dawson’s Creek, Scandal, a bunch of books, and trashy magazines (I laid on the couch for 5 days, okay?), my husband was sodding the yard and working on our bathroom.

My dad was a huge help with the wiring. Huge. Though our bathroom is pretty small, it is nice to have 2 people work at once.

This is what the bathroom looked like after the demolition:


Then Adam built a knee wall:


the plumber came, and the shower pan man.


With any home project, there are lots of surprises and small things you have to do, that you never considered. Here are some of those things for us so far in our bathroom renovation adventure.

Unexpected task #1:

Repair the subfloor in one place. It was uneven and unsupported over the duct and my handy husband fixed that.

Unexpected task #2:

Replace the old insulation

Unexpected surprise #1:

An empty bottle of corn whiskey



That might explain this random hole in the floor.


Our home builder was under the influence. Nice…

Everyone that sees it thinks they cut the hole for the toilet in the wrong place.

Back to the insulation, I replaced it while wearing my gloves, safety goggles and mask (recommended on the packaging).

Expected task:

We framed out the knee wall between the plumber’s visit and the shower pan man. This is the half wall that will separate the shower stall from the vanity like so:

half wallImage courtesy of

The placement of the knee wall took a lot of hemming and hawing, me waving my arms around to make sure I could still wash my back and shave my legs, all while making sure the shower wouldn’t be too small. Professionals we are not.

Adam used two by fours and nailed together a nice frame. Since the floor isn’t quite level, we had to shim it. We also placed tar paper underneath it for moisture protection since it would be against the shower. Then Adam secured it to the floor joists and wall studs.

Then our shower pan man came to do the base.

Expected task:

Once the base was dry, we were ready for electrical – specifically wiring our new vent fan and can light over the shower. That’s when my dad came to help. He’s an electrical engineer and knows all about this stuff.

Unexpected surprise #2:

We were sidetracked when my dear husband went into the attic to run the wire and smelled something funky. He smelled something funky after I heard high-pitched squeaking for a week. And then he saw them.

batsImage courtesy of

This is not our house, but we had bats roosting in our gable vent. BLECH! and EEEEEEE! A call to the wildlife removal people and $500 later, we’re bat and guano free. Sometimes it blows being a homeowner. Unfortunately we had to smell the guano in our master closet and bedroom for 2-3 days before the bats all went out their one-way door. Then the crew came to vacuum and disinfect.

Luckily, Adam was able to run the wire through the walls without having to go into the attic.

We purchased a new vent fan because the other one was loud and not very effective. This one is 90 CPM and a lot quieter. The vanity light was the only light in here before so we decided to install a can light over the shower and wire it to the same switch. We installed a double switch with the lights on one switch and the fan on the other. Big deal, right? It is when your switches looked like this before:


Two switches, on either side of a stud, crooked and offset. Fun times.

I would explain the wiring to you except I have no idea how to do it. Sorry.

Unexpected task #3:

Once the wiring was complete, we had to figure out how to build a shower curb because we weren’t too gung-ho about the one our shower pan guy built. I thought he put the 2 x 4’s there as a temporary curb so he could have them to build up the mud pan. At least that’s what he told me. Then when he was done, he said he screwed them into the floor, glued them together, and attached the liner to them. What? Yeah. So we had to go back and re-do it because it wasn’t up to our expectations. That’s the dilemma with home projects. You feel like you need to hire out for certain things because you’re paying an experienced professional to do it, but the only way to ensure that a job is well done is to do it yourself. Live and learn.

Basically, the curb’s dimensions were dictated by the width of the knee wall (adjacent to the curb) with cement board plus the height of the marble skirting tile we got for the sides. We wanted everything to be flush – or on the same plane.

After some diligent research, Adam decided to build the curb with a combination of bricks, mortar, lathe, and construction mud. It’s a lot more water resistant than wood – obviously. First he had to disassemble the shoddy curb the shower pan man made:


It took forever because the professional we hired stripped all the screws he used. The irony was not lost on us. You can tell how happy we are with his work, right?

First Adam laid down tarpaper, pulled the liner to the floor, used one row of bricks and mortar. He waited for the first row to set up and went back to do the second row. Once the second row had set up, he took the liner that was under the curb and guided it to the outer edge of the curb. Then he bent metal lathe over the bricks and used u-shaped nails to affix it to the mortar. Adam mixed the mud in a 5 gallon bucket and created a form with shims and 1 x 6 boards to keep the mud square, smooth, and the correct thickness. Then he filled in the form with mud, on the inside first and then on the outside. The lathe is used to give the mud something to stick to. The mud will stick to the bricks on the inside, but not to the liner we guided underneath and around on the outside. That’s where the lathe helps.

We allowed the curb to set-up for 24 hours before touching it.


Whew! God bless home renovation projects and the can of worms that accompanies them. Or in our case, the attic full of bats.


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