For the first 12 years we owned our Ferndale Victorian, the back bathroom was used more as a closet than anything else. With the lack of closet space typical in Victorians, there wasn’t a good place to store things like vacuum cleaners, recycling, etc.
So the tiny little back bathroom was never really needed for its plumbing, until the great flood of 2012. That was the one that took out our heating ducts under the house. At that point we knew we needed to move the entire system up into the attic as the flooding was becoming worse and worse and more frequent.
The ceiling in the main bathroom was lower than the rest of house and we wanted to raise it at some point anyways, so we removed it to provide better access to the attic while the furnace and ducting were all installed.
The plan (always good to have plans, even though it seems we always get distracted) was to make the back bathroom usable, so that we could then completely gut and redo the main bathroom. It started out very simply, we just needed to add a shower kit to the already existing clawfoot tub. We also replaced the sink faucet with one that matched. Thank you Linda, for helping make that possible.
But once we moved into the bathroom and started using it, we found that the sink didn’t drain very well. Odd because we hadn’t really ever used the sink all those years so what could possibly be clogging it? I checked the trap and found nothing so I got out my snake and ran that. I didn’t get very far before I hit something solid but it didn’t feel like hitting a bend in the pipe so I was pretty sure I found the problem.
An hour of cursing later, I had made no progress in busting the obstruction out of there, so I reluctantly called a plumber. I hate calling plumbers. The last time I had called a plumber was to help repipe our bathroom in our San Jose bungalow, and his helper started a fire in the wall. After that I added plumbing skills to my DIY repertoire.
The plumber came out and with his power snake grinding away for an hour, he made no more progress than I did. He reluctantly gave up, and I at least felt better in my failure, after seeing it stumped a professional as well.
What it meant though was that I was going to have to open up the wall, which was behind the Victorian cabinet. At that point the plan went from a simple “add a shower” to “we’re into it this far, we might as well just do the whole room”.
Lori immediately started stripping the wallpaper, one of her favorite tasks. Some day, for her birthday, I’m going to paper a wall just so she can have fun peeling it back off. Lori with wallpaper is like me when I get my reciprocating saw going. Destruction is just so rewarding.
I opened up the wall and cut out the section of pipe where the clog was. What I found was a compacted mess of rust, and possibly kitty liter. We used to keep the kitty box in there and maybe the cats used the sink to wash their feet? I really don’t know what it was, but it was pretty solidly packed in there.
At the end of 2014 I was working on getting the old flooring out, as we wanted to replace it with 1″ hex tile. Other projects kept getting priority, especially budget wise, so we kept using the main bathroom and put this project on hold. Then in July of 2105 our house was broken into, further damaging our finances. Adding to our woes, on Christmas Day 2015 a garbage truck pulled out right in front of me while I was riding my KLR650 on the way to Rio Dell. Working on the house was put on hold as I and our saving account recovered.
Finally in 2018 when I decided to take a sabbatical and use my mom’s inheritance to work on the house for a year, project number one was to finish the bathroom. We laid the floor using 1″ hexagon tiles from Daltile. The field is Artic White, and the border and flowers are Galaxy and Waterfall.
Once the floor was finished it was time to reinstall the toilet, but now due to the tile, the floor was much higher. Some online research confirmed that just stacking two wax gaskets was not the way to go. I ended up using an Oatey Set Rite Extender Kit. I couldn’t find them locally so ended up ordering directly from the manufacturer. I bought two, because I’ll have the same problem when I get to the other bathroom.
With the toilet functional again, I then worked on trimming out the room. I had some moldings from the VPA/Habitat for Humanity salvage project that matched our existing moldings for the door and window. I was going to use some salvaged bead-board I had for the wainscot, but it ended up being too thick, so I just used 4×8 panels with an embossed bead-board pattern.
For baseboards, I used 10″ siding boards and then trimmed them at the top with a wainscot cap molding. I had bought a bunch of this molding many years ago and finally ran out midway through doing the bathroom. I thought it was a stock pattern that I purchased at Valley Lumber but they didn’t have it. I then checked every nearby lumber source to no avail. Almquist Lumber had one that was pretty similar, but I had to order it, so I ordered enough to hopefully get me through the rest of the rooms we still need to finish.
With all the woodwork finished, it was time to paint. This room was kind of Lori’s choice, since my choices will rule the main bathroom. She went with Foamy Surf for the upper walls, and Chalk for the woodwork, both from Clark + Kensington.
Ever since we visited Castle Coch and Cardiff Castle in Wales she has wanted a wildlife mural in a room. I found a very cute wallpaper mural on Etsy that features birds, bunnies and butterflies. After it was installed I found some silk flowers to match the flowers that are in the mural and made an arrangement in a vase Lori wanted in the room.
Still in progress is the window above the sink. Originally it was a double hung window, but it had been made inoperable. We had added a fan for ventilation, so we really didn’t need to be able to open the window. Instead, for privacy, we decided to build a stained glass window to put there instead. Since this room was sort of Lori’s project, I left the design and construction of the window to her. She came up with a beautiful yet complex design that mirrors what you’d see out in the garden, with fuschias being visited by a hummingbird, butterfly and a dragonfly. We did some stained glass in our 1914 Bungalow, but they were much more geometric than this design. It ended up being more than Lori was willing to do by herself, so reluctantly I got dragged into doing a lot of the cutting and the assembly of it. It’s still a work in progress as all the curved shapes take a lot of time on the diamond grinder. I can only do a little bit at a time before my fingers are sore from all the cuts. As soon as the window is finished, I’ll add a post detailing the construction with photos.
Once we started using the bathroom I realized there was a serious lack of mirrors in the room. So I found a little round shaving mirror to mount by the sink. Then we added a larger pivoting frameless mirror on the wall next to the window.
After going 6 years without a bathroom we felt comfortable letting guests use, it’s nice to finally have one that is a showpiece. I can’t wait to get the stain glass window finished, so we can check off one more room on the “finished” list.