One more Bath Remodel

Project by reedwood posted 04-07-2014 02:30 PM 4525 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
One more Bath Remodel
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Someone recently posted on the forum about projects that never end.

Well, I think this project just might win in a contest.


It was supposed to be a typical Master bath gut and remodel. Should’ve been a cake walk.

Not to mention, it was for the daughter of one of my best clients.
She works full time and is raising two wonderful kids by herself who are just starting college.

I worked on her parent’s kitchen, replaced their deck and remodeled all three of their bathrooms.

They came out really nice and we finished on time.

Very nice family…Excellent reference and a great client to work for.

But this small bathroom took forever to finish.

We signed the contract Feb. 2nd …..that’s right, almost a year ago.

Right from the start, we opened up the walls and found all kinds of issues.

Nothing new really, we’re surprised if we don’t find something wrong or at least a bees nest or a few dead mice.

The electrical was a disaster. We had to rip it out and replace two recessed cans, the toy ceiling fan and install two GFI outlets to code. The 2 ft. deep, blown in insulation in the hot attic made that job fun.

The plumbing must have been installed by a wanna be plumber. Everything was replaced.

Anybody see a sink vent?... no wonder it plugged easy and gurgled.

The original plumber butchered the 14 ft. 2×10 joist in half to make room for the drain assembly.

Gotta say….it’s the original builder’s fault. right? amazes me how often this happens.


The bathroom was remodeled back in the mid 80s.

Pre cast shower wall panels, brass fixtures and shower door, semi transparent glass, black and white tiled floor,
a white melamine vanity with a cabinet sitting on the 42” one piece purple counter top.

Yep, that was the style back then.

There was a seat in the shower that pushed the shower door towards the toilet and made it difficult to enter.

We discovered an old door opening in the wall too. Apparently, this used to be a Jack and Jill bathroom.
The framing was sloppy and had to be reworked, several protruding studs were shaved flat.

We weren’t even planning on opening this wall until we saw the bad electrical and plumbing.

We also discovered there was no insulation in the outside wall. They removed it and didn’t replace it.

No wonder that shower seat was cold in the winter!

The walls were full of drywall cutoffs and demo debris, never understood why someone would do that.

The sub floor had to be replaced. The 1/4” underlayment was glued down and crown stapled every 2 inches.

Man, ....What a job that was.

At 57 yrs., I’m too old to be working on these bathrooms like a lead carpenter with a crew. It’s hard work.

I love being in the middle of it, tool belt and all, but the body says it’s time to hang it up.

It’s a never ending argument, and the ol’ body usually wins.

That’s why I have Mariano, a Mexican tile contractor (who has 8 – 30+ cousins) that will lay the durock, level floors, pour the shower curb, replace sub floors, hang drywall – anything, and he’s a 5th generation tile man.

But, just as we finished the demo, he called and said he couldn’t get to the job for another month because the job he was on just tripled in size. great. but, happens to me too.

My other tile man moved and there was no way I was going to bring a stranger in here at the last minute.

I can do this myself, I said….. here we go.

And that’s where Randy comes in – my other project.

Randy has worked off and on for me for over 8 years.

He helps me maintain my large gardens and koi ponds, works on remodeling my house and Halloween displays,
cleans and helps in the shop and occasionally, helps on the jobsites, if needed.


I’m sure everyone knows a guy like Randy.

A good soul but a walking train wreck in every way.

40 years old, lives with his mom in a trailer, no DL, smoking alcoholic but has slowed his drinking because he’s broke, can’t give him tools ‘cause he’ll pawn them for a dime bag and a 40 oz., skull and dagger tattoos on every arm and leg from being in prison 9 years for stabbing a guy in a fight when he was 19.

He’s loud – you can hear him laugh on the other side of the jobsite, I try to keep him away from the clients but to be honest, he’s polite and even charming, clean, a true gentleman when he has to be.

He’s very crude but a likable guy and for some reason, I have a soft spot for him…. He’s my friend.

Remember Ernest T. bass on Andy Griffith?....that’s him.

He’s fun to work with most of the time and a hard worker – when he’s doing what he wants – how he wants,
but this tiny bathroom was too small and got the best of him.

We gutted the bathroom and discovered all the problems which for some reason pissed him off.

I think it was the glued down floor that did him in.

He walked off the job and left me to finish it….. some friend.

I made a few phone calls to find some help but, no luck. In these situations, I find the best thing to do is:

Quit lookin’ at it. Just get it done and don’t stop till it’s done.

The small bathroom job didn’t feel like it was that big a deal anyway. After all, the demo was already done.

So, I decided I will finish this job myself,.... even if it kills me.

I finished the shower tile quickly and was pleased the way it came out. Mariano would approve. She loved it.

Dan, the glass man did a nice job hanging the 3/8” glass door, the shower was done.

I temporarily set up the old vanity and hung the mirror and medicine cabinet while I built the added custom
cherry vanity, medicine cabinet and mirror.
. The Vanity

I wanted to keep the contract price low and give this client the very best deal possible.

She would purchase the vanity, granite counter top, under mount sink, plumbing fixtures, mirror, medicine cabinet, towel bars and cabinet pulls. I even had her pay the shower door glass man directly. This avoided paperwork and was supposed to make it simpler.

But,..... She decided to buy a 40” white porcelain farmer’s style, wall mounted sink which wasn’t designed to sit on a standard cabinet in the corner. She couldn’t even find a 40” wide cherry cabinet, much less find a matching framed mirror and inset medicine cabinet.

So, I offered to build it for her. How hard can it be? .... I can do it all, right?

She also wanted an outlet to plug her electric tooth brush inside the medicine cabinet…. no big deal.

I picked up the cherry and maple plywood for the vanity but, I waited to start the build until I had the sink she ordered to see how it sat on top. Good thing as it completely changed the design and drawer layout.

The maple cabinet case was built without any problems. I added 1/4” cherry plywood and 1×2 1/2 solid cherry to create the recessed panel on the side.

The cherry face frame is attached with biscuits and it sits on 4” square feet.

You can’t see it but I built a 4” toe kick base just behind the feet so stuff doesn’t roll under the cabinet.

Despite the nasty demolition, added framing, drywall, electrical and plumbing, .... I’m on a roll.

The cabinet’s built, face frame is on, dovetail drawers are made, all that’s left is to make the 2 mission style recessed doors and drawer fronts and finish it.

but I guess fate had other plans:

I built the recessed panel doors and drawer fronts and had them assembled in record time… piece a cake.

After sanding the doors and drilling the hinge cups, I quickly cleaned the shop and set up a spray booth.

I applied a coat of stain, let it dry and sprayed two coats of oil base poly but the finish sagged on the sides and took forever to dry like I’ve never experienced before, as if the varnish was bad.

I had to gently scrape off the excess on the back edge and wait for it to dry before I could sand it down.
I bought new varnish and re sprayed them.

They came out OK but I could still barely see the sag a little…..grrrr. More sanding and another coat.

But, when I tried to install the doors and drawer fronts …... I suddenly realized…... during assembly,

I switched the 2 door rails with the two drawer rails.

The doors were 3/4” too narrow and the drawers were 3/4” too wide.

I could’ve died, right then and there.

I felt like I was gonna hurl…... All that work for nothing.

I didn’t hang the doors and double check the fit before I stained it…... Geeez.

And, I didn’t have enough matching cherry to rebuild them and the hardwood store is 2 hrs. away.

It completely took the wind out of my sail.

I was already beat, working by myself on it, so far behind, so many distractions like spring gardening,
opening the pool, starting seeds,.... forget about finishing my own cherry kitchen cabinets I had already started.

I couldn’t even look at those doors…..threw them in the trash. I didn’t even care about the scrap.

On the way to buy more wood,

I ran into the back of a dump truck with it’s gate down going about 5 mph in stop and go traffic. It took out my van’s hood, grill, both fenders, windshield, radiator, and head lights.

I was without a work truck for a month.

At the same time, we were having major issues with a sub contractor painter’s new crew on another jobsite.
I had to stop everything and spend over a week helping to finish that job.

It was a simple bedroom paint job…. We hired them so I wouldn’t be distracted from finishing this cabinet.

It was also for a very good client and of course, the project grew into a week’s worth of Honey – do projects
and I certainly couldn’t say no.

The vanity can wait.

Then,.... my new strawberry patch was being attacked! I had to build a strawberry bin ASAP!

I even wrote a story about it: The Strawberry Massacre.

Then …...we lost a huge silver maple tree during a storm. The cedar fence next to it had to be fixed right away.

We were out of power for almost a week. So I bought a big house generator – that had to be installed.

THEN …. Lightning blew out the sump pump and 4 motion sensor lights, pool’s solar panel sprang a leak, pool pump filter replaced, new 16 ft. tree installed, wife’s car broke down, bought wife new car, koi pond sprang a leak, water heater started leaking, Van anti lock brakes went out, did I mention I had four crowns replaced?

..... it was one thing after another.

And, the cherry peninsula base cabinet for my own kitchen is sitting on my bench, begging me to finish them.

Then,.... I got a call from a carpenter friend from the past. He’s a custom trim and millwork rep now.

He had a job he thought I might like to take a look at,.... a sweet custom stair railing.

The vanity will just have to wait.

I can build this in no time, right? I can do anything.


Sadly, during all this, we lost our 20 yr. old cat, Tess

and 17 days later, we lost Jack, my 9 1/2 yr. old Golden.

It was hard enough to say goodbye to our dear old cat who lived a long life,

but Jack took us by surprise.

Christmas just wasn’t the same without him,

we didn’t even put up a tree,.... normally, we go all out decorate the house.

On a good note, we ended up getting a friend for Hunter – a new golden puppy named Tyler.

He is adorable!

He is my little shadow and the new shop dog.

Note: the picture above is a few months old. He just turned 6 months and has become quite a handful! ha!


Well, I finally got the wood and finished making the doors …again.

All I had left to do was stain, finish and install the vanity.

There was 2000.00 left in the final payout…... I was so close.


But now, it’s October 1st…. and, something weird happens to me.

I start thinking about nothing but Halloween props. I can’t help it.

It’s a 20 year tradition around here, we all get in to it and I have a huge reputation to keep.

What vanity?

The phone rings ….it’s Randy.

He apologizes and says he felt bad about walking off the job. Says he’d like to help me again with the Halloween display. Even though I was very disappointed with the way he acted, I did miss him. So, I said, sure.

It turned out to be a huge undertaking: The Haunted Halloween Corn Maze – see project.

One of the first things we had to do was cut stake points on 12 – 8 ft. long 2×4s.

I had them laying on the pool deck already painted black. All he had to do was hold the boards while I rotated the blade guard up and cut the angles.

He wanted to argue about it – insisting we bring them in the shop and use my new sliding miter saw.

I explained that the stakes needed to be sharper than a 45 to hammer in the ground, but he got pissed about it and just stood on the board with his hands in his pockets instead of holding it and feeding me a new board to cut, like I asked.

For some reason, he shifted his weight and the board jumped.

Next thing I know I’m holding my middle finger together while it’s gushing blood.

40 years on the job,..... never once cut myself with a skill saw.

6 weeks later

It cut a 1/8” kerf right through the nail, just above the cuticle and took out the middle of the tip bone.


We left the hospital around midnight, didn’t eat all day, exhausted,

utterly humiliated, realizing I’m now banished from the silent Elite,

thinking of every song I can no longer finger pick on my mahogany D30 Guild,

stabbed, stitched, heavily medicated….... feeling no pain.


I had to finish the Halloween display ..... I was too far in to it.

We had just unloaded 400 stalks of corn out of the van, topped with huge dead trees we dug out of the woods for props.

We already bought the storm fence and metal stakes.

The Halloween gang was pulled out of the attic and were waiting patiently in the dining room.

Randy tried to be a little more helpful after the accident, but it rained non stop for days and we could only work inside the shop or when the rain slowed down…... We got wet.

It didn’t take long before he’d had enough and walked off the job, again. Haven’t seen him since.


I finished the display as best I could and took it all down by myself. I was numb and couldn’t feel much pain, thanks to those wonderful little white pills they gave me, otherwise I don’t think I could’ve done this.

Then, my finger swelled up and the doc said there was a 50/ 50 chance I could lose it if I didn’t completely stop working for a week to give it time to heal. Great…..just shoot me now.

It’s been two months since the accident and my finger is much better. It amazes me how the body can heal itself so quickly, if you let it.

The vanity…..what about the vanity?

Well, I did finally finish it and installed it the day before Christmas eve.

She had her parents over on Christmas day so I was really glad it was done by then. It came out really nice.

I was embarrassed it took so long. And, they were so nice about it. I hesitated to give her the invoice right away. I also didn’t charge for the extra work and took 400.00 off the final bill.

Done…..big sigh.

I Hope your projects run smoother and on time next year….. and watch those fingers, will ya?

-- mark - Grayslake IL.

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5 comments so far

View joecot's profile


40 posts in 2151 days

posted 04-10-2014 09:58 PM

If Randy comes back, please—PLEASE—don’t hire him.

Great dogs.

-- Joe Cottonwood -- 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses

View Greg 's profile


32 posts in 2266 days

posted 04-10-2014 11:05 PM

Beautiful job. Sorry about the finger. That sucks. And don’t you love it when plumbers hack out all the structure. Wonderful

-- Ferdinand and Son Construction. Do it right the first time. Like us on Facebook

View reedwood's profile


101 posts in 3273 days

posted 04-11-2014 01:17 AM

Hey Joe, No, I think I’m done with Randy….. too bad. still, it feels like a little part of me is gone,

like MY FINGER! Ha!

Greg – Sometimes, I think they do it on purpose to teach carpenters a lesson.
After all, “it’s our job to make room for the toilets and shower pans”, right?

They could’ve called or just reframed it, but noooooo.
I’m surprised how many times this happens. Always something…...


-- mark - Grayslake IL.

View dbray45's profile


157 posts in 2134 days

posted 04-22-2014 05:10 PM

Sorry to hear about the finger – really really sucks.

As for plumbers – they do this even when there is room and drop under the joists – go figure.

-- Love woodworking and fixing most anything

View RaymondV's profile


2 posts in 161 days

posted 09-11-2019 10:57 AM

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