Monday, June 27, 2016

Fourth-Day Flood (part 3): Tiles and the Tub Man

Wolf in sheep's clothing: this beautiful, period-appropriate bath
renovation hid water damage behind cheap unpainted beadboard
and rust under DIY porcelain reglazing.
Maybe the problem was the wall and ceiling color. Both the guest bathroom and the dining room were painted with a drab, flat crimson paint that clashed with everything else in the house...and looked like dried blood.

I see it now: these rooms were ready to make our bank account bleed.

It took 8 months to finish the dining room repairs, and in that time, we still didn't have a fix for our bathtub.

The first plumber (that genius who had filled the bathtub and reflooded our dining room just "to see what had happened") said we had a simple problem with seals between the tub and the plumbing. Later when he came to fix it--and the water continued to flow around the pipes after his repair--he informed me that the plumbing was perfect. Instead, we had a hole all the way through the cast iron tub near the drain.

I don't do anything halfway. While the
tub was in the middle of the room, I
removed the vanity, pulled off all the
beadboard and moldings, repaired the
walls, and tiled floor-to-ceiling.
How do you repair a cast iron tub? I asked around, and the historical society told me about the Bathtub Man. All he does is restore claw foot tubs. It took several weeks to get him out to our house, and when he arrived, he showed me that there was no hole. The problem was the plumbing, not the tub.

So I hired a new plumber--the one the Bathtub Man recommended--and we began 6 more months of imperfect repair after imperfect repair. The plumber would reattach the feet (3 of which had the strange habit of falling off, leaving only 1 foot and the plumbing supporting the tub) and redo the plumbing connections. All would be well for 1 or 2 guests' showers, and then the feet would start falling off again.

As exasperation gripped everyone involved, I decided to call the Bathtub Man back. Armed with more "symptoms," he was able to diagnose the problem: 3 of the 4 feet did not fit the tub. They looked as if they fit, but they were actually 1/16th of an inch too small. As a result, the combined weight of the tub, water, and an adult would slowly push the feet out from under the tub, breaking the plumbing seals. He could fix it, but it would require welding nickel onto the iron feet to make them the right shape for the tub. (Sounds like a cheap fix, right? Ugh.)

I went for a classic look: floor-to-
ceiling white subway tile with a 
carrara marble accent.
We had a solution, but we also had a deadline. My sister-in-law and her family were going to move in for 3 weeks while they were between houses. I knew there was no way 4 adults and a child could share our master bath for 3 weeks and continue loving one another!

The Bathtub Man scheduled the 2-day repair. First he would come out, flip over the tub, take measurements, and take the feet back to his shop for welding. While the tub was upside down in the middle of the room, I would tile. Everything. Second he would return the following week to attach the feet and flip the tub. Then I would hire the plumber to come back and reconnect everything. Easy-peasy!

Hiccup 1: When the Bathtub Man flipped over the tub, we discovered the bottom was covered in rust. Mostly surface rust, but some more serious. The renovators had clearly found this tub somewhere, picked out a few feet that looked good, painted the bottom with (I kid you not!) white Krylon, and reglazed the inside themselves with some DIY product...without bothering to remove the drain cover first. Rust, rust, everywhere. I was told to clean and paint the bottom with marine-grade Rustoleum, and the Bathtub Man adjusted his timeline to include some spot reglazing (we just couldn't afford to redo the whole thing).

Hiccup 2: It takes a long time to lay over 2,000 tiles. I gave myself a week, but it took me almost 4 weeks AND the help of David and Melinda thanks to volume, unlevel walls and floor, and missing insulation. It's done, and it's beautiful. And waterproof! But I reinjured my right rotator cuff (torn way back when I was a swimmer), and it will be many months before the pain, swelling, and tingling subside.

Hiccup 3: The plumber couldn't come out for more than a week after the rest of the repairs had finished, so our family still had to share the master bathroom for awhile. But we love each other!

It's still a work in progress. I've installed a standing shower (upgraded for my tall brother-in-law!), but I still need to repaint the window molding, and I want to change the lighting and mirror so they are proportionate with the 9-foot ceilings. (Right now they are WAY too small and hung too low.) But that will require hiring an electrician...and I'm not ready to wash more blood-money down that tub's drain!

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