The March of Progress

Yes, it’s a bad pun. No, I’m not the first person to use it. Too bad. The fact is, this really could be a great month. At the very least, it will be an action-packed month.

Since last I wrote, I went to Africa, climbed most of the way up a very high mountain, thought I might die a couple times, came back, discovered absolutely no progress on the bathroom, made some painful decisions on the subject, met with a few contractors, got some bids AND actually scheduled someone to come out and do some work on Tuesday.

Yes, that was a horrible sentence. No, it won’t be my last.

I won’t go into detail about the Africa trip here, as I’m planning to write a book. Regular readers of this blog might find that idea amusing for a variety of reasons. So, the bathroom…

When we left for Africa at the end of January, we were absolutely assured that our bathroom remodel would be done when we returned. (Granted, this is a full 2 months and $3K beyond the original estimates. We were also absolutely assured it would be done by Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, my wife’s birthday and leaving for Africa.) After nearly 36 hours in transit, we were really hopeful that there would be a fully functional bathroom awaiting us. There was not. In fact, as near as we could tell, about a half dozen tiles went up while we were gone.

I failed to keep my cool at this point. But, I am very fortunate to have a calm and collected wife, who helped me regain my composure. After a few minutes, we packed up a bag and headed to the Y to bathe. After a shower and a very large meal, I called our contractor to leave a message expressing my dismay at the state of affairs. My only response was a text message the next day stating that she was out of minutes on her cell phone plan for the month, so perhaps we could speak at night when it would be cheaper.

We made the decision at that point that we needed to move on. (It wasn’t particularly difficult.) We needed to stop throwing good money after bad, cut ties and look into other contractors. Fortunately, my wife’s brother owns several properties and has a fair amount of experience hiring various people for repairs and improvements. So, we invited him over to take a look and give us a little advice before bringing in the pros. Between his opinion and several recommendations from a few sources, we felt equipped to begin. It was going to take some time and money, but it shouldn’t be horrible.

We were missing one critical valve to make the shower work the way we wanted. So, we went shopping for a part, no big deal. Unfortunately, no one at Home Depot, Menard’s or Lowe’s had any clue what we were talking about. The woman at Home Value Interiors was more helpful, but it would have cost a small fortune to go through them. So, we continued our shopping online, finally finding the part from Moen. My wife called their customer service line to confirm that the valve actually did what we thought it did (it did) so we ordered it.

[Side note: Moen’s customer service was fantastic: friendly, helpful, knowledgeable. had great prices; we should have the parts shipped to our door by Friday for about $100 less than Home Depot. We’ll see what actually happens when it’s all installed, but at this point I can recommend both whole-heartedly.]

First an electrician came, pointed out an array of code violations and estimated a full day’s work for two guys. Then a plumber came, pointed out an array of code violations and estimated half a day’s work for one guy. Then a second electrician came, pointed out an array of code violations, suggested filing a report with the city and declined to even work on the project. Then a tiler came, pointed out that the drain wouldn’t work, the floor wouldn’t shed water, the curb had to go and estimated a week for himself with a second guy for certain parts of it. They were all pretty shocked at the work performed up to this point, but agreed that the tile looked really nice.

Aside from the lovely travertine, things are not looking good. Our best-case scenario is another $3500 for a project that is already 4 months overdue and $3K over budget. Most of that money is going towards removing and redoing previous work. Our only consolation is that we discovered all of these issues before we actually started showering in there; who knows what would have happened with running water and shoddy wiring?

But what can you do? We still need a shower, so there’s nothing to do but get started. We have an electrician coming Tuesday; with any luck, he should be done in a day with the inspector coming Wednesday. It ain’t gonna be cheap, but at least it will be fast. Then comes the tiler for a week’s work. That’ll give us a little time to try a couple more plumbers, as we haven’t found a great option for that part yet.

In an effort to inject a bit of levity, we’ve scheduled a party for the first weekend in April. It remains to be seen whether this will be a celebration of the new bathroom or a chance to drown our sorrows with friends. Either way, we’ll be too broke to go out so we can have all our friends come to us.

One way or another, things will happen in March.