The tale I tell today is of triumph and torment. It's a six-day story of pain and victory, of love, labor and a livid lumbar. Grit flowed in abundance, its source the indomitable human spirit and the bottom of a plastic bucket. Lives were changed and destinies altered, but in the end a monument had risen like the mighty avian Phoenix from a scorched Earthscape.

You may be asking, in light of America's crumbling infrastructure, what is this tremendous public work to which I'm referring? What undertaking could be worthy of establishing residence next to such man-made marvels as the Brooklyn Bridge, Hoover Dam or State Route 518 linking Tukwila to Burien?

My bathroom, that's what. Our home is a mid century rambler, and evidently during the 1940s, a single lavatory was deemed adequate for the waste abatement sensibilities of America's post-war families. None of that three-and-three quarter bathrooms bullshit with HDMI hookups and mini-fridges for the hungover toilet bogart of today's pampered homeowner.

Nope, one bathroom, one toilet and one freaking outlet, so deal with it, you freaking twenty-first-century poo mills and the rest of your over-primping broods.

Yes, this area of the house got six times the wear and tear of the next most highly-trafficked area, a three square-foot area in front of the fridge. The floor was buckling, the tiles were swelling and if something wasn't done, we'd be involuntarily relocating our toilet to the crawlspace below.

But first things first; how does one replace a bathroom floor when no alternatives exist besides aiming for a small hole in the floor? Two words:

Honey Bucket. Nothing like single-handedly driving your neighbors' home prices down by merely placing a porta-potty in the driveway and your old commode on the porch. Whatever, this is how everyone operated a few generations back. I do wish someone would've told me I didn't have to dig a pit to put the thing over, but don't most home improvement projects command an El Capitan-sized learning curve?

As you can see, once the underlayment was ripped out (resulting in injury to your obedient journalist, which I'll get into later), the dark spot by the toilet hole presented a healthy helping of sub-floor rot. Woohoo! This alone added about four to six hours to the project. Fortunately, I wasn't about to take on this pig of a task alone.

That's my brother replacing the sub-flooring. Luckily his parole officer allowed him to travel north for the weekend, as long as he kept his ankle bracelet on (which isn't visible here) and didn't allow his face to be photographed. He said he'd rather show off his impressive new ass implants anyway. Apparently they're a big status symbol in prison. He wanted me to tell you he's not even flexing here, that's all implant.

Next up was new backer board (also known as underlayment):

Then the ceramic tile and spacers for the future grout:

I'm telling you, you could bounce a freaking quarter off those fresh glutes of his. Am I a little jelly? Perhaps.

After the mortar dried, it was grouting time:

Finally, the moment to bid adieu to mi amore, the Honey Bucket—'cause there's a smooth white new sheriff in town:

Fast forward another week, and the cleaning and painting are complete:

Although the room turned out well, a dark underbelly to this story exists. While incarcerated those nine years, my mechanically-inclined brother gleaned some exemplary carpentry skills from his various "daddies." He therefore performed the lion's share of duties requiring fine motor skills while I executed tasks involving brute force and superior strength.

Three days after the grouting was complete, I rose from bed unable to point my left foot upward, which is known as "dead foot syndrome." After visiting the doctor and receiving an MRI, l learned that, probably while crowbarring out the old plywood, one of my lumbar discs decided to form an inappropriate dalliance with the nerve root extending down the back of my leg.

To add insult to injury, I severely sprained my ankle while awkwardly planting the weak foot:

Wearing this boot is sort of like how kickers wear a different shoe to kick the ball, only there are no cleats on the boot and it would really hurt my ankle to kick a ball and then the ball wouldn't go very far and then I'd fall down. Everything else is the same.

I'm scheduled to see an orthopedist next week, so hopefully before too long I can enjoy the new bathroom without snagging my pants on Velcro once I peel them past my knees. To those of you over 50, please take care of your back. And to those of you under 50, please take care of your back.

Even an historical endeavor such as this isn't worth the heartache.

Views: 115

Comment by Zanelle on July 30, 2016 at 10:34am

What wonderful writing!  Your bathroom is spectacular.  So funny about your brother.  Hope you have time now with your foot up to write.  You are good.  My mom had a pain like that and going to the swimming pool every day really helped.  

Comment by lorianne on July 30, 2016 at 11:13am

i just completed a similar bathroom rehab - rotten wood right down to the floor joists. *sigh*

I am pleased (and surprised) to say i have no injuries as a result. we have a second bathroom though, so i had the luxury of taking 3 weeks to complete the job.  slow & steady is my motto now that i'm old.

heal quickly!

Comment by JMac1949 Today on July 30, 2016 at 11:17am

This is painful to me in so many more ways than one...R&L

Comment by Reflections of a Shallow Pond on July 30, 2016 at 11:45am

Thanks so much for the encouragement! 

The Gimp

Comment by Myriad on July 30, 2016 at 11:51am

Agree with Z - wonderful writing.  (Laughing thru the tears...)

Six days?  I've been working on my bathroom for 6 months.  Well, my casual reno guy has.  And because I wanted the whole thing moved to a different room, the old not-too-rotten floor is now in small-storage/large-closet and the toilet is situated on never-leaked-on flooring and joists.  This is a (tiny) duplex, with adjoining door, so I used my daughter's bathroom on those few and short times mine wasn't available.

FWIW, I did my bathroom in my previous house over the course of maybe six years, so....

Comment by nerd cred on July 30, 2016 at 1:09pm

Beautiful job - both the bathroom and the writing.

But you know, if you had added an entirely new bathroom before you began ... yeah, my imagination tends to run on a bit ... but I grew up in houses with one bathroom for eleven people. I understand the seriousness of your position!

Comment by marilyn sands on July 30, 2016 at 2:20pm

An Out House would've been cheaper!  And quicker.  And by doing it yourself plus bro; you can afford 2-ply!  Sorry about the feet; but you can still write.  R&L

Comment by Phyllis on July 30, 2016 at 6:31pm
Gorgeous bathroom. I am thinking about doing mine, I'm tired of caulking the tub and want one of those one piece tub/surround things.

Good luck with the back. I have an MRI on my neck this coming Wednesday.


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