Saturday, May 16, 2015

The $10,000 Mistake

So, this happened.

We tore out the entire floor of our bathroom. The shower floor, the stone kickboards, the cement float underneath, everything. Why, you ask? Well, it all goes back to 2009...

We had finished the bathroom, and it was glorious. We had taken it from looking like this:

To this:

There was only one problem. It didn't work. To start, the floor wasn't level. And we had installed a "gutterless shower" proposed by our designer at Home Expo. A beautiful design, but hard to execute. Our contractor didn't put the regulation 1/2" slope in the shower, so instead of the water staying in, it flowed out and then pooled on the other side of the bathroom. We always needed lots of towels to catch the flow.

At the end of every shower, I squeegied the glass walls, but then I also took to squeegying the water back into the shower.

I'd known since the very first shower that the floor had to be redone. I talked to my contractor, and he said he'd be willing to re-do the work if I just got him the materials. I began to gather them, and they collected in the space that was supposed to be a finished cabinet:

That junk pile sat in our bathroom for six years.

What happened in those six years??
  • The economy collapsed.
  • Home Expo went under, taking our designer and the archives of all we had ordered with it.
  • I stockpiled stone tiles, picking whatever unchipped remnants I could find from the remaining stock at Solistone out in San Bernardino.
  • I searched for the shower floor tile. Didn't know it's name. Didn't have a sample of it to take around. I searched in vain for -- not exaggerating -- two years? Finally got lucky and stumbled across a leftover remnant in our back yard. Found a match at Mission Tile West in South Pasadena.
  • My contractor disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.
  • I tried to sue my contractor but could never find him to serve the summons. Learned about statutes of limitation on claims against contractors (2 years). 
  • Got angry. Got frustrated. Got wide-ranging bids from other contractors to fix the problem ($3,500 on the low end, $10K on the high)
I became suspicious of every contractor. The ones with bids too high must be gouging me, while the ones on the low end must be incompetent. And I battled with myself over spending so much money on the same job twice. Yet every day the water spilled out. Every day the clutter pile grew bigger. It was a crazy circle. And it was me driving myself crazy because I just couldn't deal with how big a mistake it was.

Then I finally found someone to help me chuck the albatross off the deck. Enter Benjamin, a contractor recommended by some good friends who regularly re-do houses. Benjamin was their man, and I figured that gave me some additional leverage. He wouldn't want to screw me and have it get back to my friends.

So we dove in at long last. We set out to rebuild the shower basin, raising it up, giving it a dam to keep the water in, and making a couple additional changes along the way.

We installed an infinity drain, which hadn't even been invented when we started the project six years ago: 
The first time around, because of the screw-up, we never really finished the bathroom. We never got to the finishing touches, such as towel racks and an actual toilet paper holder. For six years our roll just kicked stupidly around the bathroom space, usually in a puddle under the sink. But look! These small details made a huge difference!

And at Benjamin's recommendation, we installed a vent in the ceiling.

But most importantly, we built up the shower flower. And I don't really feel like we lost anything aesthetically in eliminating that smooth entry into the shower. Benjamin did a lovely job with the step, and it looks pretty slick. We also brought Aladdin Glass of Canoga Park back in. They did the shower walls the first time around, and this time they replaced the front panel and door to accommodate the new step up.

And so, without further delay, here is the final result:

We never did build out the cabinet in the space that housed the six-year junk pile, but we're working on it.