Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Shower Wall Saga

 This is one story I dislike recalling. It certainly was not a pleasant time for all, especially since it will be forever linked in my memory with botched dental work. 

Early on in the construction, I had visited another town and picked up a few boxes of tile, trim pieces, etc. for this bathroom. We decided to do a subway tile half-wall and I think we were going to take it in tor the shower area (since my husband did not want a cheapo plastic shower surround). I was too eager to buy materials back then and had a lack of experience shopping for tile. The box of subway tiles was in the way here, in the way there, and by the time we were ready for them to be installed, we made a frustrating discovery: they were off-white and the bathtub was arctic-white. The subway tiles and the rest of the room were not playing well together! The subway tiles made the gray tile floor look green, the white tub made the subway tiles look yellow... and there weren't enough tiles anyway as we had made some adjustments to the plans. Hours spent shopping to match them, but no luck. Too late to return those tiles. They were banished to the attic after a failed Craigslist attempt to get rid of them. (Anyone need a few off-white subway tiles?)

After some time talking it through, I was allowed to go to Lowe's and pick out a slap-it-in plastic tub surround (yay!). I wasn't fond of the idea of tiles in the shower anyway because of the maintenance. So I went happily on my way, only to be told by one of the better employees in the plumbing department that I couldn't have a plastic shower surround. What?! He said that no surround would work with the tub we bought! And upon measuring the space, the boys found that it would not fit, and furthermore the walls were not true. They were out in ALL directions.

We spent hours researching and contemplating our options. Epoxy walls? Cedar slats?  We decided that on a tile surround after all. I knew one thing: I wanted the largest-format tile I could get to minimize grout lines on the shower walls. I was on the hunt for HUMONGOUS tile. If we could do this with THREE tiles that would be great (did you know tile comes 2 feet by 5 feet? and larger?). The least scrubbing we had to do, the better. Somehow during all this decision making, the tile plan crept out of the shower area and a new design was considered: a complete floor-to-ceiling tile wall!  

Although the tiles in the photo were pretty, we decided gray was too dark and would make the room look like a concrete prison. It would have to be white. Have you ever tried to match up whites? From different companies? From tile to clothing to paper, it is a frustrating experience!

By now you long time readers know that tile shopping became a regular part of my life.  I was wearing out the lovely salesladies at the local tile shop. Selection was stale at Lowe's and other places were too expensive. ReStore only had so many that matched. Would the quest for tile ever end???

Now it was up to the Tile Guy to figure out how to level the walls in all directions. It was concluded that the only way to do this was an old-fashioned method of mudding the wall. This involved me running to hardware stores for obscure supplies that no modern builder used anymore. 

The "true-ing" of this wall involved some kind of mud-like substance over hardware cloth (like chicken wire but more rigid and close together). 

During this time I went to the dentist for a first-time-ever tooth drilling. I did not know what to expect, and it was very stressful for me; especially so when the dentist accidently hit a nerve with his drill. That nerve will never forgive him and never forget the offence (nor will it let me forget!). When I got home, there was a smell in the house that was exactly like tooth-drilling: they were putting bitumen on the shower walls to waterproof them. Every time I went past that room the newly-drilled tooth would kick me!

In the middle of this project, something good happened! I found THE tile at our local tile shop. It came in large sizes. It was perfect. We brought the sample board home and it matched the tub white! Not only that, but it was interesting! The smooth wave-like tile for the shower, the rest done patch-work style on the big wall. Can you see a whole wall like a white-on-white textured whole-cloth quilt only in tile? 

We were very excited. It was priced really well for us-- which turned out to be a mistake by the company. However, the saleslady called the company for clarification they said they would honor the price sticker on the sample! 
The salesladies were so pleased that I was FINALLY making a decision!  They cheerfully called the order in, and.... it was magically "out of stock." No hope of back order. As a matter of fact that company "didn't make it anymore." We were all so disappointed.

Back to Lowe's we go. We found a largish-tile in plain white, no texture at all. It was cheap and thin with sharp (not "pillow") edges. But this whole project had gone on long enough (months). We bought it and the Tile Guy set to work to put it up.

He got about this far and found a problem. Despite all the work that went into this, despite the time, materials, leveling and checking, the wall was still "kicking out" in places, which made it hard to set this thin tile. It was still too un-even for tile, and the "lippage" (parts that stick out where you don't want them to) would be too sharp. We gave up on tile. 

He tore it down. Days of work. It's enough to make me cry. I went back to Lowe's to buy a plastic shower surround in defiance of the Plumbing salesman, and the Builders were going to MAKE it work. Some sawing on the non-bearing studs made the wall level enough for plastic.

We had our own adventures bringing this thing home. Although it was in three pieces (which allowed us to manipulate it enough for installation on our wonky walls), it did not fit in our van-of-all-trades. We had a very awkward drive home on a windy, snowy evening with it tied rather dubiously to the roof rack.

At last! Surround installed, drywall placed, and fixtures installed! 

1 comment:

Rozy Lass said...

Oh my goodness, what an adventure. While we've been refurbishing our home I've thought many times that what I really want is to build a brand new home with all the character of an antique one but without all the problems. Too bad we're poor as church mice and can't afford to do that. Oh well, we try to laugh and enjoy the journey.

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