Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bathing like the Romans (except with soap)

Finally. After several weeks of thought, preparation and hardwork, our Victorian bathroom has been fully renovated. Last night, I took my first bath since the redo and started thinking about my perceptions of what a bathroom was originally designed for. From Wikipedia: "Although it was not with hygiene in mind, the first records for the use of baths date back as far as 3000 B.C. At this time water had a strong religious value, being seen as a purifying element for both body and soul, and so it was not uncommon for people to be required to cleanse themselves before entering a sacred area."

As I laid back in the tub to admire the work Andrea and I performed, I could feel myself relax more and look around and enjoy this warm, cozy bathroom that was once the worst place in the whole house. (See earlier posts)

As a first time homeowner buying a "fixer-upper", the bathroom is the most logical room to tackle first because you get to deal with all aspects of a house ie. plumbing, electrical, walls, drainage, windows, floors etc. Bathrooms are typically very small so you can work on all these things without feeling like its a huge and expensive job.

Our plans from the start included updating everything and fixing the numerous water-damaged areas around the tub, bringing out the original elements of the house and creating a Tuscan/Venetian feeling that Andrea and I both enjoy. Having been to Italy together and exploring the Roman ruins, I often thought the Romans (and Greeks for that matter) had the best perspective of what a "bathroom" should do for a person. From Wikipedia: "The earliest surviving bathtub dates back to 1700 B.C, and hails from the Palace of Knossos in Crete.[2] What is remarkable about this tub is not only the similarity with the baths of today, but also the way in which the plumbing works surrounding it differ so little from modern models. Both the Greeks and the Romans recognized the value of bathing as an important part of their lifestyles. Writers such as Homer had their heroes bathe in warm water so as to regain their strength; it is perhaps notable that the mother of Achilles bathed him in order to gain his invincibility. Palaces have been uncovered throughout Greece with areas that are dedicated to bathing, spaces with ceramic bathtubs, as well as sophisticated drainage systems. "

I certainly felt like I was regaining my strength following a warm bath in the new bathroom complete with burning candles, wine and even rose petals from our garden. As we continue to work hard on the house, we can now look forward to those occasional hot baths to help ease the muscles on our unforgiving bodies and feel like we have improved things and resuscitated parts of the bathroom that were covered for decades.

Being a technology-guy, I added this motion sensor light switch.

I am particularly pleased about how the original redwood wainscot and siding worked out. I spent weeks gently peeling off layers and layers of old paint to find wood that was pretty dry and not too bad a shape. After adding a coat of material that rebinds the wood fibers, the wood was stained and sealed.

Andrea had a picture of a a bathroom she liked and we painted the walls in the 'glaze' style, something neither of us ever did before. It's basically combining 3 different paints to create a marble look on the walls. She made great choices and the room now glows like a Tuscan field filled with sunflowers. The paint came from Home Depot (HD) at a total cost of $50.

We recycled the existing window which seemed fine and wasn't broken and secured it to a new window frame. Since we saved money on purchasing a new window, Andrea splurged on stain-glassing material that lets in light but covers the unremarkable wall and pipe you see outside.

We added two built in shelving areas. One above the new 30" cherry vanity ($135) and a shower/bath cabinet that makes use of the empty space right behind the bathtub. We kept all the original old-growth redwood siding that was actually at one time the exterior end of the house. At one point, this Victorian was only 700sqft and the rear walls were THREE of the bathroom walls. The grain on this wood is so tight I really had never seen anything like it before. If you go to any lumber place, most redwood is a few decades old. This redwood is thousands of years old and I'm happy guests will be able to see it when they walk in.

The floor and bath tile all came from HD with the exception of the hand-painted butterfly tiles we found at the Alameda flea market (see earlier post) These Italian tiles make for good trim at the top of the bath and help connect the golden walls with the stone bath tiles. I think we probably spent around $350 on all the tiling, adhesive, grout, backerboard etc. Doing the tiling ourselves is a long, messy process but it saved us tons of $$$$.

We only had to shell out $300 for a plumber to come in and move the vanity plumbing to the other side. The new toilet and vanity cost under $300 and I installed them myself. I can probably talk intelligently about the differences in types of beeswax toilet rings with anybody and I no longer giggle when I say the term "P trap".

The biggest cost saving was using the Oakland Tool Library for all our tool needs including wet saw, tile cutter, grout, drywall tools, plumbing tools, separators, heatguns and much much more. It's nice knowing that the bathroom is done and that we don't have to store new tools somewhere to gather dust. I can't recommend using the tool library enough. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and competent and the tools are all in good shape and ready to use. They have every tool you would need and they lend it out to you for free for enough days to get the jobs done.

Andrea and I are now adding some finishing touches like a wall holder for a candle, towel bar and other items. Another great resource was Urban Ore. We found this very nice, brand new medicine cabinet for $20. The only accident of this entire project was me cracking the mirror which now needs to be replaced or dealt with in a creative way. Any ideas?

We bought the shower fixtures on Ebay for around $25 and added a new tub drain and switch for a grand total of $45

Speaking of recycling. Remember the earlier post about the 1940's tile-bord that surrounded the old bathroom? Well some of them are now shelves in the new built-in towel cabinet. :)

Now its a short, short little break before the next project; resurrecting the old growth oak floors in the parlor.

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