Monday, 29 November 2010

23 - The Bathroom

Right. The urge to write more words on this blog has found some fertile ground within which to take root. This ground is simply the chunk of spare time found between the children being put to bed and my overwhelming tiredness felt an hour or so afterwards demanding my immediate teeth cleaning, pyjama putting on, and hopping into bed kind of attention. Unfortunately this all puts an end to my waking, and arguably my most useful, state. My secret for stretching this magical free time out is an afternoon cup of tea taken at about 3. Considering my sensitivity to after lunch caffeine I need to take extra care with my tea bag dunks. Not too many, not too deep and not too long.

So with that aside now well aside let's talk bathroom.
When most people talk bathrooms they talk tiles. Before we started looking into things we would talk bathrooms and find that wood would soon pop up yet again and quickly build rapport with the topic at hand. It was like that with us. Wood's infectious impact on our consciousness ensured it was thought of first for most building and furnishing applications. We discovered though that its allure is wasted on the modern day bathroom tightly draped in a constricting fabric of council regulation. In short we wanted to keep the wooden floor of the new bathroom but discovered we could not. There are rules when constructing 'new' bathrooms and wooden floors do not get a look in. Especially if the shower water is proposed to fall down into an old claw foot bath and there is no glass screen in sight.

When I say new bathroom I do so because we moved ours from the middle of the house to the back deck where the laundry once was. Remember?
Here it is covered in this post from a while back. The decking floorboards under this old laundry were previously moved closer together to decrease the roomy gaps between them. Anyway we thought this wooden floor could stay. Because our house was considered 'new' its wet areas are subject to the wet area rules of the day which means waterproofing the whole bathroom and tiling the floor and walls. Lots of tiles around the bath/shower and then a little everywhere else. We were gutted. No, make that grouted.

So our attention painfully turned to tiles. We were constantly slapped in the face by dull, dated, bland, careful, samey choices in the tile shops we visited. No matter what the shop, the tiles were the same. We started our search on the internet and found great examples of tiles and tiled bathrooms. The trouble was these were in other countries. We took downloaded photos along to shops whose people never came close to matching them. Our favourite photo pictured a floor tiled with small hexagonal white tiles sporting the occasional handful of similar black ones shaped in a sort of flower. The wall tiles we favoured in photo were a green colour and were not very big, maybe 150mm square. Then there was a thin black line of pencil tiles somewhere near the highest edge. Anyway, we wanted the tiles to look old, especially the floor, and didn't mind the look of grey grout to help emphasise this intent. As I said though, no one could come close to matching these pictures. The floor was do-able but hard to come by. The walls were off the charts hard. Apparently we missed the small for a wall, boldly-ish coloured, retro flavoured tile revival some 6-8 years ago and it seemed that currently a modern minimalist sandy looking bore fest was settling in for a long yawn in.
It seems, like most other things to do with houses these days, people are too scared to make statements with things like bathrooms, simply because they are worried about future sale-ability of their house. This fact is solely responsible for tile shops carrying 'careful' stock. Sure there are exceptions but these somehow feel careful too. Strange that tiled areas of your house are constrained by current fashion, which means that everyone is somewhat forced to choose from the same tiles. The shops do not cater for an unfashionable taste. If you want a certain bathroom you cannot have what your heart desires you can only have what everyone else heart desires or at least what they think their heart desires, no, what others' hearts desire. In the end it made me feel that if we were to find tiles we liked in one of the many tile shops around then we were obviously doing something wrong. The fact that we couldn't is comforting in hindsight.
Well all this was seriously depressing for a while there until we decided to embrace the house's style and vintage and see how it would have tiled its bathroom back in the 20s, had its original builder/owner had the money. We went to a shop in Brisbane's inner suburbs that specialises in bathrooms for older houses. We met the owner of the shop who carried very definite thoughts on what works in old bathrooms. She turned her nose up in all sorts of ways at anything other than authentic how it was done back thenness. “Sure you could do that if you wanted but it wasn’t how it was done back then” kind of retorts persistently swung back in our suggestions. By the end of an almost two hour visit to her sm
all shop she had managed to insert a purist mentality into our submissive tiled out minds. We wanted to be like her when it came to tiles. We wanted to wear her air of opinionatedness and venture back into the soul destroying string of blando tile shops we had previously been to dropping ‘Tsk Tsks' over all we were shown. At the time I certainly felt liked I loved her.

She helped us decide on a collection of tiles for the bathroo
m. We ended up choosing white 'subway' style tiles for the walls. These were to be edged by a black border, contain a bottle green feature strip, and have some pencil lines in there too. The floor was to be black and white checkerboard look on an angle. We had reservations about all this. These tiles were not cheap and the look of the times dictated that we used more of them. They go up the wall about nipple height all the way around the bathroom, even in those areas that aren't anywhere near wall water.Despite the price we were relieved. It was like we were letting the house decide on something for a change. It was about time it pitched in with some suggestions, we were getting tired of making all the big decisions

Part of the process involved us explaining to the lady in the shop the layout of our bathroom. It is a small room with two French doors taking up three quarters of the bathroom wall that borders the deck. These are the way in and let in so much morning light one thinks one is showering outdoors. Working around these doors meant that the hand basin had nowhere else to go other than directly under the window. This basin position made the window look like a mirror. Not how it was it done in a long shot but a bloody nice idea we think. I would much prefer to look out over a secluded corner of the property instead of my unflattering collection of early morning teeth cleaning expressions.

So a few words on cost and DIY ease. Well I can't tile. Never tried but I know that I have no patience and that my eye for fine work is permanently shut so we decided to employ someone to do it. I did prepare the room though. I laid the villaboard stuff around the walls and floor. I screwed and glued it into the floor as someone said that nails can lift. I nailed and glued it to the walls. Tricky work when lining up holes for pipes and drains but satisfying overall. I was then going to apply the waterproofing to this work but found out that one has to carry a license to do such things. Plus we required this very someone to sign a form that had to be part of our council approval process to move in. The tiler was great and the end result is great. We just have to paint a bit here and there and finish placing some cover strips on the ceiling. There is no rush for this type of work though. Function first, trimming later.

By the way the bathroom didn't take two years to complete as the date on this post would suggest. I am just very late in writing about it. The next few posts will suffer the same misrepresentation I'm afraid. Things will catch up again soon after that though.


twin1 said...

Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs! But its like reading a thrilling book and missing the last couple of pages!
I congratulate you on your detailed analysis of the entire project and the amazing amount of information you have shared.
How has it all turned out? What would you have changed?
Thank you and well done


Sean said...

Thanks Judy. I am working on the wrap up and summary of the whole thing. Time just gets away. Keep checking, I hope to have something up soon.

Chris said...

How's the build going? All moved in yet?

Kerrie said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I would love to hear the end of it. My husband and I have been discussing the possibility of removal homes for a while now. It may happen it may not. Reading your blog has given us a better idea of what we might expect if we do go ahead.