Monday, July 04, 2005

Why I learned to use my own power tools III

Walk Through

Hedda was told that the contractors generally put in the most basic fixtures, when they replaced parts, but there was no stock bathtub small enough to fit her "cozy" space, so they planned to simply take out the tub and replace it with a shower. Hedda, being a woman of some taste, balked at the suggestion. She asked if, perhaps, she could pay the difference between the planned cost for the basic tub and whatever custom one she might be able to find by shopping around. She was informed that it would be possible, and, if she shopped for her own fixtures and other larger supplies, the contractor might reimburse her for the cost of the basic ones it would normally have installed. She could choose her own lighting, her own sink, her own flooring, her own cabinets -- she could have the house she dreamed of (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).

Armed with that promise and a smile, Hedda called me up, and we went shopping. We went window shopping.

Bear in mind, I'm not your typical girly shopper. If you catch me spending more than a few minutes in a shoe store or a clothier, it is probably because somebody has duct-taped me to a display rack, and I am unable to reach a knife to free myself. But invite me on a run to the hardware store, and I'm your girl. I have had palpitations from putting my hands on the newest Makita power planer, and visions of scaffolding calm me to sleep at night.

I also design rooms in my head, for the fun of it, trying to suit the spaces to their occupants wherever possible. Plus, I own a Handyman's Special house, partly because I like it that way.

Hedda and I hit the nearest -- and the second nearest -- Lowe's, then Menard's, and several other regional stores.

"They're taking out the window in the bathroom," she informed me. "I'm not sure why. But it means I'll be losing my natural light when I gain my privacy."

"Have you considered asking if they'd instal a wall of glass bricks in its place?" I asked. "It would insulate better than a simple wall, you could get textured blocks for privacy, and still have light, so you wouldn't be wasting a lot of electricity every time you have to go in there." I was rubbing my hands over the blocks with a "bubble" pattern on them, picturing a wall of them over a nice, slick tub. On a shelf above them was a long window slit designed to fit into the rows smoothly, to provide a little ventiliation. I could see Hedda was beginning to warm to the idea. She had that pleasantly distant look on her face, the one which says she is picturing it fondly.

"I don't know if they'll do it."

"If they won't, call me, and we can put it in ourselves. My hands are free. If you want."

She told me she would seriously consider my idea and offer. But she needed to look for a bathtub.

Initially, we were still looking for a tub to fit along the short wall that the contractors said would only suit a shower stall. There was a lovely corner tub, with its own surround, at Menard's, complete with jets for spa action, within a reasonable price range. Hedda measured it, saw it was an inch shorter than the space it was to squeeze into, and promptly fell in deep like with it.

The drawbacks were, the spa had only six jets -- not enough to help with the muscle spasms she (and especially her son) occasionally suffered, and it was so wide a piece that it would fill half the floor space, leaving no room for sink, commode, or elbows. She sighed loudly and told me her problem.

We had to go back to the drawing board.

"Is the west wall of the bathroom a bearing wall?" I inquired.

"I don't think so, no. Why?"

"Think you could ask to knock that wall out, turn the little room next to it into a walk-in closet, and, maybe, enlarge your bathroom to accommodate a real tub?" I gave her a fiendish grin. If they said "no", of course, we'd be nowhere, but if they approved it, she could have a genuinely civilized hideaway in the heart of her house. She returned the grin, and we went home, her head filled with plans, plans, plans.

The conversation with the powers that be went well. After an initial expression of reservations, Hedda persuaded them that she was willing to do much of the demolition work, so that the cost of the project would not be affected dramatically. After all, the walls would have to be torn up considerably, anyway. The plaster and lath were the better part of a century old, and they'd have to go before the new pipes and wiring could be installed. Since the floor and subfloor, too, needed replacement it didn't look like there would be a problem with her proposal. The wall would be moved, mostly by her muscle power. She could have a tub any size and style she wanted.

Hedda came over to share the good news with me and my mom. She was so excited by the prospect ahead that she could barely hold her teacup without spilling it.

Previous installments, in chronological order:
The Application
The Best Contractors Are Too Busy

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