Remodeling Your Bathroom (And Your Relationship)

Anyone can do amazing work when one room takes 36 months. I suspect the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted in less time.

Anyone can do amazing work when one room takes 36 months. I suspect the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted in less time.

It isn’t for the faint of heart...

My house was built in 1978. When my husband and I moved in on Halloween in 2000, there was orange carpet in the bathrooms. Everywhere else had cheap but updated carpet that looked good for at least the first glance. Somehow, the previous owners thought urine-soaked burnt sienna carpet was classy enough to keep.

I ripped out the foul floor covering within a few months without a solid plan of what would come next. I ended up painting the concrete with a weird vinyl-related spread meant for garages. Not lovely, but it didn’t make me think of accumulated pee and pubes.

The other bathroom likewise got a quick redo with clearance paint (much pinker than the sample) and discount tile. After years in apartments that should have been condemned, even these sad restroom facilities were vast improvements.

And so we stayed, the husband and I, vaguely embarrassed when guests stayed over and commented on the bordello vibe of the bathroom.

Then we had a kid.

No working bathtub suddenly seemed like a big deal. And the functional bathroom spaces weren’t places you’d want to hang out. There’s a lot of bathroom time once you’ve got tiny humans. (You’ve been warned.)

I can only describe myself as foolishly naïve when my husband and I picked out a jetted tub. That was the last time the bathroom renovation seemed like a good idea.  

My husband is from Idaho. He believes in doing things himself, and he legitimately knows how to do all kinds of strange things. However... his timeline/sense of urgency is not in the realm of normal.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the bathroom renovation was a three-year process. It looks great. I can admit that.

But when someone compliments my husband on his work, I have to bite my tongue.  

Anyone can do amazing work when one room takes 36 months. I suspect the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted in less time.

I’ve written before about the remodeling time — it was not a part of life I’d ever want to repeat. So when the shower pipe got all cattywampus in the other bathroom, I just stopped using that room. I couldn’t handle it.

I came up with a plan to hire a contractor to take on the project. Hiring someone seemed cheaper and saner than a divorce.

See how logical I am? I didn’t even get myself emotionally invested in hoping for anything more than Not Leaking.

Still, my husband didn’t want to trust someone else with his drywall, his copper pipes, his special shower moments.  

I tried a compromise: I’d give my husband the money I’d allocated for the bathroom remodel. If he spent less than it would have cost to hire someone, he could pocket the difference and blow it all.

You should know I am rather tight-fisted, so this was an unheard-of cash opportunity for my spouse.

I also gave a deadline. A firm one. (It was not three years.) I was clear that I would unable to be a reasonable human being if this deadline was not respected.

I am now the proud owner/operator of a truly stunning shower, with some high-tech, European, many-nozzle device.

It is not what I would have done. But I truly did let go of the project. So when my spouse purchased high-end supplies that seemed foolish to me, I said nothing. It was his choice.

He spent all the money I budgeted for the project. Didn’t end up with anything extra.

He’s kind of great. Super-freaky-frustrating. Not me. Not perfect. Not me.

Did I say that? We have two beautiful bathrooms. All the things a person needs to do in a bathroom can be done well — with recessed lighting, even.

We made it through two bathroom remodels. If you keep careful count, maybe we could even call it four renovations.

It isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is possible to do construction and stay married.

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