Shock and awe in the bathroom |

Shock and awe in the bathroom

Janet Urquhart

Remodeling a home is apparently a lot like invading a foreign country – you don’t know what you’ll find.Something you’d expect to uncover, say weapons of mass destruction or a functional shutoff valve, won’t be there. On the other hand, stuff you didn’t anticipate, be it stiff rebel resistance or a rotten subfloor, will crop up unexpectedly and slow progress to a crawl.Having attacked the guest bathroom with the confidence of a well-fortified army, we’ve nonetheless been forced to open a supply line to Lowe’s and quickly called up for reinforcements in the way of lumber and plumbing supplies. The bathroom, as it turns out, is a minefield of potential home-improvement disasters.Unbeknownst to me, it is apparently a well-known fact that no assault on the plumbing can be successfully launched without retreating to the hardware store at least once. For this reason, no such offensive should commence outside of store hours. Also, never – ever – remodel a bathroom if it’s your only bathroom. This, fortunately, is not the case at our house, where the guest bath has featured an unsightly hole in the floor where a toilet used to be for the duration of the occupation.Another lesson in remodeling – find out whether the home-supply outfit you plan to frequent on a daily basis is a publicly traded company. If it is, buy stock before you begin.Also, never remodel a room unless you’re prepared to see what’s beneath the facade. Tearing apart a house is like peeling an onion. Certainly, it can make you cry. At the worst, you’ll find something beneath whatever it is you’re replacing that will also need to be fixed. At the very least, you’ll discover absolutely shocking wallpaper covering up even more hideous wallpaper and head for the hardware store in search of the thickest primer paint on the market.My favored approach is to just cover stuff up without looking beneath it, but the household’s perfectionist, who also happens to be in charge of the tools, will have none of it.Plenty of prior owners have apparently subscribed to my philosophy, though. I haven’t seen a cover-up like this since the Nixon administration. I suspect the interior of the house has actually shrunk over the years; the walls are creeping inward with each new layer. The exterior, on the other hand, is expanding outward into the yard space.After we’re done rebuilding the house, or maybe before, we’ll be constructing a new, larger shed in the backyard to accommodate all the additional tools and supplies required to remodel the house. We can’t store them inside, with the rooms getting smaller and all.I have to say though, demolition has been an unexpected breeze. I’d envisioned multiple trips to a landfill to cart off the casualties of our endeavors. Instead, we’ve disposed of virtually an entire room one trash pickup at a time. You can actually fit a bathroom in a 90-gallon trash cart, if you throw it away incrementally.Janet Urquhart now knows how to cut tile. Her e-mail address is

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