Thursday, July 27, 2017

Master Bathroom Remodel Part III - Recovery Mode!

Hello there... How are you?
If you read my last post here then you know I have really been through
the wringer on this bathroom remodel. And, unfortunately, it had to get
worse before it could get any better. The good news is, we are now better!
After reaching closure on contractor #1 and hiring contractor #2, I was
sincerely ready for contractor #2 to make good on his initial promise
to begin work last Thursday and have my bathroom finished this week!
Sadly, everything I was told about the quality of his
work and attention to detail didn't hold water...
You see, while I am far from being an expert at laying tile or marble... I am
an expert on Carrara marble; therefore, I know that when working with any
kind of natural stone in mosaic mesh sheets, you must dry-fit the area to be
tiled and take the time to arrange your sheets to ensure an even mix of color.
Which is exactly what I explained to my new contractor. As soon as he walked
into the bathroom, I showed him the subway tile for the walls and the carrara
mosaic for the floors. After talking about the design for a while, my contractor
asked if there was anything else, so I showed him the monogram I created. We
agreed where he'd set it into the floor and talked again about the importance of
mixing up the mesh sheets of marble for even color distribution... Like this!
Never being one to ask anyone to do anything I'm not willing to do myself, I
took him over to the shower to show him where I dry-fit tiles as an example!
Now, I admit this took some time. I measured my shower floor (6 feet wide by
4 feet deep) to get the total number of square feet (24) I needed to dry-fit the
area. Then, I opened roughly 20 boxes (each box holds 5 sheets) and laid out
sheets from all the boxes until I got what looked like an even mix of color. I
then returned the 24 sheets back to the boxes and wrote shower floor on each
box. I did the same for the areas of the floor I knew would be covered by my
vanity and storage cabinet. For those areas, I still made sure I had even
color but I wasn't as concerned about whether the sheets were perfect
And, yet... Despite all my effort to explain this to my contractor and
despite my even going so far as to do it for him in the shower... What
does he do? That nincompoop laid the small amount of floor that I
didn't hand-picked for him, the floor he said he could handle, just
however the sheets popped out of whatever box he grabbed first!
Of course, I noticed it immediately! But when I pointed it out to him,
as he was putting down the last few sheets across the doorway, my
contractor said, "No, it's just a shadow from the light in the window"...
Really? Because to me, it looks like five sheets per box were set into
the floor just as they were pulled from the box... Without any concern
at all for achieving that blend of color I said was necessary to avoid
my beautiful carrara marble floor looking like a patch-work quilt!
And, as if that wasn't enough... Look at the way he cut the sheets
to fit around the shower drain... Hello?! It's a freaking square!
All he had to do was lay the squares straight onto the rectangular
shower floor and make straight cuts around the square drain!
Fortunately, popping out the crappy tiles around my drain and
replacing them with ones he cut more precisely was easy. However,
fixing his lack of attention to color on the bathroom floor is not. When
Alfredo came back the next day to grout, he admitted the line created
by his failure to mix the sheets wasn't a shadow. Then, he admitted
he has no experience working with this type of marble flooring. The
fact that I could do it and showed him how to do it to avoid this was
a point I didn't feel had to be made again. But I did ask him what he
planned to do to fix it. And, that's when he said the only way to fix it
is to rip the whole thing out and start over, which he said is something
he won't do, "no matter what." So, as the customer, what does one say?
Believe me, I was prepared to ask him to tear out the floor and
start over. However, I wasn't prepared to fight with him about
which one of us was going to pay for the replacement of the tile
board I just bought for him to lay the day before or the $1,300 in
carrara marble mosaic sheets he'd just wasted. Not to mention the
hours I had invested in creating the monogram for the floor. As I
thought about it, (all weekend) I also wondered if upsetting him by
asking him to redo the floor, even if I offered to pay for it, would
help me get any better result. What if he ripped it out and did worse?
And, that's when that perspective I talked about in my last post
kicked in... After all, I knew that once the new vanity and storage
cabinet were installed and when the walls are tiled and the light
fixtures go in, the floor will fade into the background and become
less noticeable. So I focused on what I could change and went to
work perfecting my monogram after it was grouted. You see, even
polished carrara is porous; therefore, after coming into contact with
the thinset on the bottom and grout on the top, some of the lighter
pieces turned a little darker than I wanted them to be. My "C" kinda
looked like a long number 6 and the "A" looked like it had a double
line across the center. So, I grabbed a razor blade to separate the
offending tiles from the grout and some of my old dental tools from
my dental assistant days to gently pop them out. Then, I selected
super white tiles from sheets that had been cut and were headed to
the dump and, using my old cookie icing spatula, I set them back in!
And, the result is sheer perfection!
Speaking of perfection...
Unlike contractor #1, Alfredo said he wanted the vanity and storage
cabinet set before he tiled the walls. So I called my carpenter, Chris, to
ask if he could come super-early on Monday morning to install so that
Alfredo and his guy Jose could get started tiling the walls. And, do let
me tell you... Chris Johnson is one spectacular carpenter/craftsman!
I swear I heard angels sing when he slid this storage cabinet into the
wall; it fit that perfectly. And, just look at it! It's exactly what I wanted!
Both the vanity and this storage cabinet are built from solid maple. And,
the finish on them is high-end quality furniture finish. I chose the paint
color - Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace - because it is a lot whiter and
brighter than Dove White, which is the color normally used to paint
bathroom and kitchen cabinetry. However, you must be careful with
white around carrara marble, because anything too creamy or too
yellow will make carrara look dingy and dirty. Chantilly Lace does a
perfect job of pulling out the gray without competing with the white!
Now, Alfredo and Jose were scheduled to arrive at 8:30AM, because Chris
arrived at 7:15 and said he needed an hour... So when Alfredo and Jose
pulled into the driveway at 8AM, I was surprised. When I let Alfredo know
that Chris was still working, Alfredo told me it was okay, because he came
early so that we could talk about how I wanted the tile to be on the walls...
So we went upstairs to the bedroom to talk about shower wall tile. But as
soon as Alfredo and Jose saw Chris and the furniture he was installing, the
chatter in Spanish started and I could tell from their tone and the few words
I could make out that this was not going to be a good day. You see, while Chris
worked, Alfredo chatted him up about how these cabinets were built and finished.
As Chris explained that they were solid maple and hand crafted in his own shop
and that I paid almost $1,000 just to have them painted and finished, Alfredo's
eyes grew wide and his helper, Jose began collecting his tools from around the
bedroom. As Chris pulled his level out of a suitcase that looked kinda like a
spaceship and set it onto the vanity, Alfredo watched him like a starving man
eyeing a T-bone. As soon as Chris pressed the button on his level and all the
bubbles lit up, Alfredo jumped out from where he was standing in the shower
and asked me if he could see the shower valve one more time. When I handed
him the trim rings that would go against the tile, he said that he'd have to buy
a certain kind of drill bit to cut the tile properly so that it would fit around the
plumbing. Then, Alfredo excused himself, saying he had another place to go...
It was the oddest thing I've ever seen; but when I told Chris and my husband
that I didn't think Alfredo was coming back, they said I was nuts. But... That
is exactly what happened! After Chris finished, I called Alfredo to let him
know the bathroom was all his but since I was going to work, he'd have to
let himself in. There was a long pause and then he said, "Oh, Miss. Janet, I
need to talk to you about this job..." I said, "Sure, what's up?", "Oh, Miss
Janet, I see your guy this morning and the way he work and I tell my guy,
this is a very expensive bathroom, we already mess up the floor and we
cannot make any more mistakes; now, he no want to come back to work in
you house." Seriously? I was stunned! So I told him, "If you're quitting
because you know your crew and you're worried they might damage the
new furniture or you don't believe you possess the skills necessary to
complete the job as we have discussed, then I respect and thank you for
letting me know now." "However, if you're quitting because you think I'm
too picky or haven't treated you well, then you're wrong because I have
already said the mistake on the floor is something I can learn to live with."
That's when Alfredo told me that no one they have ever worked for made
sure they had a fresh cooler full of drinks and snacks every day and no
one had ever ordered them pizza for lunch; therefore, he said it's not that
I am not, "a good lady" to work for, it's just that he's afraid of making
more mistakes and he's especially afraid to work around the new vanity
and storage cabinet. Which is crazy because contractor #1 said he didn't
want the furniture in until the walls were tiled and my husband said the
same thing! So... They're here now but Alfredo is gone! So what's a girl
to do when two different contractors bail on her in the middle of her
master bathroom remodel? Well, she does the only thing she can do...
She asks her husband if he will do it for her. Then, she dances around
in a pool of happiness when he tells her that he will. Honestly, I'm a lot
happier now. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders!
No more fretting about having strangers in my bedroom... No
more hiding everything someone might be tempted to carry
away with them... No more depending on people that cannot
be depended on. Besides, I much prefer being able to lie in bed
watching Chip and Joanna remodel houses in Waco on Sunday
morning while my contractor works for me shirtless. And,
that's only going to happen when my husband is doing the work!
In true motivated to get-me-out-of-his-bathroom style, my husband
hit the ground running Tuesday morning. By the time I got home from
work, he had more than half the back wall tiled. I was so excited, I began
dreaming up ways to use the $3,000 I am saving by not having to pay a
contractor to do this for me... And then, it hit me! We've always wanted
to go back to New York. I've always wanted to see Wicked on Broadway
and he's always wanted to see a Yankees game in the Bronx. So... We will!
I planned to keep the trip a secret... But then I noticed that the first row
of his tile was a bit off. If you remember this remodel then you know
how close I came to being divorced after I mentioned the crooked tile
on the side wall of his shower... This wall that he ended up ripping out!
So when you're faced with the same dilemma and you've already lost
two contractors, you mention the trip and all the fun things you have
planned before you mention the first row of tile needs to come down!
In all fairness... All the stuff you read and see on-line about tiling with
subway tile suggests you start in the middle of the wall and work your
way out. That's what he did. But for some reason, this method created
more than half a tile on either end, which caused the rest of the rows
not to line up with the first. It's weird, but it happened. The best way
to tile is to begin with a half tile or a full tile and work across. This way,
you end up with consistent grout lines and perfectly alternating rows!
When he picked me up from work yesterday, this was
waiting for me in the truck... I can't lie, I was scared!
But much to my relief, all he did was hand me the tile, say the wall
was fixed and then told me that while we're in New York this time,
he wants to go back to Trinity Church and take the time to find
Alexander Hamilton's grave. Then, he turned up Wham! on the
radio and took me home. Where I found this perfectly tiled wall!
By the end of this week, I'll have a light fixture in the shower!
I am honestly so happy!
To reward all his effort, I rushed out to stock the freezer! Bribe?... Or
just doing my part to keep the only contractor that can't quit me happy?
This morning we took the faucet over to my amazing marble
fabricator who was as excited to see me as I was to see him!
Because yesterday, the round sink he ordered for my vanity arrived!
I think I was seven or eight years old the first time my mom and dad
took us to Schloss Linderhof in Munich. And, somewhere along the
tour, my Oma took me into a bathroom covered in carrara marble. The
vanity top was marble and there was even standing side splashes that
stood tall around the shiny, little white, round sink. Almost like two
castle guards sent to make it more cozy and to protect the faucet. As
long as I live I will never forget that vanity and how it felt to be in that
bathroom with my Oma. It was so cold and we could smell snow in the
air. The marble around the sink and on the floors was freezing, the white
tile on the walls looked like stacked square ice cubes. Forget the castle, I
thought to myself... I just want to live in this bathroom forever! I have
always wanted a round sink set into chunky carrara. And now, I've got one!


  1. Looking great! I am also in NC (Charlotte). Any chance you would be willing to share the contact information for your carpenter? That bathroom vanity is gorgeous! If so, please send to Thanks!

    1. Nothing would make me happier than for you to experience the perfection for your project that Chris provided for mine! I will send you his contact information via e-mail and I hope you will let me know how it turns out! xo


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