My Bathroom Rocks! #4: Guido's CHEAP GUT REHAB, through DIY and SCAVENGING

My Bathroom Rocks! #4: Guido's CHEAP GUT REHAB, through DIY and SCAVENGING

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Maxwell Ryan
Jun 20, 2005

Name: Guido
Location: Park Slope, Brooklyn
Amount Spent: Under $5,000

The Blogcast Interview:

Slideshow:

The Pitch:
Does My Bathroom Rock? Yes, thanks, it does! This is my rustic country Park Slope bathroom, done from scratch. The tin ceiling and the shower are the only original items.

I had an apartment without a tub. I took a second job so I could buy one -- I'm not kidding, my FAVORITE thing is indoor plumbing -- and then had to knock down some walls to make a space for it. All the wood is new, but I want it to look old. I ended up using a sink and tub from salvage. There were plenty of other places to spend money!


The configuration is peculiar -- think of one little room with tub and toilet, joined by a narrow hallway to a second room with the sink and original shower. Part of this was the limitations of the space -- which we squeezed from half a closet and a stairwell landing to get a few more square feet. You can look at my graph paper sketches to see before and after.

This a gut rehab for a relatively small amount of $$. I did everything I could possibly do myself - like staining wood and varnishing and painting, along with the design and hunting down all the stuff. My cousin Frankie turned me on to marine spar varnish which is the way to make wood work in a bathroom.

I am a dedicated salvage-scavenger with some sort of latent crafts streak -- the sink cabinet is decoupaged with hand printed paper (not my by my hand) And I think I did this without getting too marthastewart, thank you!

1. MAKE SOME ROOM!
I had a small dark middle "bedroom" (barely) next to my pathetic shower-only, corner sink as-small-as-a-spittoon, with toilet in the smallest space possible. (Only lurid-looking, very dark polaroid pictures exist, so see photo of old bathroom layout instead) The sink was the size of a paper towel folded into a triangle.

My building is over 100 years old, and so predates indoor plumbing. It showed.

We knocked down the walls. We knocked back into some closet space in the front bedroom to fit the new sink. We met ancient mouse skeletons, and tried not to breathe plaster reinforced with horsehair! It was all kind of cool, and kind of gross. I had friends doing the work, so I didn't have to pay very much for this.

2. GO UPSTATE
I took a second job to buy a tub, but then I found one in a barn upstate for $50 (Jeffersonville NY, next to the frozen custard place.) You'll need a friend with a pick-up truck. It only takes four women of average size and abilities to move a cast iron claw foot tub up one flight of brownstone steps in a snowstorm. Really. It was 10 o'clock at night.

(see photo, tub through door)

It was around $200 to have the tub reporcelained (which means . . . hand sanded by a guy with treetrunk arms, covered in goo, and hit with french fry lights. It's held up great - I did all this almost 10 years ago. [Note: you can't clean it with Comet or use suction mats.] I painted the outside with oil paint, in a palmy green.

3. SALVAGE AND SCAVENGE
(see photo, sink) Salvaged sink with a marble top and a white porcelain bowl, $75 at Stan's in Kingston NY. Their prices have been going up and up over the years tho so you might as well go to Houston Street, or better yet Build It Green, the non-proft salvage place in Astoria. Marble is beautiful after a few decades of water.

I got a cute tiny ladder-back door outside a church on garbage night. (photo, door outside) I carried it home by myself. My dear old dad spent 2 days stripping and sanding it, but he didn't want to do any of the other messy stuff we were up to so that worked out well.

Days later, I learned that one could send these things out to be dipped. For the next door, I used Big Apple Stripping. It came back sanded! It was $75/door including free pickup and delivery, but that was 10 years ago.

4. CHEAP TUB/EXPENSIVE FIXTURES
All the money went to the tub's faucet. (photo, cu tub) Almost $700, cause I wanted this special subtle curve of the pipes and all the rest of it. It's from England. Beautiful, quality stuff in many prices ranges at George Taylor Specialties, 76 Franklin Street in Tribeca (212-226-5369) A big difference between expensive plumbing and cheap plumbing is the that cheap stuff gives you even worse water pressure than you already have. Something about small tubing and plastic. Expensive lasts forever and won't make you irritable every morning when the shower is weak.

The sink faucet is nice too -- I had to find something that worked with the salvaged marble, and a saintly plumber drilled the marble to make the holes big enough. (photo, sink cu) He was my neighbor, since retired to fishing down south. He charged me $1200 or $1500 for the whole gig. Which included . . .

5. MOVING A TOILET
Go ahead and do it. I just moved mine to the other side of the stack (which is the waste line to the rest of us folks) I got American Standard at Home Depot, but I had to go to 3 stores to find the swelegant one in stock. Home Depots are better stocked the further away from Brooklyn you get. It was around $200.

6. PERIOD LIGHTING FIXTURE (photo, lighting) That stuff at Home Depot is usually too ugly for words, and they are always out of stock of the bearable stuff. I like those giant old glass factory lights. I found this small version at Uplift Lighting store on Hudson St. in the West Village. I think an original Stonewall rioter helped me there -- everyone was very nice!

7. WOOD (2 photos: wood floor and wainscot by sink) Wood floors and walls in a bathroom, why not! Boat varnish (called marine spar varnish) works brilliantly, and makes it waterproof.

I got raw wainscotting from Home Depot, and had them cut it in half -- it's sold in packets of 8' lengths, and you need a clamshell chair rail moulding to top it off. I stained it dark. [I was staining and varnishing at 5am every day before work to get stuff prepped for the hired workers. ack!]

Wide plain pine planking for the floor, stained that too. After the plumber did his thing, we put black roofing paper down and laid the planks over the subflooring, which is what passes for flooring in my house. You lay it the opposite direction of the subfloor. You use the black paper because planks of wood shrink and expand a little, and I wasn't using proper flooring with grooves that fit together..

8. CUSTOMIZED SINK CABINET
(photo, sink wide hall) I wanted it to be higher than standard because I am not short. I used a piece from a very plain unfinished kitchen cabinet "starter set" and put it up on a wider baseboard - the rest of the kit turned into clothes cabinets elsewhere. Weissman's (under the El in Brooklyn, on Mcdonald Ave) has overruns and very cheap construction bits like this, $200 for the whole cabinet setup. I also got a nice plain beveled mirror medicine cabinet there. I stained the doors, got pretty ceramic knobs at Anthropologie ($10), and some hand blocked paper from Kate's Paperie on lower Broadway.

One sheet ($4) and some decoupage glue, and more spar varnish.

I got the little fittings and fussy bits here and there, like a glass towel rack for $3. from Woolworth's when they were going out of business, and the wire cage old office containers (which I use for shampoo and TP) on sale at Anthropologie.

9. THE OLD SHOWER
...is the only thing I haven't gone after yet...I wasn't up to ripping more stuff out and the old stuff was fine. The shower curtain is $6 at Ikea. (photo, shower tile) The shower came with a skylight, for which I am ever grateful.

I was going to cut a skylight in the roof for the tub, but borrowed light from the one over the stairs instead by leaving a window open in that direction. That also provides ventilation.

(photo, matching dog) This is my dog. She hates to take a bath.

Thanks for looking at my bathroom!

Guido

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