Have you ever met anyone who finished a renovation with zero regrets? If so I'd love to know their secret. It's a daunting task to take a room, especially a high-stakes one like a main bathroom, and totally redo it. Somehow I thought I could easily manage our recent bath renovation (down to the floor joists and wood lathe) without a contractor—while simultaneously doing a full kitchen reno—but I was wrong on a couple of things.
While overall I'm pretty smitten with the new bath (it's a major improvement over what came with the house), I did make my share of mistakes in the process. In the interest of saving other people these pain points, I'm here to share the dumb, the regrettable, and the how-could-I-know? moments of the renovation.
Faucets are not one size fits all
There are a couple kinds of bathroom sink faucets: a single opening and a three-hole opening. This I knew. Turns out there are two types of the three-hole opening. When did I learn this? When the plumber called me to the room where he was installing the sink to say there was an issue.
See, I chose a faucet before picking a sink, going with a great buy from an Amazon third party seller on a Delta "Linden 2-Handle Widespread Bathroom Faucet." Note keyword here: Widespread. I didn't know what that meant and didn't think to look it up.
It's exactly what it sounds like–you set the handles further apart. And buried in the fine print on the vanity with sink I bought was "Euro-profile ceramic top with rolled non-drip edge drilled for 4" on center faucet."
You guessed it: The handles were too close together. Is it the end of the world? No. Was it worth stopping in the middle of installation to send the faucet back and get another. Nope. But do I regret the mistake? Yep, every time I try to clean between the handles that are jammed too close together.
Toilets are also not one-size-fits-all
I will not tell you how many hours I spent going down the toilet-selection rabbit hole; suffice it to say there is a particular mindset during a renovation where every decision, large or small, takes on gargantuan importance in your mind, especially as you're scrolling through image after article after product listing at 2 a.m.
Finally I found the perfect toilet, its primary selling point being a skirted trapway. What is this and why does it matter? How many times have you tried to clean the base of a toilet and cursed all the nooks and crannies? I know it's not just me. This one had a smooth base, which would make it (relatively) a breeze to clean.
A comedy of errors ensued just trying to get the toilet home—after Home Depot's delivery got lost and the replacement didn't come in time, I finally had to just go pick it up. Then the plumber had to tell me there was a problem (again). To be honest I'm still not certain I understand the technical side of the issue (a huge drawback of being your own contractor is never knowing for sure if a sub-contractor just doesn't want to do something or if there's a valid reason). He insisted this base couldn't be installed in my bathroom the way it was plumbed, so I had no choice but to dash to the plumbing supply store and buy the first toilet I saw that they had in stock and I could afford. (Later, of course making another trip to Home Depot, this time to return a toilet.) Moral of the story? Show your plumber the toilet you want before you order it.
Plumbers make assumptions when you're not around
I love, love, love the new shower in our bathroom. It's a walk-in with floor-to-ceiling tile that replaces a cramped, dark, low-ceilinged, grimy thing the size of a phone booth.
But argh! I wasn't in the room when they roughed in the plumbing for the shower head, and it's so high. Okay, it's "normal" height, per the plumber. But guess what? I'm 5'2" on a good day (5'1" if I'm being honest). The cool detachable sprayer head I got specifically so I could more easily spray off and clean the shower? I can barely reach it, and then only on my tip-toes.
There's no actual requirement for how high the showerhead is, the owner of the plumbing company told me later, so I could have—if I'd known what his helper was up to—asked him to lower it an inch or two. He assumed I'd want it standard, and I wasn't there to tell him otherwise. Next time (just kidding I'm never doing this again), I'll be sure to specify anything I want that's not the norm.
Matte may not be the way to go in a bath
Matte finishes look so luxe, and I couldn't resist a beautiful matte paint and matte shower floor tiles. And it was all gorgeous—until we started actually using the bathroom. The matte paint, even though it's a special paint formulated for bathrooms, streaks like crazy anywhere water touches it. Which is kind of a lot of places, this being a bathroom after all. And the special-order black shower floor tiles that were so pretty in the showroom have never looked the same since the first time I used the shower. Even if I rinse them and clean them immediately after showering, they look dull, and spotty.
If I'd had a crystal ball, I would have wet the sample tiles, and painted a hunk of drywall and spattered water on it to see what happened.
So there you have it. If you (unwisely) follow me down the no-contractor path, at least these are mistakes that you don't have to make, because I made them for you.