Constructing the Second Bathroom


After my second daughter arrived, it became clear that we would never survive in a three-bedroom/one-bath house. We started thinking about our options. We first had plans drawn up to add another bathroom off of the Master Bedroom. We were all ready to go in 2003, but the idea of losing a chunk out of our small (30'x40') backyard and having construction take it over just as we needed it for our kids to play was too much for us at the time.

We spent a couple of months looking around to see if there was another house in our area that would give us what we wanted. No such luck. The prices had gone bananas and people were snapping up anything the could get for any price. It was back to adding-on for us.

We got as much ready as we could early in February, 2005 with the idea that we wanted everything done, and the backyard back in usable condition, before the kids were out of school for Summer.

This is the saga of the journey. Click on a picture to see a full-size version.

Pre-Construction Week 1 Week 2 Week 3
Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7
Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11
Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15
Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19
Week 20 Week 21 Post-Construction


Even though it's called a "master bathroom," this was never going to be very big. We use our little backyard too much to lose a lot of it to construction; the girls have a fort and swing set that they live on in the Summer and we often find ourselves out there with friends after dinner.

The plans call for a simple 9'x14' addition that includes a roughly 6'x9' bathroom containing a sink, toilet, and shower. The extra space would give us a couple of feet around the bed and a new sitting-area.

I could hardly wait. The girls had already reached the stage where they all seemed to want to be in the bathroom at the same time. I had long since learned to get up early or "hold it" until I got to work. But the best part would be the sitting-area. My poor computer had spent the last 7 years tucked into a small corner of the bedroom. For a while, there wasn't even room for a chair and I had to work sitting on the bed with the keyboard in my lap. Now I would have room to spread out and even hook up more than one printer at a time (I had been keeping my color inkjet in a closet and only taking it out when I had to).

But first, I had to get the area ready for the construction crew. We were going to remove a large section of the back wall. As you can see from the picture, there are a couple of nice plants and a fountain in the way. The plants were easy. But the fountain was a trial. It didn't help that I decided to move it by myself. Taking it apart was easy. Moving it out of the way to the back corner of the yard and putting it back together was almost impossible. Somehow, I was able to finish the job without hurting myself or destroying the fountain.

Everything was finally ready.

the plans

Week 1

Construction finally began on March 14, 2005. The first week as a lot of digging and destroying. First thing, the air-conditioner had to be disconnected and moved out of the way. It was now a race to see which would happen first; a 100° day or the completion of enough of the work to hook the unit back up

The existing brick planter was destroyed and digging begun. A huge pile of dirt and debris began to grow on our driveway (the dumpster was still to come). The girls and the dog loved to play "king of the hill" on it. But I hated all of the mud they brought in. Our poor contractor had to contend with massive roots, moist clay soil, and 60+ years of history. He found an old sewer line, and old gas line, and an old water line in the excavation. That is along with the existing sewer and water lines that he had to uncover so they could be moved out of the way.

He also had to remove the valves for the automatic sprinkler system. We figured that the backyard grass was doomed but I had extra hoses, sprinklers, and timers ready to try and keep the planters and front-yard alive. Again, it was a race against time.

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Week 2

The next week started promising; the dumpster arrived, the water and sewer lines were moved a couple of feet to the south to get them out of the way, and we got the forms set for the concrete. But then... the rains came. Day after day of downpour. I dropped a pump into the excavation and ran it four times a day to try and keep the water out. The city inspector came on one of the worst days and refused to approve the forms because "it had water in it." What did he expect? It was pouring as he stood there.

We persevered and finally got approved. The cement truck was scheduled and we were moving forward again.

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Week 3

The concrete was poured on Saturday and real construction began on Monday. Unfortunately, this became a week of distractions. The base of the existing wall had to be removed to connect it to the new floor. Dry rot was found and time had to be taken to fix that. Ben, our foreman and primary construction guy, got rid of the mountain in our driveway. Then the rains returned yet again. He did get some of the flooring started near the end of the week.

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Week 4

This was the week of destruction and increasing costs.

It was finally time to remove the stucco from the wall that would be removed. This made a huge mess in the backyard for a couple of days. Sadly, the dry-rot was more extensive than originally thought. The current bathroom is the small window to the right in the pictures. The shower/tub is against that wall. In order to fix the wall, all of the existing tile work will be damaged and need to be replaced. When the dust settled... it looked like another week of work and $4,000 of costs would be added to the project. Ben was kind enough to plan it so that the existing bathroom won't be out of commission until the new bathroom is ready to use.

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Week 5

A huge chuck was cut of the the existing foundation to connect the under-house crawl spaces. Then the floor was laid. Everything was moving along nicely until two little hitches; Ben discovered that out house was 1" taller than it should be and he hurt himself. First, for some reason back in 1941 they made our house with lumber that is 1" longer than in use today. Ben finally decided that all of his measurements were NOT wrong and re-ordered all of the studs. Then, while working under the house, he drove a splinter up under his fingernail and had to go to the doctor's to get it removed. When the week was finally over, we had one wall partially up and a second one just barely started.

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Week 6

We had to abandon the idea of adding a small window to the new shower when it became known that new plans would have to be drawn up and submitted to the city for approval. Wednesday, the exterior walls were nearly complete. But we hit two snags. First the window opening was smaller than we had planned. We called and asked that a larger one be put in. Then we noticed just how small the sitting area was going to be. We panicked! Ben measured it and proclaimed it to be 57-inches wide. We rushed out to make sure we could find a desk that would fit. After all the excitement, by Friday... even the interior walls were framed and it was really starting to look good.

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Week 7

We spent the entire weekend looking for a new computer desk to fit in the small sitting area. Either, they were as tiny as the one we already had or were too huge to possibly work. We finally found a beautiful roll-top desk that still had a couple of inches to spare on each side. However, even in two pieces, it won't fit through any of the doors it needs to go through so we've requested that it be left in its original boxes. We will put it together inside the room (where it will stay for the next 10 years).

This week, the plumbing began to appear. Black tubes (sewage) and copper pipes (hot & cold) have sprouted out of the floor. We also got plywood on the exterior walls and the beginning of a roof-line.

The bad news for the week (there had to be some) involved the Master Bedroom ceiling. Turns out the drywall (would that be called "dryceiling?") has pulled away from the studs by as much as 3 inches in the middle of the room. It is being held up only around the edges. As soon as they cut the exterior wall away, the roof will fall in. Oh well, all new drywall will need to go up.

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Week 8

First order of business... remove and replace the sagging ceiling in the Master Bedroom. We had to move EVERYTHING out of the room on Sunday night. The play-room was stuffed and part of the hall was blocked. All day monday they demolished the old ceiling and put up new (much bigger) braces. Tuesday the drywall people came and hung the new ceiling while Ben worked on finishing the roof-line and getting paper on it.

Why the big hurry? The rains were coming back AGAIN. Yes, we've already had 9 full days of rain since we started and another couple were expected. Our sincere apologies to all the people in California who are being washed away because of our construction.

The work INSIDE the new bathroom is picking up also. The electrician showed up over the weekend and ran wires everywhere. He also put in A LOT of new outlet boxes. On Wednesday, they spread hot tar on the floor where the shower will go.

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week08b (14K)

Week 9

Just when we thought there were no more surprises left, the rains gave us a little Mother's Day shock. We discovered that a stream was running through our existing exterior wall, around the window, and down to the carpet. After frantic calls to our contractor, I headed up on the roof and moved the tar-paper around. That stopped the flow. Good thing that wall and the carpet are both scheduled for removal.

Of course, the week wasn't over yet. We found out that the company making the bathroom window is moving their factory and our order will be delayed. Ben went to work trying to get the City to inspect construction without it. He also started shingling the roof but the one day he was able to work on that was our first (and only) hot day so he only got half done before the tiles got too hot to work with. But, of course, more rain is in the forecast.

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Week 10

The City passed another inspection first thing Monday morning and the stucco guy promptly began work on the exterior. It's all wrapped in weather-block and covered in chicken wire. They won't actually put on the stucco until everything else is done.

By the end of the week, we had the walls insulated. But... we couldn't get that inspected and the drywall hung since there is a "little issue" with the new plumbing that they have to fix first. Oh well, as Scarlet O'Hara says "tomorrow is another day" (and "with GOD as my witness, I will never add on to my house AGAIN!").

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week10b (10K)

Week 11

For the first time since we started this project... there was NO rain in the forecast for the entire week.

Everything in the girls' playroom went in to storage over the weekend. I moved my dressers and the mattress (no box spring or frame) in to clear out the Master bedroom.

The plumbers came on Tuesday but the City couldn't get to their inspection done until Thursday. As soon as the inspector left, Ben removed the old back wall. We finally got to see a hint of what the new room will be like and we love it.

The drywall guys began closing up the walls on Friday. The new back-door and bathroom window have arrived but can't be installed yet.

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Week 12

The drywallers were back "with a vengeance" on Monday. We were given 24-hours notice to clear out the other two bedrooms by Tuesday morning so they could make the texture on all the walls match. We spent the first night in empty rooms with just a mattress. Wednesday evening, the girls spent the night at their Grandparents' house because the rooms weren't ready yet, everything was in the front room, and there wasn't anywhere for them to sleep.

Sadly, we were not too happy with the result. Natalie was very concerned when she found "pimples" all over the wall next to her bed and we didn't like how they left all the paper and plastic on the floors and didn't take it away. I removed the trash and put the two serviceable bedrooms back together. Ben has the company coming back sometime in Week 13 to fix everything.

On Friday, the tile guys almost finished the shower (we still need grout). At this point, we discovered that Ben didn't build the shelf in the shower like we wanted and it's too late to do it now. Grrr!

On the plus side, Ben got the back door and bathroom window in (but he didn't finish the walls around them) so we aren't exactly open to the elements anymore.

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Week 13

On Monday, we finally got a real floor in the new bathroom. We were able to get the same pattern as in the existing bathroom. But, of course, the company has changed the color slightly. We're hoping nobody will notice that one floor is a shade darker than the other. Maybe we'll put bigger light bulbs in to brighten it up. Speaking of which, nobody can seem to understand that we want the exact same exhaust fan/light assembly as we have in the other bathroom. We've given them the model number and the exact price Home Depot is charging for the one we want. Still, they installed something completely different and claimed the couldn't find the one we wanted. I went to Home Depot and there it was, right where I said. I bought it, brought it home, and put it in the middle of the bathroom floor. They now have to remove the other one.

The wall texture dude was out again and worked on the worst spots. Ben and the painter will sand a couple more down.

Wednesday morning... we awoke to more rain. Good Lord, will this ever stop?

On Thursday, things started to go bad. Ben was due "in the afternoon" and I had a small list of items I wanted to find out about. But at 4:00, Ben called to say he wouldn't be there until Friday. By the time I got home, the list had grown to 29 items. I started working on it and we hit 43 before I was done. At that point, I called Ben to tell him and ask that he be at the house no later than 9:30 the next morning. I also called Parker (the General Contractor) and warned him.

Friday morning we spent a half an hour going over the items assigning dates. Then we spent another hour talking to Parker. Then we spent another 30 minutes talking to Ben. Then... Ben called me and I said I was done talking about "why" we weren't done. I wanted him to get off the phone and DO STUFF.

Ben returned on Saturday and tried to get some more work done. He started demolishing the old bathroom but only got part way before he cracked the glass in the window. The one we were going to reuse.

We spent the weekend packing up as much as we could to get ready for the painters.

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week13b (8K)

Week 14

This should be the week of the "Last Big Push."

The Electrician came on Monday to swap out the switches, plugs and faceplates and to install the correct exhaust fan.

Ben continued his assault on the old bathroom; the old rear-wall was removed and replaced. The tile-guys started rebuilding the shower/tub enclosure on Wednesday.

We spent Thursday and Friday nights getting everything ready for the carpet people and the painters. I had to take the organizers out of two of the bedroom closets (not a fun job) and had to clear out everything that wasn't too heavy to move; the computer, TV, stereo, chairs... you get the picture.

Ben was hit by the "curse" again. Previously, he had his truck run into, broke a tooth, and his wife has gone into premature labor twice. This week, a can of foam insulation exploded, the table saw being used for our project started belching black smoke, and one of the key sprinkler lines was found to be smashed right where it passes through some concrete (very tough to fix). Oh, and the rains returned on Thursday.


Week 15

We were half-way across the country for almost this entire week. While we were gone, the painter was putting in 16-hour days to be ready for the carpet guys who came on Friday. Sadly, the curse hit him also; the wrong paint was delivered and someone came by late Wednesday and stole all of his tools from our backyard.

The "old" bathroom got all its new tile and plumbing while finishing work went on in the new one. Unfortunately, they also peeled back a section of the new shower to put in the nook they forgot so it's back out of commission.

Ben replaced the existing back and front doors so that the new and old back door would match and so that the front door would provide better insulation.

We returned home late Saturday night. I promptly sent the kids home with their Grandparents while I stayed up until 3:00a.m. bringing in all the stuff we stored in the garage. I was back up at 7:00 and over at the storage place getting everything else that either couldn't fit there or were too fragile. By Sunday night, we had most everything back where it belonged except for my computer; we have the new desk in-place but I ran out of time to figure out where to put everything.

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Week 16

Another thoroughly frustrating week.

The paint guy came out 3 or 4 times to fix little problems we spotted.

We weren't able to use our new shower since some tiles had been removed to prepare for cutting out the wall to build the missing nook and there was tape covering the drain (which we took to mean "don't use this yet"). Sadly, for most of the week there was no ETA from the tile guy on when he'd be out to finish the job. We finally pushed it on Thursday and were told he wouldn't be out until AFTER our block party on July 3rd. I calmly explained that we would march the ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD in to see the hole in the wall if it wasn't finished. As if by magic, they were able to find a guy who would come out Saturday and Sunday morning to finish the shower. He did a great job.

I finally got fed up with waiting for the dimmer switch to be installed in the new bathroom so I got one at Home Depot and put it in myself at 10:30 one evening.

But wait, there's more... Ben called me to say he'd finally got the sprinklers all working. I decided I'd better check them out. First, I noticed right away that one valve was leaking. Then I turned them on and discovered that two of the valves had been hooked to the same sprinklers. Now, I'd have been more forgiving if it weren't the line right next to the valves; you turned on valve #1 and the head popped up next to my foot... I turned it off and turned on valve #4... AND THE HEAD POPPED UP NEXT TO MY FOOT. How can someone not notice that? Of course, that left one line without water; the line in the planter which had heads two feet away. Gosh, you'd think that as he was standing there testing the valves he would notice that they never did anything?

We finally went BALLISTIC on Wednesday. I wasn't supposed to be home until after 9:00. But, traffic at the off-ramp I needed to take was busy so I was forced to take a different route. Since I was already going out of my way I figured I'd stop by the house and drop off some stuff. I arrived to find the front door wide open with a big FedEx box leaning against the unlocked screen door. Nobody was there. I called FedEx and found that the box had been left "without finding anyone to sign for it" at 3:00 that afternoon. I called Ben. Besides the initial problem, he mentioned that he had "stopped by" around 4:30 to check the progress on our patio and saw that the door was open but he figured that the strange car parked in front of our house must belong to my parents of "someone else we knew." He didn't even stick his head inside to check. Luckily, nothing is missing. But, considering the theft from week 15.... not a smart move at all.

The old back porch was removed on Wednesday and the new, expanded, slab was poured on Thursday.

One bright spot of this week came from the City. They declined two inspections which let us gain a couple of days on putting the three layers of stucco on the new exterior wall.

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Week 17

I couldn't stand the Frankenstein's Laboratory of sprinkler pipes anymore. I spent two or three hours on the 4th of July digging up the whole contraption of valves and pipes. I rerouted and reburried the whole mess. It still isn't exactly like I would want it to be, but I wasn't ready to buy all new valves so I was forced to work with what I had.

Not much else happened that week until Thursday. Ben finally came by to fix some things we notices. Sadly, he'll be back again since we didn't like how he fixed them.

The stucco-guy also came on Thursday. He did a great job spraying the final coat on the addition. There is a lot of over spray so I'll have to go out there with a wire-brush and scrape the extra off of the air conditioner, brick planters, sprinkler valves... (big sigh)


Week 18

We were praying that this would be our last week. Sure, they still needed to paint the outside of the addition and around the doors they replaced, hang the new screen door on the addition, put up the awning over the new bathroom window, fix the new back door so that it can be opened without destroying the carpet and STILL seal when it's closed, fix the drain in the old bathroom, fix the old bathroom window they broke, install the new kitchen sink, create a cover for the new water lines, and complete the outside electrical work.

So, what did we get? The outside walls were painted (very nicely), the new screen door was installed, the sweep on the new back door was fixed (though Ben had to come and re-fix it one more time because he still left a big gap), and the old bathroom got its new window (after Millguard broke two replacements and made a third that was the wrong size).

The painter took away the linen-closet door that was already pealing paint. He had to sand it down and repaint it. Unfortunately, the goal was to have it hanging again by Friday or Saturday. When I got home Saturday evening... there was no door yet and no message from anyone. I started calling around in a bit of a huff and finally got promised that it would be in our house on Sunday. Odd, since after the fiasco in Week 16 Ben was supposed to be the only one with a key and he was supposed to personally let anyone else in. I was in a hurry and let it go.

After a lovely trip up to Live Oak, we came home at 9:00pm on Sunday and STILL didn't have the door. We called the painter directly. He was sorry, and had personal reasons that we understood. But, during the conversation, we asked how he was going to get in. After much hmming and hawing he admitted that Ben had made a copy of his key and hidden it outside. WE WENT THROUGH THE ROOF. I went out and found it and then we called Ben and we called Parker. They are paying for the complete rekeying of our house.

Desperate for something to show for the week, I spent the next two hours modifying the Levelour blind that used to hand in the old (much taller) back window to fit in the new bathroom window. I did it without cutting off any fingers or otherwise damaging the window or myself. But, I'm sure our neighbors didn't appreciate me sawing (and cursing) in the garage at 11:00 at night.


Week 19

Ben showed up very early on Monday to make a mad-dash at finishing our project. By the afternoon, we had our exterior awning up, the water lines boxed in, our kitchen sink replaced, and even had the linen-closet door back.

Of course, it wasn't quite that simple. I went to run the dishwasher that night only to have a huge fountain of water erupt from the release valve on the sink. The drain hose had been installed with a kink in it. I did a quick repair and had Ben come back out Tuesday morning to re-route things under the sink.

Oh, and the curse proved it still had some tricks up its sleeve; our electrician went on vacation to Cozumel and got trapped there by Hurricane Emily.

On Saturday, I finished up the sprinklers while everyone else escaped the heat and took a nap. I had to repair a leak and finally connect all of the valves to the sprinkler control wires. Then I puzzled out the timer again. I think I got it all right. Thank goodness for the Internet... I was able to download a copy of the manual for my old Toro timer.


Week 20

We talked to Parker and didn't get a firm answer on who was supposed to supply the new exterior light. I got tired of waiting so I headed off to see what I could find. We did NOT like the ones at Home Depot and their prices were high. OSH had a perfect set and they even had them in two sizes (the garage light is smaller due to its placement). The replacement lights went on easy... well, as easy as possible when you're installing them in 105-degree heat. The new light was a bit of a pain. The stucco guy had sprayed the mounting box so I had to dig it out and clear the screw holes first. I used a few choice words as I worked.

As near as we can tell, all that's left to do is reinstall the timer that controls the outside electrical outlets (landscape and Christmas lights), mount the breaker box for the air conditioner (this just needs to be screwed on to the wall, I could do this but I'm tired of finishing stuff), and complete the 220v outlet (again, the wires are there, but I'd probably kill myself).


Week 21

Ben called us on Monday to say the electrician was on his way over. We were a bit shocked since Parker had told us that Ben was off of the job and we'd be dealing with him directly for the last bits. Oh well.

Of course, he didn't finish everything on Monday because "he was missing some parts." But we did get the time-clock reinstalled so the landscape lighting is working again. Also, he hung the circuit breaker for the air conditioner. I was getting more than a little worried with it lying on the grass.

In the process, he must have tripped over the sprinkler valves and disconnected the control wires. Wednesday night I went to manually activate the sprinklers and all of the wrong zones were coming on. He had reconnected the wires and messed everything up. I wish he had just told me and let me take care of it.

But wait, there's even more fun in store... I'm standing in the garage and a totally random thought hits me. "Nah," I think "it's just not possible." But I can't get it out of my head so at 9:00pm I'm dragging a ladder into the house and going up into the attic. Wonder of Wonders! Remember back in Week 8 when the bedroom ceiling was replaced? Well, they never replaced the insulation. And here we've been trying to figure out why that room is so much hotter than the rest of the house.

I was on the phone with Parker and Ben right away. They really pissed-me-off by laughing and saying "how odd, are you sure?" instead of "oh NO, we are so sorry." Ben did the wishy-washy "well, I'll see when I can get them back out" until I threatened to "take action" if it weren't corrected by the weekend.

Ben called the next day to say that they would finish the insulation at 7:00 on Friday morning. I went out and bough paper tarps for the floor since I knew Ben wouldn't think of that (or even show up himself).

I had the girls up and dressed by 7:00. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. I tried to call Ben at 7:20 but couldn't reach him. They finally showed at 7:45 and were in and out in 15 minutes. Ben finally returned my call and that's when I found out they had really promissed to show "BETWEEN 7:00 and 7:30" but he forgot to mention that key fact.

The electrician came over that afternoon and finished the timer and outside outlets.

I went around the house on Saturday and painted all the new exterior work so that it blended in with the house.

That is it. We are done with the bathroom twenty-one weeks after we started. Sure, we still have to have a "final inspection" with the City but Ben has to find time when we're available to let them in since we've taken his key away.



The City came out for a "Final Inspection" on August 18, 2005. Did we pass? Of course, NOT. Haven't you been paying attention! Ben never installed a smoke-detector in the changed bedroom. The inspector was not pleased.

We headed off for a cruise the next week. While we were gone, Ben had some our exterior stuco re-sprayed so it had to be repainted. That all sat until September 9th. Ben came out early to finish the painting, install smoke detectors, and meet the Inspector. This time... we passed.

So that's it: almost SIX MONTHS after starting we are finished. Sure, huge chunks of our backyard lawn are dead and we still have to figure out how decorate outside. But there are no more tasks directly relating to the construction of our new bathrrom and sitting area.

Are we glad we did it? Yes. The second bathroom has solved many arguments already about "who got there first," the new backdoor adds convenient access, the new sitting (computer) area is a pleasure to work in. Even the replacment front and kitchen doors are wonderful; no more drafts and improved light.

What did we learn? Insist on regular status reports. Insist that the Foreman be there to check all the work of his subcontractors and then still check EVERYTHING ourselves.

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