#46 Bathroom before

by ana on May 24, 2011

In preparation for my upcoming tax protest (doesn’t it seem like I just protested?), I took pictures of the wretched bathroom to bolster my case. And what is my case? That a fixer-upper that hasn’t been fully fixed didn’t go up $20,000 in value during a recession. Unless the Travis Central Appraisal District got excited by the un-sexy updates (like the radiant barrier, R-52 insulation, solar screens and electrical panel), it just isn’t possible.

Unlike last year, though, I’m not handling the protest in person. Doing it myself made sense last year because I had a recent sales agreement that warranted an appraisal reduction. But now it would be like trying to push a Peep through a pinhole. So I signed up with a company that does the protesting for you and only gets paid if your taxes get reduced; then it gets a percentage of the savings.

So to make the company’s job easier, I spent part of my lone day off taking pictures of the bathroom. Exciting. Without further ado, I give you … the bathroom.

bathroom door

You step into a somewhat unimposing entrance hall. And the door can be a little hard to open from the inside if your hands aren’t fully dry.

bathroom entrance

The other side of the entrance hall houses a linen closet and a lower cabinet that would be a great place for a hamper if one could find one narrow enough. Overall, the functionality of the linen closet makes it the best part of the bathroom. (It would be great if I were tall enough to reach the top shelf, but that’s a personal problem.) I don’t even use the rusty medicine cabinet, which the tour will cover in a moment. But first, stop and drop your gaze to the flooring.

bathroom sheet vinyl flooring

The sheet vinyl (with chocolate-milk-colored squares on a white field) works well for containing doggie accidents. And that’s about all the praise I can spare for it. It’s uneven and covers a spongy sub-floor so it’s gotta go.

bathroom heater

The wall heater still works, though I fear lighting it. Those aren’t allowed anymore, by city code, but mine has been grandfathered. When the power went out in the winter, I could’ve used it as the house’s sole heat source, but instead I just didn’t get out of bed. I’d like to take it out and maybe use the space for an inset wall shelf for toilet paper or something. And the wall around the heater needs help, too. The intense temperatures made the plastic tile sheets crackle and bubble, which (note to whoever did it!) was not improved by a coat of paint. And the wall bears a few scars from where I removed the 1970s oak-and-brass toilet paper holder. The toilet still looks and works well — it will be nice to bring up the level of its surroundings.

bathroom vanity

That brings us to the vanity and contractor-grade corroded faucet. According to the home inspector and the plumber, old leaks left those too damaged to keep. (And of course its ugly factor did it no favors.) The trim and possibly the wall behind it will also need replacing. I’m planning to use a wall sink (since storage isn’t an issue) so I have a spot to stick the trashcan where it can’t be seen from the doorway.

bathroom medicine cabinet light

Above that is the medicine cabinet with an etched design. It shrieks in protest when you open it, which would be a plus if I had weird medications to hide from people. The bathroom’s sole source of lighting could stand to be upgraded. There’s nothing wrong with the fixture, but it houses the bathroom’s only outlet (a non-GFCI) that’s hard to reach and needs to be updated for safety reasons. And because the sink lacks surface space, someone mounted a glass wall shelf, which I’ll probably take down as I don’t find it all that functional.

bathroom colors

As for future colors, I taped up some paint chips similar to the color of the painted-over wallpaper. The striped shower curtain (from Target) pulled together my towel palette, but that could change in the future.

bathroom tub shower

The last stop on the tour brings us to the tub and shower. The tub, original to the house, remains in great shape so it’s staying. The enclosure … well, if I could rip it out with my bare hands, I would. The current plan calls for white subway tile in a grid pattern unless I find something fun that I like more (and that’s also cheap). The shower hardware will be replaced with a complete Kohler Purist set from eBay (a steal at $140).

The 1970s remodel (re-muddle?) wasn’t kind to the bathroom, though there are a couple of original details left, like a vintage glass towel bar. Unfortunately, you have to reach over the toilet to use the hand towel so it likely will get relocated.

Well, that concludes the tour. The before shots should provide context to the upcoming remodel, for which I’m getting bids. So close.



#45 Here comes the neighborhood

by ana on May 5, 2011

Though I haven’t made any huge changes to my house, there’s been at least one big change in the immediate area.

Remember the hoarder house? Well, the owner finally tore it down. OK, he himself didn’t do it. He hired some guys. But still. It’s gone now. And even better — soon a new house will sit on the site. The city just approved the plans (which I know because I’m nosy and I went poking around on its permits database to make sure a McMansion wouldn’t be going up beyond my back fence).

The demolition went so fast I couldn’t even get pictures of the whole process. One day the house was there, the next day … a bare slab and a full trash bin.

neighbor house

As if that development wasn’t enough, the house beyond it, which you can see in the background, got totally rehabbed. It used to be home to a herd of very barky Dachshunds and a couple of humans, who moved out and were replaced with a building crew that worked literally around the clock for several weeks. Sometimes when I’d let the dogs out in the middle of the night, I’d see people painting and rewiring and who knows what else through the uncovered windows.

So I’m taking it as a positive sign that the neighborhood is doing well in a slow real estate market if people are still building and renovating.



#44 Use what you got

by ana on May 3, 2011

I’m back! Well, I mean, I didn’t go anywhere, I just put house projects on hold while I figured out a plan. I’m a big planner. I could plan an invasion if that were my assignment. Everyone would just have to bear with me and my lists, though. “Did you remember to pack the missile launchers? … What do you mean you left them on the aircraft carrier? You had a copy of List #578, didn’t you? They were right after MREs and before Band-Aids!”

Fortunately, I’m not planning a military action, just enough progress to placate my mother, who’s coming for a visit. (Hi, Mom!)

My mother was hoping I’d have a new bathroom by now, but since I’d have to be out of the house for (at least) a week for the work to be done, I haven’t coordinated the timing. So what will she see instead? New ceiling fans!

So the squeaky living room fan and the den fan with the non-functional light will be replaced with Energy Star-rated aluminum Ball fans from the Modern Fan Co. I bought the only ones Lights Fantastic had during a big sale last year. (And even with the big sale, they weren’t cheap. They’re fancy, these fans.)

Of course, since the house only has 8 foot ceilings, the fans won’t use that rod.

And the guest room/office will get a simple white ceiling-hugger from Lowe’s (also on sale — less than $20). It will replace a 1970s model that’s just … there are no words.

1970s ceiling fan

See? No words.

Normally, that fan could be rehabilitated by swapping the brown-and-yellow globe with a plain one for a few dollars. Except …

guest room ceiling fan

The fan hangs down about 22 inches from the ceiling. I measured. A tall individual (not me, obviously) would walk right into it (or at least fear walking into it). And it creaks and buzzes.

Since I’m sending 3 things to the landfill, I thought, “How can I re-purpose something I already have so I can cut down on the things that I have to buy for the bathroom?”

While putting away dishes, I realized I could move the kitchen towel bar (which prevents one upper cabinet from opening completely) into the lavatory to use for hand towels.

kitchen towel bar

Money saved: however much a small chrome towel bar costs. Which probably isn’t that much in the scheme of things, but you can’t beat free.




#43 Landscaping gone wild

by ana on October 12, 2010

Who doesn’t like lovely multicolored flowers growing alongside their house?

Flowering Bush

Me, when said flowers are attached to a bush that’s the size of Audrey II from “Little Shop of Horrors.” Am I supposed to wait until it’s cold to trim that? Or will it be too traumatic (for the plant, not me)?

Flowering Bush Wall

Can’t nature be a little neater? Is that Chia Pet-like exuberance really necessary?



#42 Fixing up for fall

October 7, 2010

Ever so helpfully, my homeowner’s insurance company sent me a mini-magazine that included a feature on fall maintenance. At least half of the items (#3 Fix roof leaks, #6 Clean gutters and downspouts and #7 Inspect your chimney) don’t apply. But I got cracking on the rest. I vacuumed under and behind the refrigerator to […]

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#41 Round Top

October 5, 2010

So over the weekend, my friend Jody and I made our annual trek to the giant roadside flea market in and around Round Top. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I don’t have original photos to give you an idea of the scene, but a simple Flickr search turned up a ton of images. A […]

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#40 Impulse control

September 30, 2010

After a few months of thinking, rethinking and overthinking the future bathroom remodel, I started looking at hard numbers and narrowing down options. I’m hoping that I can keep the cost of the new and improved bathroom under $5,000. That might be wildly optimistic, but hey, everyone needs goals. Luckily, the water-saving toilet is covered. […]

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#39 Dog-iversary

September 28, 2010

Besides it being my sister’s birthday and my parents’ anniversary, it’s also when I took in Sam as a foster dog two years ago. I wish I had a before picture for comparison purposes. He was in bad shape — heartworms, half bald because stress made his hair fall out, super itchy from allergies, infected […]

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#38 Neighborly sentiments

September 23, 2010

One of my favorite things about my neighborhood is the Wall of Welcome that runs along the Crestview business district. Though the mosaic mural isn’t all that old, it definitely has a mid-20th century feel. The squares that run along the top represent each street in the neighborhood, and at one end sits a reference […]

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#37 The hoarder house

September 21, 2010

Up until very recently, one of the projects that sat high on the to-do list was screening the hoarder house behind mine from view. But then … someone decided to clean it out. Well, most of it. I never actually knew the woman who ostensibly lived in the house, primarily because she didn’t really live […]

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