Saturday, May 24, 2014

Completely done

Finally the project is complete. The contractor finished his work a few weeks ago and we spent some time deep cleaning the bathroom and surrounding rooms and enjoying the result.

Here are some pictures of the finished result.

This makes it much easier to access stuff under the sink.

My favourite streak of blue in the marble.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What I would have done differently

The project is finally done and we are slowly moving in, but while that happens and I prepare some pictures to illustrate the final result, here are some thoughts on things that I would have done differently, had I known.

  • I thought that we did quite a bit of planning before starting the project but there were several things that came up over the course of it that we had not thought of or that we were choosing in parallel. While that worked out, it certainly induced some stress especially in the beginning when we began without a clear set of choices. I would definitely have chosen to delay the project in order to have the time to make material selections and design choices, though having a deadline certainly helped. This also includes spending time earlier to sketch everything. Some things would be difficult to do so before since the rough construction dictated some things, but you have to set aside time to do so during the course of the project (I was initially not prepared for this time commitment).
    For tile, it's important to figure this out early on. While it's difficult to be exact about it, I think we waited a bit too long to make decisions on tile selection as well as layout (brick pattern vs running bond, how tall the tiled section is, where accent stripes go, etc).
  • We only ended up with one bid for the job, from the plumber and the contractor. While I did do some comparison shopping for the fixtures, I should have done the same for the workmen. I don't know if I would have been able to be more selective or notice red flags without having gone through an experience like this, but it would at least have given me peace of mind. A couple of things that I fell prey to were that the plumber had this unusual arrangement of having me buy the fixtures at his discounted cost (this really was the cheapest I could find anywhere); and that the contractor had made several visits in order to prepare the bid, and I had spent so much time talking to him about it and getting clarification and ideas from him. I also felt quite good about the contractor at the time. Regarding the plumber, he turned out to be quite unreliable, though I don't know if that was completely obvious at the time. As far as the contractor goes, I would have felt bad to busy more people with the same task (including my own time), but for such a large, time-consuming and expensive job, I think it's only fair and necessary.
    I now have some electrical work that needs to be done and for that I will definitely be getting multiple bids.
  • (Over)communication is so extremely important, I definitely did not realise this at the beginning. I assumed to some degree that the contractor would have some input on design matters and material selection and that his default selections would be reasonable. Though that was the case in some instances, I spent far more time hand-holding his work than I expected to, becoming a general contractor of sorts as well which seemed quite wasteful. Early on, I began to specify things, but as time went on, the specifications became more and more specific and detailed out of necessity for him to do the right thing. For example, I spent a day at home while he was tiling the walls just so that he could ask me my preference on a particular choice at any time and I'm glad I did. I'm fearful of what might have resulted had I not done so. An example of this is the floor tile which I did specify quite exactly and he did it differently anyway. Not much to be done here, other than spending more time at home to supervise.
    I also asked him numerous times to overcommunicate to me what his plans were and to ask me questions at any point. He did become better at it over time. It may have been annoying for him, but I think it's only fair, given that I funded about a quarter of his annual revenue.
  • There were a few instances early on where we did not see the materials before ordering and simply relied on the contractor to make intelligent choices. I think that's a reasonable approach, but I would never do that again given the pain that I then went through, for example with the first window. Some items are difficult to see (again, you have to dedicate the time to go to showrooms at potentially inconvenient times), but you just have to do it. I got to a point where I would not authorise the purchase of any visible item without having seen it first (e.g. the shower glass -- and even then we ended up returning the countertop glass despite having seen it, the grout colours, the drawer pulls, etc).
  • There's much potential for property damage over a long period of time. If I were to do this again, I would take pictures of everything, not just of the work site. There were a couple of things that got damaged outside of the worksite (the dining room ceiling and a tree) and fortunately the contractor did fix them, but had he not, it would have been my word against his. Coming back to communication, for some odd reason, the contractor tended not to let me know when things got damaged, as if I wouldn't notice. I eventually did get him to immediately report any issues as soon as they happened though, but I wouldn't have expected to have to ask him to do so even once.
  • Things got quite dirty, especially during the initial demolition phase where every single horizontal surface in just about every room in the house (even ones that were quite distant from the worksite) ended up with a fine layer of black dust. It's fair to assume that everything is going to get dirty. They did put up some masking on the first day, but I would definitely make it clear that more masking is better, for example using zipwalls. Any area that is accessible without canvas or plastic sheeting is going to get dirty, so I would try to compartmentalise where the dust and dirtiness can travel.
  • One particular thing that turned out to be shockingly expensive was the accent tile. This was the stripes of multiple small tiles. We only used this for a few places and a total of approximately 7 metres or so and it turned out to be about $700. Had we calculated that correctly, I would never have spent so much on it, instead going with either no accent or using the glass tiles that are on the front of the tub deck. Individually, it did not seem expensive and it seemed like we would not need a lot, but this one was deceptive.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Almost almost done

Monday was to be the last day of the project. But it wasn't. As it turned out, one of the portions of the shower door apparently didn't fit so now they are remaking it for the third time.

The mirror did get installed and looks really nice. It makes the room look quite a bit larger.

The countertop glass was also installed but has some issues in itself. It is not deep enough and has stains on the backside. Not sure what will happen with that yet.

The marble shelves did get installed and look very nice. They will be great to put decorative items on. They just need a bit of caulk and paint and should then be done.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Almost done

It's been a while since I wrote anything, but that's because there hasn't been much happening. A few things did happen in the last couple of weeks though:
The handles arrived and were installed.
Additionally, I was finally able to build the centre portion of the vanity after a couple of trips to Ikea to get all the needed parts. It is a deep drawer that runs under the sink trap and the face of the drawer is the full size of what would normally be a door. I saw this configuration at Ikea actually, and it's great because you can pull everything out without having to rummage around under the sink. The major issue here was whether the P-trap would be too tall to allow the drawer to glide underneath.
I'm now trying to come up with a similar solution for the kitchen sink where the P-trap is taller because of the dishwasher inlet. Incidentally, while I was working something out for this in the kitchen, the P-trap started leaking and so I have to replace that anyway.
The toilet paper holder arrived and was installed.
After a bout of complete radio silence, the marble fabricator finally got back to the contractor who had been pestering him for a while to get the remaining pieces of marble in order to build these step shelves. The bottom one was polished on the wrong side so went back for more work before being installed.
We also had to choose a type of threshold for the door since the wood floor from the landing was meeting the tile of the bathroom which is slightly higher. We were able to get a good colour match of the oak floor. Yet another thing that I didn't think of having to choose.

In other news, the plumber finished his work, completing the few punch list items and adjusting the toilet flush and shower mixer temperature, pressure and temperature control turning ability.

Meanwhile, I have been working on the expanded wardrobe in the bedroom. I've laid carpet and installed closet rods and am getting ready to install some trim that I got for free. The whole room is definitely not a top notch installation to begin with, what with visible drywall seams, gaps here and there and so on, so it's a pretty low risk operation for me :)

The whole project was actually supposed to be finished last Friday, were it not for the marble shelf and the fact that the glass shower door installer had received glass of the wrong size from their supplier. So now, they are scheduled to install it next Monday. Hopefully that will indeed be the last day.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Final plumbing fixtures

Over the last week, the remaining plumbing fixtures were installed:
Wall mounted toilet with a recessed tank
Sink drain, with enough room below for a drawer below
Shower mixer and shower head
Sink faucet
I realised that the plugs for the sink and tub are opened and closed by pressing on them, so one less thing to be exposed on the deck or elsewhere in the sink/tub which is nice.

As a result of all this, the sink, toilet, bath and shower can technically be used with hot and cold water, though the bathroom is still dirty/dusty, needing a cleanup and there's stuff all over the place. We will wait to use it until the project is over and completely cleaned up. There are also a number of punch list items that need to be done both from the plumber and the contractor to make it completely functional.
The shower glass was also measured, along with the mirror and countertop glass surface.

At this point, there's not much happening. We are on the verge of finalising trim pieces with the following pretty much decided:
Hand towel hooks
Some kind of movable towel rack like this one (we're debating whether the height and width can really hold two towels or not)
Toilet paper holder

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Final lighting

Over the weekend, I returned the lights we had ordered because the canopy of the light was too wide for the portion of the ceiling that we had flattened. I ended up spending two hours or so at an excruciatingly slow pace at the shop but walked out with two different lights instead, in the same style but with smaller canopies.
One is another pendant with three bowls arranged at 120 degrees apart:
This one was out of stock everywhere so I walked out with the floor model.
And the other is a single pendant:

Today, they got installed and together with the other lights around the vanity cast some very cool patterns on the wall:
The steel collar tie (and pullup bar) also got painted today, a glossy grey to match the cabinetry faces.
The contractor's work is winding down. They removed some of the floor protection today too. The major item remaining is the shower door and a lot of small items too. The plumber is supposed to come this week to install the remaining fixtures but I don't have high hopes based on his previous lack of scheduling ability :( I hope I will be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Door

There is now a door to the bathroom, like a real room.
A number of other things also got completed or are in the process of it: the thermostat got installed, an MDF countertop got installed above the storage drawers, the skylight got some trim, and the cover panels for the fan and the electrical outlets are on.

Here's the door installed. It has to open outwards because the slanted roof inside the bathroom would prevent it from opening inwards.

For some reason that I cannot fathom, the contractor installed the door handle sideways so that the oval handle is horizontal instead of vertical. All the other doors in the house have the same handle but in a vertical orientation.
Having it be horizontal also feels very strange to the hand. So he will be rotating it.
The other developments:
The floor heat thermostat. Of course, I changed it to Celsius immediately after taking this picture.
It kind of amazes me that in this day and age, the most advanced floor heat thermostat looks like something that was cutting-edge in the 1990s. Hopefully Nest will soon come out with something in this space too.
Electrical outlets
The storage nook countertop. It is painted the same colour as the walls. We will be getting 1/4" glass to go on top of it. Eventually we hope to get some more of the marble slab if someone buys a slab but has some left over that we can get.
The bath fan. Very unobtrusive and quiet. The fan motor itself is further back in the roof and behind this cover panel is just the end of a long flexible duct.
The remaining big items include the remaining plumbing fixture installation and the installation of the shower door. Other than that, it should be small items and punch list stuff.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Running water and more light

Today the plumber came by and installed the tub filler and the handheld on the tub deck. Next week, he is supposed to come and install the other fixtures.

The vanity sconces and nook spot were also installed. Unfortunately the ceiling pendants that we selected are too wide for the ceiling apex. Not sure how we missed that... we're now back on the hunt for a new pair.

Vanity sconces and downlight. The wire in the sconces creates the cool patterns on the wall.
Light over the nook countertop
The tub filler with running water. Both hot and cold are currently connected to hot at the moment.
The handheld shower

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Just about all of the tiles have been installed, the biggest portion of them being those around the tub. We used four different tiles: for the floor, the tub apron, the tub surround and then a smaller one that came in mats for accent stripes and backsplash.
Choosing how the tiles are laid out came up often, especially given the sloped walls.
Ultimately, all of the tiles really came out nicely with the marble slab.

We also thought about tiling the small countertop above the storage drawers (which have been installed) because there was not enough marble but there just isn't enough, so we decided to use MDF painted the same colour as the walls with a glass surface to protect it.

Meanwhile, we also looked for a glass shower door and are having the space measured on Wednesday. We also are shopping for a mirror over the vanity, though this is likely to be a quite simple mirror, perhaps frameless.

Vanity backsplash

Before grout

After grout

Cabinets and drawers installed. The picture and the protective foil make these look much darker than they are.
The plywood countertop will be replaced with MDF until/if we find a piece of the Blue Rainbow slab to replace it.
The stepped shelves will have the remaining marble installed on them.

Friday, March 7, 2014



The Blue Rainbow marble slab was installed today. There was enough from the giant ~120"x~80" slab to cover the tub deck and the vanity top but unfortunately not enough to cover the little nook area under the roof. Even so, it looks really great.
The work was done by a fabricator who came along with two helpers. They had precut the pieces in their workshop and brought the cut pieces onsite. He had taken measurements beforehand and had made wooden templates to cut with and it matches the tub and sink openings very nicely. Incidentally, the sink got installed as part of this too.
On the tub, the slab had to be cut so that there are four pieces. This is because marble is particularly fragile and a single piece would crack. By cutting into pieces it helps avoid cracking elsewhere. However, the pattern in the marble matches very nicely across the seams even though they are not adjacent pieces. The seams are quite small and blend in quite well with the marble.

Here are some pictures of the installation:

There is a wonderful striation right by the sink.

The window sill made of the same material is also visible here.
There are two seams towards the left (and two more on the right outside of the picture), but they are very difficult to see.

The slab only overhangs the tub by about 1/8" which makes it look flush.

There are a number of places that really sparkle under the light.