How to renovate your bathroom in 22 easy steps

So you want to renovate your bathroom! I myself just finished doing so, and I decided to impart my newly acquired wisdom on the world in the form of a handy blog post for easy reference. Here goes!

1. Decide that you want to renovate your bathroom

Not everyone gets a raised dais for their porcelain throne.

Not everyone gets a raised dais for their porcelain throne.

This is the easy part! Take a look at that hideous thing. The ugly wood paneling that’s not even real wood, but a sort of papery wood-colored veneer over plywood, stapled to the wall studs. The 70s style yellow linoleum floor, peeling up at the edges. The weird platform that your toilet is sitting on, because whoever did this bathroom didn’t feel like sinking the pipes into the cement floor, so just perched the toilet on top of them. Okay, you’re not going to be doing anything with those pipes either, so that platform is staying, but the rest of it should be pretty easy to fix, right?

2. While vacuuming the room next door, bump the vacuum head into the molding and notice how it crumbles like stale bread

Apparently the stud on the left was much tastier.

Apparently the stud on the left was much tastier.

This part may seem unrelated, but it’s actually closely linked. That crumbling molding? Termites! Call in a carpenter to rip out the entire wall, exposing the termite-eaten studs that are squishy to the touch. Have him spend a week replacing the studs and hanging drywall. Since this room is paneled in the same gross wood stuff, you might as well repaint the entire room when he’s done, instead of just the one wall. Buy yourself a couple buckets of paint for the room and spend some time redoing it. Is there some paint left over? Great! Now you’re all set to start your bathroom remodeling.

3. (Optional) Spill an entire iced coffee in the office while painting it

This part is up to you, but I recommend it for the added experience of giving your blood pressure a workout. If you’re not an iced coffee drinker, make sure that whatever beverage you substitute is equally cold, refreshing and delicious.

4. Finally get around to priming the bathroom walls

Since it’s wood paneling, you should probably use Kilz first to prime it. That’s an oil based primer and the idea is that it stops oily yellow wood sap from leaking through the finished paint job. That probably won’t happen with this fake wood paneling stuff, but eh, might as well. If you wear contacts, this step will be a breeze. If you don’t, prepare to flee from the room, eyes streaming in chemical-induced agony. If you have lungs, try not to use them.

5. Paint!

Smooth as a baby's bottom

Smooth as a baby’s bottom

This part is pretty easy because the bathroom is so small. Don’t worry about getting paint on the floor, since you’ll be replacing that. You probably should have patched up the nail holes and stuff in the wall before starting but it’s too late now. Oh hey, looks like some of that wood veneer stuff is peeling straight off where it got damp from long term sink use. Just rip that right off and paint over the plywood. No one will notice the texture different, right?

6. Now it’s time for the linoleum

It's probably nothing.

It’s probably nothing.

For the lower floor, you can probably just put the tiles right on top of the stuff that’s there. For the upper floor, the edges of the linoleum are peeling up so you might as well rip it up. Why is it pulling up crumbly plaster? Where did all this rotted wood come from? Has the toilet been leaking under the wood all this time? Can you just…cover this up and cross your fingers?

7. Turns out you can’t just cover it up and cross your fingers

Faces blurred to protect the innocent.

Faces blurred to protect the innocent.

Call back your carpenter and have him rip out that entire platform. First he’s going to have to remove the toilet, which necessitates vacuuming out the water in the bowl with your wet/dry shop vac. Oh right, remember how the shop vac vents air straight out the top? Yeah, it’s going to do that with the water, too, so your freshly painted ceiling and walls are now coated in a muddy splatter. Thank god you cleaned the toilet before you let him do that.

8. Fix up all those new gouges in the wall

The carpenter isn’t so great with delicate work, and he’s left a few gouges in the new paint job, as well as all that mud splatter. Wipe up the mud and paint over all the new holes. They’re not really noticeable once you sand down all the splintered veneer.

9. Prime the new platform and tile it

Instant class

Instant class

You bought peel-and-stick linoleum tiles, so this part is pretty easy. Of course, there’s not a straight, level line in the entire bathroom, so cutting the tiles is pretty fun, but at least it cuts easily with an x-acto knife. Buy some vinyl staircase nosing to cover the edge of the platform and step and keep the linoleum from peeling back up. You’ll need to go to two different hardware stores to find the right stuff, and most of the people you talk to there will stare at you blankly when you ask for it, but you’ll get there eventually.

10. Buy new baseboard molding

Kitty hates change. Me too, kitty. Me too.

Kitty hates change. Me too, kitty. Me too.

Since the carpenter had to rip out the old platform, he had to rip out all the molding up there too. He said he was going to do it gently so you could nail it back on, but lol no. It’s all splintered and shattered. That’s okay! You can just buy some new stuff and have the guy at Lowe’s cut it to the right length.

11. Miter the molding

Artsy instagram shot of a Sisyphean task

Artsy instagram shot of a Sisyphean task

You know that thing where you have to cut the molding on a diagonal so it meets up flush with the rest of the molding in the corner? That’s called mitering, and the guy at Lowe’s says his machine doesn’t do it. Do you have a table saw? No? Well I hope you have a miter box or something. Is the molding too big for the miter box? Okay, try doing it by hand. NO DON’T DO THIS BY HAND. IT WILL NEVER LINE UP. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW LATE YOU STAY UP, SANDING AND RE-CUTTING. Oh and make sure you cut the diagonal going the right way, because boy will your face be red when you realize you didn’t, and now you have to cut it again, and now the molding is too short. No one will notice that two-inch gap, right? Give up around midnight, leaving the good-enough molding on the bathroom floor. Don’t nail it in yet, just in case you have energy in the morning to try again.

12. Nail in the molding

So when you bought the molding, it came in white, which doesn’t really match the paint job of the rest of the bathroom but you ran out of trim paint and you’re really lazy. Even though you carefully padded the vice before clamping it in to miter it, the molding is now scuffed, but that’s okay. When you go to nail in the first bit of molding, try choosing a nail that’s too long, so despite a lot of hammering, a good inch of the nail sticks out. Then try pulling the nail back out with the claw of the hammer, without causing extra damage to the molding. You won’t manage that, by the way. Now the molding looks really crappy. Okay, I guess you’re going to paint this molding.

13. Paint the molding

Bring the molding to the garage to paint it. But wait, why is the molding wet when you pick it up from the bathroom floor? Where is all this water coming from? Oh hey, the water supply valve has been leaking. Leave a bucket under it overnight and come back to more than a cup of water. That’s a lot of water. Google “water supply valve replacement” and watch some YouTube videos. Not too difficult, right? Before you go to the hardware store to buy the supplies, check to see which part of the valve is leaking. None of it? Wait, where the hell is this water coming from? How is it just squeezing straight through the metal like that?

14. Call in that carpenter again

Well, first you call the carpenter to cancel, since he was supposed to come back in and install your vanity, but he tells you he can do some plumbing, so bring him back in. He’ll look at it and then tell you he has to run to Home Depot to get a shark bite tube thingie to replace it. He replaces the water supply valve too so no more leak. Yay!

15. Put the toilet back in

The carpenter can do this for you. You already bought one of those wax ring things for him, but it turns out the bolts are too short so he just has to run back to Home Depot to get new ones. It’s because he’s not really a plumber, he says. He’d have thought of that earlier if he did this sort of thing more often.

16. Install the vanity

Batman? Is that you?

Batman? Is that you?

You bought a vanity a few days ago. It’s nice and fancy and has a spiffy new faucet too. The carpenter will have to take out the old sink. When he does that, he’ll discover that the sink has been leaking too. You kind of knew that already but you’d decided to pretend it wasn’t an issue. Turns out it’s an issue. He has to call in his friend to help. His friend arrives on a bicycle. He doesn’t actually tell you his friend is coming, so it’s a bit weird to hear another man enter your house and start talking.

17. Replace the old plumbing

The carpenter just has to run to Home Depot to grab some more supplies. The old plumbing doesn’t really fit the new vanity, and when he fills the sink with water and then drains it, the water pours out onto the floor instead of down the pipe as it theoretically should.

18. Cut a hole in the wall to fit in the new plumbing

It’s sort of a big hole? But once the sink is in place it’ll be fine. Oh he’s also going to have to cut the molding off the wall because the vanity has to sit flush to the wall. No big deal. Once he runs to Home Depot, he’ll be able to get everything in there nice and snug.

19. The carpenter is done! Time for the decorative touches

Decorative touches in this case refers to the towel rack, toilet paper roll holder, toothbrush holder and door stop. You’d actually taken the door stop out before the carpenter arrived because you knew he’d manage to rip it out of the wall somehow. The towel rack, toilet paper roll holder and toothbrush holder all have these wall mounts that they attach to so that the screws aren’t visible on the finished product. The first two also come with cardboard templates that you can tape to the wall so you can drill the holes in the right place. So helpful!

20. The cardboard templates are wrong

Time to drill new holes.

21. Screw in the mounts

This is really easy to do in the places where there were no studs behind the molding. Sure, if the towel rack and everything was going to hold up something heavy, this would be an issue, but since it’s not, you just attach it to the paneling. Except in that one place where you did manage to find a stud. Holy hell, it’s hard to get the screw in there. You’d drilled out a 1/16″ hole for the screw, but there is NO PHYSICAL WAY to get the screw in that hole. Your electric drill is not strong enough. All you’re doing is stripping the screw. Try doing it by hand. Nope. Drill the hole a little deeper. Nope. Get a 3/16″ drill bit, which is actually wider than the screw, and drill the hole again. The screw goes in pretty easy now, doesn’t it?

22. Done!

Worth it.

Worth it.

Enjoy your new bathroom. Now wasn’t that worth it?

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Camp Necon and the dog days of summer

These jellyfish were very photogenic.

These jellyfish were very photogenic.

This blog has been sleeping for a little while. I wrote a long post a few days ago but finally had to admit it was too incoherent and meandering so that’s not going to see the light of day. Perhaps I’ll revise it at some point once I try to figure out what point I was trying to make.

I’ve actually been really busy in the last couple weeks, doing summery things like going to the New England Aquarium for my birthday and going to Cape Cod with some friends at their timeshare and saying goodbye to a friend who’s decided to strike out west and find her fortune there. Oh, and I went to Camp Necon, the Northeastern Writers’ Conference. I don’t know why the “wri” is silent in that acronym. Let’s talk about that for a bit.

She died as she lived

She died as she lived

Camp Necon is a very tiny conference mainly focused on horror writing, with shades of speculative fiction thrown in. This year’s guests of honor were Chuck Wendig and Seanan McGuire, who are two of my favorite authors, and since it was close by I decided to commute in every day and attend panels. I went with R.K. Bentley, who’s the head of my writing group and is also local. We were two of only a handful of newbies there, and everyone was very welcoming. The con has been going on for 35 years now and most of the people there attend every year, so it’s very close-knit. I can see why they want to keep their registration capped at 200. It’s more of a gathering of friends than a conference. Still, there were interesting panels and it was tiny enough that I got a chance to talk briefly with both GoHs, so that made my weekend.

The con left me with a massive pile of books to read, more on my list to buy, and a lot of motivation to write darker fantasy. With the pile of books I’ve already borrowed from Rob, and the stuff on my Kindle, I have my next few months booked (heh heh get it) solid. Better get to work. (Just kidding, I’m totally going to play Borderlands).

These are just the books I got on day 1.

These are just the books I got on day 1.

Oh and I booked my excursions today for the Writing Excuses cruise in September. I can’t wait!

Art of the Day: My kitty, RIP

Snickers, 1996-2015. Digital painting in Photoshop with Wacom tablet.

Snickers, 1996-2015. Digital painting in Photoshop with Wacom tablet.

Nineteen-ish years ago, when my family was moving houses, my parents decided that we needed a new cat. My mother and I were both allergic, but we adored cats, so we decided it was worth it. At the farm supply store in town, they were selling the kittens of a feral cat. We bought a quiet, pretty one and named her Snickers.

Of course, she was feral, and we hadn’t realized what that would mean until we got her home. She didn’t like people. She didn’t like being touched. She didn’t purr. She didn’t realize that we were actual living creatures. The bare ankles she attacked in the hallways at night weren’t connected to the same person as the hands that tried to pet her or give her food. Once, I was holding her while feeding her a meatball, and when someone went to pet her, she bit me because she thought we wanted to steal her food. We all ended up having to get tetanus shots after various attacks.

A year or so later, we adopted another kitten, this one a pudgy, friendly cat who loved people and would start purring loudly the moment you entered the room she was in. That cat we named Skittles. The two cats hated each other from the start, and would fight regularly. The only times they would ever tolerate each other’s proximity was when the doorbell would ring and they’d both run to the top of the stairs to stare at the door in wide-eyed unease. They constantly vied for dominance, but Snickers always ended up as the alpha cat.

Still, over the years Snickers learned a lot from Skittles. She learned how to look us in the eye to get our attention and lead us to the door or her empty water dish when she wanted something. She learned how to meow at the window when she wanted to come inside, although it was the tiniest little meow you’d ever heard. She learned how to purr, although it was very hard to tell when she was purring because it was so quiet that you’d need to put your ear up to her head to hear it, and no one ever wanted to get that close to her.

She had a tear duct problem and would cry blood like a Bond villain. One year, we gave her off-brand flea medication and it gave her scar tissue in her other eye that pinned one side of her pupil open, giving her the weird triangular eye that you can see in the picture above.

In her later years, she mellowed. When she was outdoors and we drove in the driveway, she’d come running over to greet us and rub against our legs. She loved my dad because he gave her snacks, so she followed him everywhere in the house and would sleep at the foot of his bed. She only ever purred when my dad was around.

Once, she climbed onto my mother’s lap while my mom was sitting in the sun and settled down for a nap. My mother was frozen in anxiety, too afraid to move in case Snickers decided to attack. Eventually we lured Snickers away with some turkey. It was the only time she ever did it.

Eventually she even decided she liked getting her head scratched. If you held out your hand to her, she’d sniff it carefully, then duck her head under your hand to give you the hint.

In the last year or two, she started to show her age. She had arthritis in her tail and could no longer sit. The process of going from standing to laying down was a slow, painful maneuver that took over five minutes. She could no longer groom herself, and hated being brushed, so her fur got matted and tangled. She developed kitty dementia and forgot where her water dish or food bowls were, and sometimes got lost outside and needed to be guided home. She forgot how to use a litter box. She had terrible balance and weak hind legs and would fall over at the slightest breeze.

Wednesday, she started having trouble eating. We could have had the vet examine her and see what was wrong, but it would stress her out too much and the odds were good that there was nothing we could do to improve her quality of life. We brought her to the vet last night and got a chance to say goodbye to her before she was put to sleep.

She was a difficult cat to love, but I wouldn’t trade her for the world. Though it was hard to tell at times, I think she had a happy life. It was certainly a long one. She was around for more than half my life, and I honestly can’t imagine this house without her. I’ll miss her.

Good night, kitty. I love you.

A fresh start

Our traditional New Year's Eve sushi extravaganza.

Our traditional New Year’s Eve sushi.

I survived the end of December, although just barely. I got ridiculously sick on Christmas Eve and decided to spread the cheer by giving the cold to all of my friends and family.

My New Year’s resolutions are, like every year, about writing. This time I’m being a little more concrete with my goals. The three things I’d like to do in the new year are:

  • Write more
  • Walk more
  • Art more

To make this more tangible, I’ve made it my goal to do at least one of these things each day before I sink back into video games. I can either put a small amount of effort towards all three (a couple sketches, some brainstorming, and an exercise class), put a moderate amount towards two of them (make my 10,000 step daily goal and also write about 2,000 words), or put a great deal of effort towards one (run a 5k, do a binge writing session of 5,000+ words, or do a whole illustration). I think this is a more sustainable way of doing it, at least for myself. Having a variety of choices will take away that feeling of being stuck in a rut.

A while back my friend Méabh mentioned a writing and dieting plan that said you could eat as many calories as the number of words you’d written that day. Works well for people who want to write 1,500-2,500 words a day, but isn’t that healthy if it strays too far out of that range. I thought that another way of doing it would be to pick a number (say 12,000) and give myself the goal of reaching that number through number of steps walked, number of words written, or a combination of the two. The more I walk, the less I have to write, and vice versa. So far this year I’ve done very well with keeping my combo count at or over 12,000 but it’s only January 7th, so we’ll see.

Anyone else have any concrete plans for doing better in the new year? How long do you expect to last at it?

The time I figured out food was trying to kill me

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.06.42 PM

Back when I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to drink milk. The taste was nothing special, and since it made my lips and tongue itchy and made it hard to swallow, what was the point? Ice cream and cheese were fine because the taste made up for the discomfort, but why drink milk?

When I was around age fourteen or fifteen, the little town in Maine where my family always went for a week in the summer had a very sudden and very dramatic boom in the soft serve industry. Every business in town sold soft serve, and we went to a different one every night. I remember at the end of the week, as I was finishing a chocolate and peanut butter ice cream shake, I began to think that maybe the chest and neck pain wasn’t really worth it.

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The best laid schemes

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I’d had every intention of starting Camp Nanowrimo by now, but events have conspired to keep me from even starting to think about my next project. Last Wednesday, my mother broke—nay, shattered—her ankle while walking on the beach. She is currently recovering from her first surgery and waiting for the second. The first surgery screwed a metal cage onto her leg and foot to hold everything in place. The second will bolt metal plates to her bone, making her a cyborg. This means that I’ve spent most of the last week driving back and forth between Providence and Boston, leading me to wonder why anyone would ever willingly commute to Boston.

Originally I was going to start off Camp Nanowrimo with a bang, making a second attempt at Nanowriday, which I tried and failed at last year. I just want to beat my wordcount from last time. But in order to do that, I have to have a vague idea about what to write. This is always the most fun part of writing—the part when the possibilities are endless. I move back in with my parents on Friday, and hopefully I can steal away from my nursing duties for 24 hours to make a valiant effort at writing 50k words. Or, at the very least, more than 10k.

In other news, I took advantage of the Steam summer sales and picked up a few games for my future procrastination. Tomb Raider, Borderlands 2, The Stanley Parable, The Wolf Among Us, and Civ V: Brave New World. That should help with that whole Camp Nanowrimo thing.

Oh! And before I forget: my fiendish critiquer William has started an epistolary book rec blog at Hey Ashers! If you like YA novels, especially spec fic with queer themes, you might be interested in what Will has to recommend.

So now I’ll get back to melting in the heat and thinking about my next project. I hope it’s not supposed to be this hot the rest of the week, especially on Friday, which is my moving out day. Let’s see what Weather.gov has to say about the forecast.

Looks like some sort of whirling disc of death for Friday.Oh, good.

The End

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So this happened last night. Book finished, and 100k reached, both at the same time. Let me tell you, that was hard.

Rob helped by pestering me on Twitter while he was away at Emerald City Comic Con. As his reward, he gets to be one of the first to read the giant mess of a manuscript that I have here. Thanks, Rob!

All I have left to do is clean up some of the continuity issues, which are very tiny things. Then it goes out to the readers and I can look forward to DRAFT TWO.

Bad lovers and terrible people

Cactus

To get off the topic of my own writing for the moment, let’s take a look at this article by Cory Delistraty: “The Neurological Similarities Between Successful Writers And The Mentally Ill.” Delistraty says that authors, by dint of their constant thinking, are prone to depression. A common enough claim, though I’d like to put forward the suggestion that depression is far more common than you’d think, and authors are simply more prone to write about it. In addition, writers with personality disorders are seen as romantic figures wracked with anguished genius, where a lawyer or construction worker with the same isn’t seen as nearly so admirable.

The article continues:

Writers can be rather awful people, and their blend of depression, isolation, and desire to control not only their own characters but the “characters” of their real lives has been a relationship-killer for centuries.

…Trying to balance vice, borderline mental illness, and a disregard for the real world in favor of fictitious ones is perhaps a noble but Sisyphusian [sic] act for many writers. Try as they might, the greatest creatives in history have too much neuroscience working against them, too many ideas fluttering around their minds.

Delistraty adds that authors are “awful lovers.” Sounds like someone got dumped by a writer.

I’m not saying that writers aren’t depressed (I mean, I’ve got it too) or even that some authors aren’t terrible people/lovers. I just don’t think they’re more prone to it than anyone else.

(Above picture from my instagram account)

Endings suck

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I’ve been in the process of writing the end of my novel for… well, months now. My wordcount goal for the book is 90,000-100,000 words, and at the moment I’m just around 91k. I’m so close to the end here, but writing it is like that paradox where each step you take halves the distance left to go—you’ll never reach the end, because the distance left can always be divided in half.

That’s an overdramatic way of saying that endings are hard. Beginnings have an infinite amount of potential, but by the time you’ve reached the end, every thread of the story has to be tied up neatly. That’s why this is the point in the process where you start having all sorts of ideas for new stories: your brain is making a frantic effort to avoid the hard thinking. Whenever I try thinking of the ending of this story, my brain starts whispering but wouldn’t it be so much easier to just play Minecraft? Yes, brain, yes it would. That’s a fantastic idea.

I took the above picture on a drive down to Newport with Rob and William for a write-in at Empire Tea last week. Rob has a highly admirable work ethic, and has been powering through a rewrite of his sci fi epic over the last few months while I’ve been tootling around with my novel. It’s very inspiring, and in fact whenever I meet up with him for a few hours of writing, I do get a lot done. If only I could hire him to sit full time in my office, typing away industriously, to guilt me into getting more done. He’d look at me disapprovingly whenever I fired up Minecraft.

My current goal is to get the draft done by April 1. That’s 8 days, not counting today, to write the last 8,000 or so words. Doable? We’ll see.

Let me show you my crazy

One of the ways I love to procrastinate is by making spreadsheets. I know it’s weird, but I love making graphs of my progress and using formulas to track what I’m doing. I started back in November 2009, and have recorded the number of words I’ve written every day since then.

Here’s the graph:

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The last two months of 2009 was clearly a very productive time, and I was able to more or less keep that up through 2010. In 2011 and 2012 I reduced my goals but kept more or less on track. Then 2013 sucked, relatively speaking. I wrote 80,000 words more in the last two months of 2009 than I did in the entirety of 2013.

What’s the point of this all? Not much, really. Honestly the main thing I see here is the effect depression has on my writing. There are some who think writers need to suffer for their art, and that antidepressants stifle creativity, but based on my own anecdotal evidence, I’d have to disagree. Guess which year I was suffering from depression? Yep, that would be that dismal yellow line on the chart. And when did I start antidepressants that worked for me? That’s around day 301 on the chart, at the end of September/start of November 2013. See the way that line ticks up? I’m hoping that progress continues.

I could go on for hours about my spreadsheets, but I don’t want to bore you. I think they’re a useful way of quantifying my writing process.  They tell me when I’m doing better than I thought, and they tell me when I’m slacking off without realizing it. I’d recommend it for anyone who likes playing around with formulas. Don’t get TOO into it, though, because it’s as much a procrastination tool as YouTube, even if it makes you feel a little more productive.