Renovating a bathroom – a story in 3 chapters (2)

by Diane on 13/08/2013

Chapter two – what could possibly go wrong?

So we know from the first chapter in this series that Kai and I chose some really experienced professionals to execute our bathroom renovation. We all know from DIY TV shows that non-professionals playing with house upgrades usually make a mess, and that’s what we wanted to avoid by all means.

Once Kai had left the country, the demolition of the old bathroom commenced. I got ready for spending some time without a shower and functioning toilet (it was fully out of action for one night only, for the rest of the time I could still use it, but had to flush with a bucket). I have some truly awesome friends, who not only let me shower at their places, but also made me dinners and/or breakfasts while I used up their water. I also managed to go to the gym way more often than I usually do, since the shower there is huge and has unlimited gas heated water supply.

Pretty early in the project the first couple of hiccups happened. The delayed delivery of the pull-out cabinet caused the installation date for the shower to be pushed out by a week for example. Other things went wrong when people didn’t really think through their actions, and I ended up not having a bathroom door handle on one of the coldest nights during the project. This was particularly bad since installation for the ceiling fan had just been prepared on that day, and I had ice cold air blowing in through a hole in the ceiling, while being unable to close the door. One time I got home to find our neighbour’s cat locked inside – luckily he had stayed asleep and didn’t move at all, since that could have easily triggered the house alarm to go off. On the day the major preparation for the electric cables took place, I came home to half of the kitchen plugs not working – unfortunately those feeding heater, fridge and freezer. The electrician simply hadn’t checked if everything was still connected before he left.

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Many more things went wrong, here are some of my personal highlights:

  • The shower glass that was first delivered was the wrong size, and the shower door couldn’t be fully opened. The second shower glass that was delivered was scratched. Let’s hope it will be right the third time.
  • The shower liner wasn’t applied correctly and on the second morning of using our awesome shower, I was greeted by a big belly in the liner where the glue had got loose on the back. No wonder the glue didn’t stick, since the glazier hadn’t sealed the plaster board before applying the glue! He also installed the shower door at an angle, so the bottom seal broke after only three days. And he managed to ram the shower door into the wall surrounding the pull-out cabinet. He didn’t come back for the second install of the shower. And he won’t be back for the third install either (more about that later).
  • The vinyl floor was excellently installed the first time, unfortunately it got damaged when a construction, built to hold the freshly installed bath splashbacks, fell off. The second floor laying was done by a moron, who cut the vinyl too short, leaving huge gaps in every corner and along the walls. He also damaged the new skirting, which will also have to be replaced, but only after the vinyl will have been laid for the third time.

The project was scheduled to be done over the course of four weeks, with two weeks contingency at the end, before Kai would come back from Australia. Needless to say that yes, we do have a fully functioning bathroom now, but it’s by far not the dream bathroom we thought we would have by now.

We did make all the right choices – the products we chose are awesome, the colours look amazing, the giant shower and insulated bath are the best things ever, and we love every piece of it. Unfortunately a few of the tradies (mainly the first glazier and the second vinyl layer) were absolute morons, who destroyed more than they fixed. Also the suppliers let us down massively, with delayed deliveries, sealed boxes that didn’t include all necessary parts, delivering damaged goods.

We still need to get a lot of fixes done, including a full re-install of the shower and the vinyl floor. In order to keep us all sane, this will happen when we go on holiday next time. That way the tradies can secretly fix all the things they destroy along the way again, without me having to know about it.

Do I regret that we ever made the decision to renovate the bathroom? No, not at all. I assume that we just had some really bad luck with the suppliers and some clumsy trades people. As I said in the previous post: Michelle, our project manager, had worked with all tradies for years, without ever having issues. Every project has a couple of things that go wrong along the way, it was probably just unfortunate that they all came together in our bathroom. I’m pretty sure that if we had recorded the progress for a TV show, everybody would have assumed it was all staged to highlight *all* the things that could possibly go wrong. Maybe we’re also a little bit pickier than the average person, and we might spot details that would go unnoticed in other households, but when I spend quite a significant amount of money on renovations, I really want the room to reflect it at least on the day it’s finished.

There are three people who made this project still worthwhile. The most important one is Michelle from Splash Bathroom Design. She’s a fixer, she won’t stop until everything is perfect and her clients are happy. Without her we would probably still sit in the middle of a half fished bathroom. I would also potentially have killed the glazier and the vinyl layer. I am very glad she dealt with everything and that I could just pass things on to her. She didn’t even blink when I said to her that the whole bathroom looks like a DIY project (just after the messed up vinyl had been laid), she just went away to organise a fix. This project must have been an absolute nightmare for her, and I have the feeling that she might change her phone number and move to Auckland once it’s all done, so that we can never find her again. I imagine her still waking up in the middle of the night in five years time, counting down until the day that all warranties have expired. She may probably even write a book about this.

The second person going above and beyond what’s required is Oscar Walker, our plumber from Three Ducks Solutions. His calmness and willingness to go out of his way to make sure everyone is happy were amazing during all the times things went wrong. The third person doing exceptionally good work on our bathroom is Vinnie Manon of Supertrade Construction. Without him we wouldn’t have a new bathroom at all, it’s as simple as that.

Would I do it again? Yes, with these three people absolutely. I would probably try to convince them to also do the shower lining, the tiling and vinyl laying, just to avoid anyone else touching my bathroom.

Would they do it again with me and Kai? Probably not… from a professional point of view this has been an absolute nightmare for them.

Now I can’t wait to go on holiday – not only will we have a great time in Europe, we’ll also come home to our dream bathroom. Stay tuned for chapter three in this story, which will hopefully be titled ‘Our perfect amazing new bathroom’ when it’s all done early November.

Jen D August 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Those sound like perfectly normal reno issues to me! I mentioned to Kai while he was here that it could be a Kiwi vs German thing, and reading this it sounds like it is in two ways – your expectations and the tradies’ general work ethics :)

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