There is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. This tiny space is where people are encouraged to let their creative side free and go a little naughty with their colour choices when they really should not. People think they are selecting bold prints with contrasting colours and dynamic textures (all the guff you hear on these home make-over programmes), when in actual fact the end result resembles something from the darker parts of Trainspotting.
Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink paint work matched with snot green tiles– one word ‘horrific’. I give the previous owners the benefit of the doubt and say it is possible that the colour of the paint looked different on the sample, but there is no excusing the tiles, I can only assume they were on sale.
Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent should have had a road sign to warn people not to get blown off course.
The only positive things I could say about the room was that it had good space and the white goods were a good colour: white.
When we initially moved in I thought something needs to be done with that bathroom, but daunted by the challenge, I made my way around the house decorating every other room instead of it. Finally 5 years later, it was the last room to do. I could no longer avoid it.
Having removed the Ensuite shower from our room, I decided the first thing we needed to do in the main bathroom was to install a power shower. There was no point in decorating the rest of the room if the shower fitter then needed to remove tiles or plaster board to fit the shower, so by rights it needed to be done first.
We were gifted a power shower by my very generous mother-in-law (now you know what to get the couple who have everything, it was one of the most useful gifts we ever got!) about 3 years ago, but not able to fit it myself and not really knowing how to go about getting it fitted, it sat in my attic while I procrastinated. Finally with no excuses left I began to ring around. Eventually I found a company that supplied the showers, but they only fitted them officially if the shower was bought from them, however unofficially one of their fitters was happy to do a nixer. It took him only a few hours to hook it up, and the result was a real life changer. I cannot believe I spent 5 years putting it off!
Once the shower was in place, the next thing that could require the tiles to be removed was the leak from the bath taps. In order to prevent leaks springing between the edge of the bath and the wall, the last row of tiles holds in place a small lip which curls under the bath edge. This is then sealed with putty. So if we needed to remove the bath to repair the leak, then we would need to remove the last row of tiles, in order to allow us to remove the bath. (It’s ok, I did not know any of this either, my Dad explained when I asked him to come around and look at the leak).
An investigation of the leak revealed that the leak was coming from the point where the bath and wall joined behind the taps, the putty seal had disintegrated. Now, by rights, if a professional was coming in to fix this leak, they would by default do a professional job of it; remove tiles, bath, replace tiles, refit bath, seal the whole lot up again, all while the cost kept racking up. My Dad, with many years of experience under his belt, suggested that before we* (*read he) tried all that, how about we try just putting a huge lump of putty over the problem area to see if that could plug the problem. If it didn’t work, we could just remove it and fix the problem the long way. So he put the putty in place and we waited to see if the leak disappeared. Several showers later, with no evidence of drips coming through the ceiling downstairs, we declared the short cut a success.
This left the last ‘structural’ issue: the wind tunnel. Now, to be clear I am not normally in favour of plugging vents. These are safety features required by law for a reason, and removing one is the equivalent of removing the safety switch from a lawn mower or gun. However, in our bathroom, which measures a mere 3m*4m, there are three orifices through which oxygen can enter and carbon dioxide/monoxide can leave (the vent, door and window), so I didn’t think it was a massive issue to bring that number down to two.
I decided to use expanding foam for this task because it fills the void with a nonporous substance, but it is not permanent. So should we decide to sell the house in future, or if we need to open the vent for some other reason in the future, this will be possible without much work.
I removed the front grate of the vent, gave a little clean (but being terrified of spiders not too deep of a clean) and then sprayed in the foam. The thing to be careful about when using this foam is that it will continue to expand through every open space. So, if you fill the vent entirely from front to back, the foam will go through the grill of the vent in the exterior wall, and this will look terrible from the outside. It is easy to fix, you just need to get a ladder tall enough to reach the vent and cut it off from the outside, but, most people don’t have a ladder that will safely reach this height. So the best thing to do is just be careful how you use the foam. Try to put it just to the front of the vent, and only fill about a third of the hole. You can always top up the foam when it hardens if needed.
Once you have sprayed in enough foam, to prevent it bubbling out of the vent in the interior, place a sheet of cardboard or paper over the orifice, held in place with masking-tape. Leave the foam overnight to harden. The next morning the foam had pushed the cardboard slightly away from the wall, leaving the foam layer slightly proud of the wall. To remedy this I simply cut a sliver off with a carving knife, the same way you would cut a slice from a loaf of bread. I then replaced the vent to cover up the unsightly foam.
Stage two of the project will be selecting the colours to paint the wall and tiles.