November 7, 2011 by Leah
I’ve always prided myself on being able to deal with most simple mechanical household problems. I put furniture together, mount things on walls, unclog drains, change tires, and am generally pretty handy when it comes to taking stuff apart and putting it back together. My mom likes to tell me how I’ve been fixing things since I was six. That said, I’ve never lived in a 110-year-old house before.
When we moved in, the house was pretty bare. There was some curtain hardware installed in the walls, but no window coverings. There’s a patch of bare cement in our guest room. The thing that I decided needed the most immediate attention, though, was the bathroom. It’s a tiny bathroom. Tub, pedestal sink, and toilet all jammed to the side of two doors (between which there is a window). The previous owners had a mirror over the sink, a shelf over the tub, and some hooks on the door. That was it when it came to bathroom storage. Because we moved out of a house with two large bathrooms that had ample storage, we had at least five boxes of stuff marked “bathroom.” We couldn’t get all these boxes into the bathroom and close the doors. We couldn’t get three of these boxes in the bathroom and close the doors.
I took some measurements, came up with a plan, and went to Home Depot (I kind of live there now), figuring I’d be able to uninstall the current fixtures, install all the new stuff I bought, and surprise Aaron when he came home from work. This was last Monday afternoon. Six days later, I’d gotten the mirror off the wall and we had a shower curtain, but nothing else had changed. Why? I blame slotted screws. Old slotted screws. And Aaron’s work schedule, because I gave up on the project after about four hours and some crying.
Aaron got to work optimistically, but soon realized that I had not been exaggerating about the shelf. The problem was with one screw, the one in the lowest position on the left. I’d managed to mostly strip the thing, which didn’t help matters. During Home Depot trip #17 for the week (we were buying curtains), I said, “Hey, honey, I read that those Dremels are nifty tools. Maybe we should get you one.” I didn’t get much of an argument, and it turned out to be what saved our sanity.
Aaron disassembled the shelf and sheared the head off the screw with the Dremel, but the last bracket still wouldn’t come off the darn wall. Finally, I suggested drilling into the head with one of those attachments that looks like the cones of spices they sell at the market in Nice, and the bracket came free.
Once the shelf was off the wall, we were left with a disaster zone, of course. Tools and gypsum dust everywhere (not to mention dirt from shoes), and the wall was seriously torn up.
It took me a couple of days to find a paint to match the paint in our house (and my selection turned out to be a tad dark, but since all the touch-ups we did are behind things like curtain rods and towel bars, I’m not too worried). We finally patched up the wall yesterday. And then we did this:
I had a minor hiccup when I installed the mounting brackets for the toilet paper holder backwards and then couldn’t figure out what the set screw was supposed to grip, but Aaron set me straight (and didn’t even make fun of me).
And today, only a week after I started the project, I was finally able to unpack our bathroom stuff.