Real Estate 

A draining experience

These are flush times in our house. That's because my wife and I recently redid our bathrooms. In the process, we learned two valuable lessons:

1. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to redo your bathrooms, but it's nice to have one help you pick out tile.

2. If we have to go through this draining experience again, we're both going to jump out the bathroom window.

That our bathrooms needed to be redone was obvious for two and a half reasons: We have two and a half bathrooms, all of which were in deplorable condition.

The half-bathroom downstairs had a toilet that was haunted. It ran, on its own, every eight minutes for exactly 10 seconds. If I was in the shower upstairs while this was happening, the water would instantly switch from warm to scalding. I usually don't sing in the shower, but if I faced the wrong way, I became a candidate for the Vienna Boys Choir.

Our daughter's bathroom upstairs couldn't be used because every time someone took a bath or a shower, water would mysteriously leak through the ceiling in the family room downstairs. Once, after consecutive showers, we almost had an indoor swimming pool. And the bathroom that my wife and I use had a floor that sagged right outside the shower stall. I was sure that one morning I was going to step out of the shower, crash through the floor and drown in the pool that was made by water leaking from the other bathroom.

In short, we had to do something. So we embarked on a project that was so long, so horrible, so absolutely maddening that it would have turned St. Francis of Assisi into a raving lunatic.

We started by going to one of those home improvement stores where the employees wear orange aprons. Before we were done, we had gone to three of those stores, as well as to another home improvement store where the employees wear blue aprons. All told, we made approximately 147 trips to four stores, once to buy a single piece of tile costing 14 cents.

On our first trip, I was in a good mood because, even though I knew I would end up in the poorhouse, where the bathrooms are even worse, I was glad we were finally doing something to ensure that: (a) our house wouldn't float away and (b) I wouldn't feel like a lobster every morning.

I was so giddy about this that I sat on one of the toilets in the middle of the crowded store. My wife rolled her eyes and kept walking. Then I got into a bathtub. "Get out of there!" she said through clenched teeth.

On our eighth or ninth trip, my enthusiasm began to wane. I had to help my wife pick out tile, vanities, sinks, fixtures, mirrors and paint for two bathrooms; a bathtub for one; shower doors for another; and three toilets for two and a half. After a while, I didn't know whether we were picking out wall tile or floor tile for our bathroom or our daughter's bathroom, or which store we bought one vanity in or which one we had to buy a mirror from, or even where I was half the time. And whatever we bought had to be returned because we had bought too much. Sometimes we bought too little and I had to go back to one store or another to get more.

One of the toilets had to be special-ordered and when, after two weeks, it finally came in, the seat was missing, so we had to wait another week before we could even sit down to ponder the situation. Then some tile had to be special-ordered and when it came in, it was the wrong color.

On one of our trips, we were helped by Mitch Sussman, a very nice and very knowledgeable guy whose other job is as a rocket scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. "I work in the radiological division in the instrumentation and calibration group," he said. It sounded less complicated than picking out tile.

Finally, we hired a friend to gut and restore our bathrooms. He and his crew did such a magnificent job that I no longer worry about being boiled alive or falling through the floor.

And I'm happy to say that the toilets work fine. After all, that's where our money went.


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