Basement Bathroom Mini-Project, Part 1

Our house has a crummy little bathroom in a corner of the basement. We decided to try and spruce it up a bit. We didn’t want to spend significant time or money on this, so we consider this mostly just a band-aid project.

The bathroom is not original to the house, it was added sometime later, the key giveaway being that you can see where the original concrete basement floor was busted up to run the new drain pipes under the slab. It was patched particularly poorly. The completely uneven floors are very problematic, and are the primary reason we pursued a band-aid, rather than something we could really be proud of.

I wrote about this bathroom once before. When we bought the house in 2011, the electrical panel was located in the bathroom, and we were required to relocate it. We had to mess around with the electrical a bit more that one time we built a garage. When we started this project in mid-November, this is what the bathroom looked like:

This spacious bathroom features both a toilet and a sink.

This spacious bathroom features both a toilet and a sink.

The walls were an unlovely sky blue, with shit (literally?) splattered all over them. There were no base mouldings anywhere in the room. There used to be a drop ceiling, and I despise drop ceilings, so it came out and revealed a lot of unsightly stuff, including the tops of the drywall which were poorly finished and uneven.

Top of drywall is an ungodly mess. And wires everywhere.

Top of drywall is an ungodly mess. And wires everywhere.

Here is a hole in the drywall where the electric panel used to be.

drywall needs patching.

drywall needs patching.

The first order of business was to patch this hole in the drywall, and install a jamb extension on the door to remove a weird jog in the wall and to allow mouldings to cover gaps around the doorway. We also threw a coat of primer on all the walls.

Patched Drywall

Patched Drywall. Primed walls.

Door jamb extension, 0" reveal.

Door jamb extension, 0″ reveal.

Full door jamb extension.

Full door jamb extension.

Lots of wires. This wall has some lovely paneling.

Lots of wires. This wall has some lovely paneling.

I talked my wife into giving the open joist look a shot, which means we won’t be putting a new ceiling in here, we’re just going to expose all the ugliness, clean it up as best we can, and go with it. I mentioned more about this strategy when I wrote about painting the other room in our basement. But I did really want to install base and crown moulding to finish off the walls nicely.

Here is our progress so far. All the mouldings have been installed and have one coat of paint. The crown mouldings we’re using are really just identical to our base mouldings but upside down.

Crown Mouldings and Open Joists

Crown Mouldings and Open Joists

Crown Moulding.

Crown Moulding.

Toilet Removed. Base Moulding Installed. Goofy Pipe Remains.

Toilet Removed. Base Moulding Installed. Goofy Pipe Remains.

Door & Crown Mouldings

Door & Crown Mouldings

Door & Crown Mouldings

Door & Crown Mouldings

It took a lot of messing around to get the mouldings on, with the floors so wonky, and with goofy things like the pipe sticking out of the corner in the middle of the base moulding. Still left to do is to finish painting, clean up the wires (many of which will just be removed), paint the floor, & reinstall the toilet. Hopefully we’ll wrap this project up before Christmas.

Snaking a Clogged Bathtub Drain through a Drum Trap

Things have been a bit quiet around here on the blog lately, but I assure you I’ve been keeping busy. Why just today I did some plumbing! I plumbed all sorts of things!

Ok, just one thing. We went on vacation for 10 days over Christmas and when we got back, our bathtub was completely clogged. I’m not really sure how a bathtub clogs while nobody is around to use it, but ours did.

Normally you’d be able to run a drain snake right down through the bathtub and be done with it, but that wasn’t really possible with our old tub for two reasons. First, we have an old-timey drum trap rather than a modern p trap, which generally doesn’t allow a snake through. Second, our tub has an old-timey pop-up drain that also doesn’t really allow a snake through.

Here’s what we were dealing with:

Old-Timey Drum Trap on Bathtub Drain.

Old-Timey Drum Trap on Bathtub Drain.

A lot of folks recommend just getting rid of the drum trap altogether and replacing it with a more modern P trap. But I wasn’t confident I could do that without opening a can of worms that I didn’t want to open right now. I just wanted to be able to clear the pipes without having to replace them right now.

Theoretically, the top of that cylinder just unscrews from the rest of it. However, a quick google search turns up dozens of accounts of people who weren’t able to get the top off because the threads were all rusted shut. My experience was similar. I pushed and shoved on it as much as I could, but it wouldn’t budge. The previous owners of the house left some Liquid Wrench, which I applied liberally, but no luck.

Liqued Wrench from the 70's or Something.

Liqued Wrench from the 70’s or Something.

Again, I turned to the internet, and people recommended using a reciprocating saw to just cut the top off. I also found a few recommendations to drill a 2″ hole in the top, but cutting the top off just sounded easier. And it was. It took me about 2 minutes to saw the top off the trap. I was worried that it would be difficult to keep the saw from riding up or down, and I’d wind up with a jagged mess, but the blade just seemed to guide itself and I had a smooth cut with little effort.

Open Drum Trap

Open Drum Trap

The underside of a Drum Trap after it was cut off with a reciprocating saw.

The underside of a Drum Trap after it was cut off with a reciprocating saw.

After I had the cap off, it was simple to run a drain snake through the pipes. And when I say “simple”, I mean easy, but that job totally sucks because when the drain snake starts spinning, you are literally flinging poo around the room.

Anyway, after the drain has been cleared, the only challenge is trying to figure out how to cap off the top of the drum trap. Since we cut the old cap off, it’s not as simple as just screwing a new one in place. A lot of folks on the internet recommended using a rubber test cap. I used a 4″ cap, and it was just a little bit large, but it was simple to just cinch it down.

Rubber Test Cap on Drum Trap

Rubber Test Cap on Drum Trap

Success. This set-up is water-tight, and still allows easy access into the drum trap in the future.

I’d recommend this strategy to others if they are in a similar situation and want to be able to clear the pipes without having to replace them.

Painting the Bathroom

Believe it or not, I was actually a little sad that we couldn’t keep this fantastic specimen of 1940s wallpaper up in our bathroom. We know ultimately this room will need a pretty serious makeover and it might have been fun to get nostalgic every time we used the commode, but unfortunately the wall paper was covered in a layer of smoke and grime and some other sticky residue that I’m not sure I want to identify.  So for those of you who were fans of the gold/pink tile combo, here is one last look at it:

Bathroom before: Gold foiled glory!

Luckily the wall paper came down easily- just pulled straight off the wall with no prep work required. There was another layer of glue that needed to be scrubbed off though- similar to KP’s room. We also had a fair amount of spackling that needed to happen. This bathroom has no vent and between that and possible ice dam damage there is some pretty soft spots in the ceiling. We’re hoping it holds up till we get the chance to do a proper makeover. For now this room is sporting a fresh coat of ultra-white on the walls.

Bathroom with a fresh coat of paint

It really tones down the pink tiles, don’t cha think? Don’t worry- replacing those gold blinds is still pretty high on our to do list!

Bathroom Ceiling Drooping

This is why every bathroom should have an exhaust fan:

droooooop

This is a photo taken while holding the camera right up to the ceiling. Theoretically, ceilings should be flat. Our bathroom is probably about 10 feet wide, and the ceiling is easily drooping about 3-4 inches.

It’s probably just a matter of time before chunks just start falling down. At some point, we’ll just have to tear this entire ceiling down and start over (which will also be a great time to install an exhaust fan). Unfortunately, there’s a number of items on the To Do list ahead of this, though. Plus, we’re not sure we really want to find out what’s going on behind all that droop. It’s better left unknown for now…