Our Marriage Survived a Partial Bathroom Remodel

By BOB WIRE

There are three words that, when spoken together, have the power to blow a marriage apart like a hamster in a microwave. No, I don’t mean “your sister’s hot” or “chronic hotbox farts.” The three words are: home improvement project.

How many husbands have packed their meager belongings into a gym bag and reserved a room at the Motel 6 while the “new rec room” stands half finished, looking like bin Laden’s home office after the raid? Lots, that’s how many.

But I’m smarter than those guys. I have a rule. I don’t mess with stuff inside the walls. I’ll hang pictures, put up shelves, build Ikea furniture, paint the couch, whatever. But changing out a switch plate is about as far as I go when it comes to electricity. Or plumbing.

So when it came time to retile our upstairs bathroom, I called a good friend of mine, whom I will call Dave, since that’s his name. Dave has learned how to mess with stuff inside the walls. Hell, he’s built the walls. He has been adding on to his own home for several years, and even built a barn somewhere along the line, possibly by accident. I’ve seen his handiwork, and it is stunning.

Just looking at this makes me want to snap somebody's naked butt with a towel.

Just looking at this makes me want to snap somebody’s naked butt with atowel.

When someone says “add on,” I normally picture a Sears aluminum shed toe-nailed to the side of a single-wide mobile home and wrapped in Tyvek. Dave’s add-on just looks like a bigger house. It’s seamless. He’s smart enough to call some contractor friends when he gets into a corner, with questions like, “How do I make a corner? Then how do I get out of it?” The tile work in his own new bathroom, for example, is stellar. I know he learned a lot of lessons the hard way, so his burgeoning knowledge of home improvement is well-earned.

Dave agreed to retile our main bathroom for a price that was much less than a pro outfit quoted me, but not so low that it would destroy our friendship. He started by demolishing the old tile, which had been carefully chosen by a color-blind hillbilly in 1976. There was some mold, so he had to tear out all the sheetrock down to the studs, and rebuild the walls. The original estimate of “about a week” and “maybe five hundred bucks” was out the window like a hamster in a microwave.

Meantime, the entire family was forced to share the tiny shower in the bathroom off our bedroom. Normally only Barb uses this shower. When I say “tiny,” I mean if you drop the soap you actually have to exit the shower stall so you have enough room to bend over and pick it up. Rusty solved the problem by rubbing soap all over the walls and then just throwing himself around in there.

The main bath had a nice shower head with adjustable spray. Barb’s shower has a tiny chrome head that looks like it came out of a wristwatch. It sprays an aggressive mist in a stinging fan that shoots water directly into your eyeballs no matter which way your turn it. To complicate matters, any time you make a move you bump against the control handle, which invariably turns the water scalding hot. Barb somehow has it figured out, and I hear her singing in there most mornings. Whenever I shower in that vertical coffin, there is no singing. It’s more like rap. Okay, it’s a string of expletives and screaming like a six-year-old girl.

The whole family shared the dinky master bath for everything. Someone was always in there. If I wanted to, um, drop off the Cleveland Browns at the Super Bowl, I usually had to go downstairs and use the guest bathroom off my studio. This bathroom has been used almost exclusively by musicians. Need I say more?

When Dave had reconstructed the walls and it was time to pick out some tiles, we went to a local flooring place. I won’t mention their name, but I will say I’ll never darken their doorway again. It’s a locally owned store, and that’s the main reason we went there. We found a tile we liked, and a salesman looked it up and gave us a per-square-foot price. I did a quick calculation in my head, and it fit our budget. I gave him all the measurements and he called the next day with a quote. The quote was more than five times the price I’d estimated in the store. I double-checked my figures, and the guy was way off. He made a mistake, he said. Sorry. Hmm. I made a mistake too, I said. I should have gone to Home Depot. Lesson learned: get the quote in writing. Then when the salesman screws the pooch, at least you can get him fired.

We found a similar tile online, and ordered it into a big box store for about 20% of the price this ding dong wanted to charge us. As you can see in the photo, the tile is beautiful. Barb picked out the pale green glass block accents. I had lobbied for orange, to give the whole thing a Miami Dolphins feel. It wasn’t so much the orange she objected to, she said, but the big Dolphins logo I wanted inset into the tile was a bit much.

Dave put a lot of his life on hold to get this thing finished up, and fortunately his hamster didn’t blow up in the microwave either. The shower is beautiful. It’s bright, clean, and as straight as can be. Dave got all the new fixtures installed quickly and there’s nary a drip. It didn’t break the bank, and Barb has her micro-shower back to herself.

Of course, now the rest of the bathroom looks like a dump. I wonder if Dave has any free time this summer?

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   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Bob Wire is medicated and ready to rock.

Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.