Hammers, Blood & Magic (so just a normal weekend, then)

This weekend was such an epic two days of progress and disasters that I don’t know if I can quite find the words to describe it. If I was going to try, though, here are a few phrases that might work:

  • Bleeding from the face
  • The most disgusting thing I have ever borne witness to, probably
  • Hammer, meet sink
  • Uh, oops
  • The best weekend yet

And that was just Sunday.

Sometimes I get stuck on a particular project– in this case, painting the Pink Parlor– and for whatever reason I can’t make progress on it, and it keeps me from making progress on anything else. Well, since I gave myself permission to work on whatever the hell I wanted last week (and it felt fabulous) I continued that theme through the weekend.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about Saturday and how my 85 year old grandma is way better at driving the riding mower than I am later this week. For now, let’s talk about this room…


That’s the upstairs full bath (but not the crazy Master Bath).

This upcoming weekend I’m having my mom and some friends stay over for a night or two, and at some point in the last 48 hours it occurred to me that this house does have three bathrooms and it might be nice for guests if more than one of them worked.

Like many things in this house, the upstairs bath is a weird amalgamation of expensive and old materials. The new granite counters on mismatched stock cabinetry, for example.

Or the nice Kohler toilet with a… well, a squishy palm-tree toilet seat.


My mom managed to clean a lot of the Hey-it-looks-like-someone-got-murded-in-here iron stains off the tub that you saw in the this video, but I still wouldn’t call this room “guest ready.”

It occurred to me that I could probably slap a coat of paint on the walls, switch out the broken faucets and gross shower trim, replace the toilet seat, and the bathroom wouldn’t be in bad shape.

Then  I opened the lid of the toilet (which I hadn’t opened or turned on since I moved in), and I fell over dead.

(Warning: Don’t scroll any lower while you’re eating.)


Yeah. That is fricking mold growing in the toilet, which apparently can happen if you leave antifreeze in there once it starts to get warm. So, don’t do that.

Right then and there I thought about just putting a whole new toilet in, but I decided to give a two gallon bottle of bleach and some Iron Out a try first.

And, okay, because that was so gross I’m going to just go ahead and skip to the magic part of this post to make up for it…


Same. Toilet.

Did you just fall over?

Here’s what I did:

  1. Dumped bleach all over it and let it set for a while. (This almost immediately dissolved the mold.)
  2. Swished my toilet wand around the bowl a few times.
  3. Dumped Iron Out in the bowl and let it set for a few hours.
  4. Changed the toilet seat.
  5. Sanitized my entire body for coming within 3 feet of that thing.

The toilet looks brand new, and it required almost no scrubbing. And it may be the one thing that actually went as planned in this bathroom this weekend. While I was waiting for the bleach and the Iron Out to do their thing, I tried tackling some of the old fixtures.


For some reason, these grossed me out and since it will be a long while before that tub surround is replaced I decided a trim update was in order. Because the faucet was old and didn’t have a discernible brand name on it, I took the thing mostly apart and then found universal bath and shower trip pieces at Lowe’s that would fit.

Here’s kind of how it went down:

  1. I took everything apart.
  2. I tried to replace the dial, and realized I had the wrong parts.
  3. I successfully replaced the drain and stopper.
  4. I tried to replace the faucet but the parts didn’t work.
  5. I tried to replace the shower head and broke the elbow off in the wall.
  6. I went back to Lowe’s and got the correct dial parts (and some other things, like a few sinks)
  7. I “modified” the faucet with the reciprocating saw.
  8. I successfully installed the faucet and dial trim.
  9. I did a little dance.
  10. I then realized the shower elbow is still broken off in the wall and I have no idea how to fix it.
  11. I stopped dancing.

This is a crappy picture because apparently I can’t see straight when I try to take pictures after midnight, but this is the new trim that looks awesome and probably works, although I haven’t tested that out yet.


There will be complete how-to’s of the trim switching later this week with better pictures, once I figure out what to do about the broken shower piece.

I started most of these projects in the early afternoon, and when I got as far as I could with the shower trim I decided to switch out the sink faucets so that at least something would be working in the bathroom. (Oh yes, that’s foreshadowing.)

Both of the faucets were leaking from the handles (the joys of winterization never cease) and the sinks were set up for the fancy wide-spread faucets which means I had to drop $90 each for the cheapest faucets I could find to fit the sinks. It occurred to me at the time that it might actually be cheaper to buy basic sinks that would accept the cheap $25 faucets (more foreshadowing), but I gave myself the little “hey, let’s not go crazy here and create more work than we need to” speech in the plumbing aisle at Lowe’s and grabbed my expensive faucets and headed home.

Then I spent an hour wedged upside-down in a 22″ cabinet, sweating my ass off and making no progress on removing the old rusted faucets, and I was like, “You know what? I think I’m going to go ahead and have that crazy moment after all.” Except when I said that to myself it sounded less like intelligible words, and more like a half-crazed battle cry and the crack of a hammer on porcelain.


Yep. I did that.

Okay, actually, what happened was that I did decided to remove the sinks in a normal, sane way. I spent another 30 minutes trying to cut the caulk around the sink with a utility knife, and when I stuck a screwdriver under the lip of the sink to try and pry it up, and chunk of porcelain broke off and hit me in the face. And apparently being hit with broken porcelain is akin to being hit by a flying razor blade, because the next thing I know I’m bleeding from the face.

And that’s when I went a little Bruce Lee on the sink with a hammer.


Easiest faucet removal. Ever.

And, yes, I did lose my shit a little bit, but it was the best temper tantrum I’ve thrown in a while because the new sinks only cost me $40 each, and I was able to get basic $25 faucets to go in them. So not only did I get to whack something with a hammer–which admit it, is always fun–I also ended up saving $50 and a shitload of time spent wedged upside-down in a cabinet.


I may or may not have been running around the house at this point in the day, singing a song I made up about the sinks that mostly consisted of the phrase “I win” over and over again.

What? A girl’s got to get her kicks in where she can.

To sum up, this project pretty much went how I would expect… which is to say, not at all how I saw it going in my head. That’s what seven years of DIY experience has taught me: You don’t get better at figuring out how it will go, you just get better at accepting it when things don’t go as planned.

I hardly ever dive into something like this without at least one extra trip to Lowe’s, and it was so much less frustrating than wrestling with those faucets for the next three days. I feel really awesome about the progress and expect to have working sinks, that pristine toilet, and painted walls in the next day or two. The shower is still iffy, but either way it’s not the end of the world.

This, my friends, is exactly what great DIY feels like!

13 Responses

    1. No more than usual! I know what guys feel like when they nick their faces shaving now, 30 little dots of tissue later…

      1. “Easiest faucet removal. Ever!”

        Priceless! This is why I started to read from the beginning. You have good skills, great design sense, an absolute abhorance for “can’t”, and a sense of humor AND adventure that never quits.

        I will be laughing for days over this one.

  1. While your method of dealing with faucet removal is infinitely more entertaining, I’ve found that a liberal application of WD40 to the stubborn nut/threads and then walking away for a hour worked well for me when I was renovating my old house. Of course I threw my hissy fit first and might have busted the sink if it hadn’t been stainless steel BEFORE I thought about using the WD40!!!

  2. What a frustrating, fulfilling weekend! And it all looks great! I only managed to reinstall my outdoor lights newly refinished. Even that small should’ve-only-taken-2 days project took just over 2 weeks! Okay, I went on vacation for a week, but still! Unfortunately, didn’t have anything to hit with a hammer. Will include that in plans from now on!

  3. yeah, being a good DIYer means less panic WHEN things go bad, and more ability to hide any mistakes/miscalculations. being a pro means mostly avoiding things going bad in the first place.

  4. I can be the most patient worker until I get hurt, then stand back! Sounds like you are lucky you didn’t get hurt worse! I’m glad a few things went right for you!

  5. Congratulations on a fabulous, fulfilling weekend–and getting unstuck from the pink parlor. We had a cushy toilet seat when we moved in to our new place. It came with a few other disgusting fixtures (including a completely iron stained shower that looked like a setting from a horror movie), so our solution was to demo the whole bathroom. One of my husband’s favourite moments was heaving the old toilet into the bin at the dump and watching it smash. I think he would have been right there with you on the sinks! Off to google Iron Out now. Have never heard of it, but it sounds like something I need.

  6. This post is great! You have great taste in fixtures, you know when to try to salvage things, but best of all: you sing victory songs!
    I love victory songs. Just got the cable company to remove a fake charge? Sing a song. Just wrenched the window open after your lazy landlord painted it shut? Warble away!

  7. “You don’t get better at figuring out how it will go, you just get better at accepting it when things don’t go as planned.”

    Can I quote you on that? I think that is one of the most profound ideas I’ve ever heard.

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