“It Will Be So Simple”, she said naively …

This post was originally published April 27, 2014.

With the bathroom now a cheerful shade of blue, we knew that we wanted to continue to improve it, but we were unsure just what we wanted to do. Flash forward a few years (yes, years) to a world with Pinterest and Houzz. These wonderful sites allowed me to spend way too much time at work … I mean, on Saturday afternoon, browsing through tons of pictures, getting ideas. However, it quickly became overwhelming. So I made an executive decision – going forward we would use a new, organized, and purposeful approach – identify issues and then look for ways to address them. While this might seem painfully obvious to anyone reading this, for me it was a light-bulb moment. By defining the problem, it was easier to locate a solution!

Upon further consideration, the issues in our house seem fall into two categories: 1) those things that we would like to change for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons (paint color, light fixtures, etc.), which I call Improvements and Decor, and 2) those things that we would like to change to address a problem (repairs, lack of outlets in useful places, etc.), which I call Repairs, Renovations, and Enhancements. Some projects fall into both categories, such as my planned “Linen Closet Project”, “Coat Closet Project”, and “Built-in Bookcase Project”, but more on those in later posts.

I installed an app on my iPhone called Weave and used it to start keeping track of all my ideas. The app allows you to create projects, and then create to-dos under each project. You can track the time and money spent on each to-do. While not designed specifically for home improvement projects, Weave works pretty well for recording ideas and tracking progress.

So with iPhone in hand, I created a “Bathroom Upgrade” project and began to identify what issues need to be addressed. And there are many, even when you exclude the weird plumbing (more on than later too). Here are just a few:

  • There is only one overhead light, and no lights around the mirror, so putting on make-up, shaving, or trying to get an eyelash out of your eye is next to impossible unless it’s a sunny day outside.
  • There is no ventilator, so when our daughter takes one of her 45 minute showers, the walls are dripping afterwards. We have set up a dehumidifier in the hallway outside the bathroom, but it is loud, takes up room, and partially blocks access to the third bedroom.
  • There is only one outlet. We have a nightlight plugged into the top and a towel warmer plugged into the bottom. If someone wants to use a hairdryer, curling iron, vacuum, etc., they have to unplug something.
  • Since we have a clawfoot bathtub, there is no good place to set things like shampoo and soap. We have a rack in the corner behind the tub, but reaching in and out during showers causes water to drip down the wall. This has ruined the baseboard below the tub.
  • There is no place to store towels, and the temporary shelves to store toiletries are insufficient and starting to annoy me.

These are just a few of the issues – I could go on, but I won’t. I decided to tackle the lights and additional outlet first. We knew that we wanted sconce lights rather than over-the-mirror lights, and had begun looking as soon as we had installed the new vanity several years ago. But we just couldn’t find anything that we liked. The sconces that we found were too big, too boring, too flashy, didn’t fit the period of the house, or were just plain unattractive. If we did find something, we would find that it had been discontinued and there was only one left (this actually happened twice).

Finally, this past Valentine’s Day, we were strolling through Home Depot – my husband asked me what I wanted to do for Valentine’s, and that is what I picked. Yes, really. – and we simultaneously spotted a sconce by Progress that we liked. I would have preferred oil-rubbed bronze, but the store didn’t have it, and I wasn’t willing to risk passing on the only sconce we had seen in five years that we liked. The sconces were antique nickel, which is very understated and attractive, can be installed either shade down, as shown, or shade up. We quickly popped two into the cart and headed for the register.

Progress Lighting

With lights finally in hand, there was no longer any reason to procrastinate, so I began planning the required wiring. There are two circuits that feed our bathroom, one runs to the switch, the overhead light, and on into our daughter’s room to power the lights and receptacles there. The other runs to the single outlet. According to code, the receptacles and lights in the bath have to be on separate circuits. Both circuits are 15 amp, so I calculated the load on each circuit to make sure they would not be overloaded by the changes that I wanted to make.

I decided to extend a circuit branch from the switch, drop straight down to the floor, run along the floor, then up to a new dual switch, up to the first sconce, then across behind the mirror to the second sconce. One switch of the dual switch would power the new lights, and the other would be in place once the ventilator is installed, hopefully, later this summer. This would keep me from having to cut and patch a lot of drywall. At the same time, I would extend the circuit of the single receptacle, which is about 5 feet from the floor, dropping straight down through the wall to power a new one along the floor. “It will be so simple,” I enthused to my husband. “I’ll be done in a weekend.” Ah, the optimistic naivety of one who doesn’t yet know the secrets that lie within 100 years old walls!

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