Friday, April 17, 2009

Master Bath Remodel: The Products 1+ Year Later

Some things you like in pictures, hate them in person. Fortunately everything we bought for this renovation was spot-on, exactly what we expected.

But some things you think you want, you decide later was a bad idea.

Put travertine tile first on that list.

Travertine is in my bathroom because it is beautiful. I couldn't find a porcelain or ceramic I liked as much. Well I should have kept looking. Or slightly downgraded my expectations. Which is OK, in the big picture of life, travertine isn't so important. If you face the allure of natural stone, really think about what you're doing, and if it's right for you. I was dazzled by beauty. Figured, will worry about consequences later. But, really, c'mon, bad things happen rarely happen to me, what consequences could there be? I rarely have to deal with consequences.

Now I have to deal with consequences.

I didn't walk into travertine tile blindly. People on the bathroom forum at That Home Site and the John Bridge tile forum are good at educating you. With natural stone (marble, travertine, others) you must be careful about cleaners, cosmetics, contact lens solution, kid pee, cat vomit, and ... apparently, tile installers. After a year of successfully keeping my bathroom floor clean without ever once scratching tile with an itty-bitty grain of kitty litter, never once dripping nail polish remover on it, never once spilling bubbling contact lens cleaner, and after a year of having general wear and tear not on my bathroom but on my brain and forehead wrinkles for having to constantly think about these things ... the tile contractor finally did my floor in. Actually, a cat did before the tile guy, but a cat is a cat and doesn't know what his vomit can do to a travertine floor so he can be forgiven. (all animal owners and parents and messy adults, like I said, know what you're walking into with stone tile)

The contractor originally installed a broken tile and grouted the crack. Yeah. This was right inside the door and I couldn't live with it, so they were called back to fix it. Plus other sloppy work had to be re-done like faucets not installed correctly, etc. After replacing five tiles due to difficulty in removing the one bad tile, the floor looked perfect. We fortunately had enough good quality matching tiles to handle this fix. But enter the foreboding music as I carefully tucked away the 3 remaining good tiles in the basement, "just in case."

But the Warmly Yours radiant heat system worked only sporadically after that fix. During this past winter, it finally quit for good. Warmly Yours was great with their help and response. And wow, small world, their HQ is only a few miles from us in Long Grove, IL. So they sent someone to see our bathroom in person and figure out the problem. Turns out, it was in the wires. In the general vicinity of where the contractor replaced the broken tile.

So, enter again the contractor. This time, they remove numerous tiles trying to find the broken wire. Broken wire is identified and replaced, we'll again have a 90-degree floor on sub-zero days. The cats will love it, we'll love it, but whoa ... I only have 3 good tiles. Thus one major consequence of natural stone. You can go to the store 18 months after the original purchase, and they may not have the appropriate stone. It may look different enough to look stupid. They say that's the beauty, the variation of natural stone. I say, that's no excuse for looking stupid. Like a bad hairdye job that leaves you streaky and cheap-looking (been there done that too), is that explained away by beauty of natural variation? I don't think so. Now you could say why didn't I buy up enough extra stone to last through multiple floor fixes through the rest of my lifetime, and I would say to anyone considering natural stone ... do that, good idea!

So now, as you enter the bathroom, there is no longer the zen effect of a sweeping expanse of polished stones each unique but in same color tone as their neighbors ... no ... you are exposed to a hodge-podge crazy quilt effect of travertine that hurts my eye. And what hurts more, the contractor etched the stone while trying to clean it. It looks like shit. The newly-replaced stones and edges of stones around them are etched in the back-and-forth vertical and right-to-left horizontal plaid pattern of a very sloppy clean-up artist using an acidic cleaning product. A tile guy cleaning natural stone with acid. Can you believe that. What luck do I have to endure that consequence? I should stop typing here because I'm still in the angry phase. This was discovered yesterday when I arrived home with 15 minutes to spare before needing to drive my husband to catch an international flight. Not a good time to flail arms and yell. So neither of us were able to "just get it out."

For now the solution is the bathroom door is closed and I cannot go in there because both times that I did, I almost picked up a hammer and smashed the tiles! If a hammer were within reach, we'd be in trouble. And actually a toolbox is right outside the bathroom door. Close enough to be very dangerous. People who know me, know I'd probably really do it, too!!

When will I get beyond this?

But that's not all. To prevent the travertine in the shower from getting soapscum build-up requiring powerful and dangerous cleaning agents, we must squeegee. So after every shower, with all the square footage of the travertine and the glass walls and door, we squeegee and squeegee and squeegee some more ... it's really a pain in the ass! I'm not a morning person, I'm always running late for work, I just couldn't take the squeegeeing any more. So I use the guest bathroom shower now. Yeah, a plain ol' tub with Target shower curtains, just like the 1970's bathrooms many of us grew up with, and ugly cheap shiny gold Moen fixtures. It does the job that's needed. My beautiful stone shower stands untouched. Like a piece of art in a museum.

For anyone considering natural stone, you have been forewarned of the dangers of mental anguish. The pain may not be worth the beauty.

All the other renovation products? Nothing negative to say, really ... the Rohl faucets are still in great condition, wipe clean easy, feel substantial and smooth when using the handles. The Ambella cabinets are not the best quality wood but they do stand up to cat claws flailing about when a cat misses its jump to the counter, and I can't think of many more rigorous tests for wood furniture than that. All Restoration Hardware accessories are good quality and worth the money. The heavy train rack and double towel rack have even stayed on the wall, fully loaded with towels, for a year when I noticed the contractor failed to install the little pins under them, so they aren't the most stable. Reminds me, to call Restoration Hardware and get replacement pins. The toilet is a Kohler and it works fine. When planning the renovation we obsessed about Toto vs Kohler and A vs B for a bunch of other things. Some people enjoy that process. I think it took a few years off my life expectancy. It made me eat more. It made a whole bunch of clothes not fit so well. In the end, what we chose was fine ...

Except for the travertine and that damn contractor ... but what did I say above ... in the big picture of life, travertine isn't so important ...

I hope I believe that someday.

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