Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our home, part 2

Shortly after we moved in, I decided to fix up my sister Shouf's room. She was in Florida with our mother, and I wanted her to come home to a cheerful bedroom. Although we technically live together, she spends a lot of time with our mother, and hadn't even seen the place. There was wallpaper in her room, but it was cracking and peeling, and I wanted something nicer for her. Again, what a mistake that was! I started removing the wallpaper, and soon found out that there were 3 layers of it. Some of it must have been 100 years old. Underneath that, there was plaster. God, do I hate plaster!

After weeks of my son, my cousin and I scraping off the wallpaper, we painted it a sunshine yellow color. We had to paint it with white Killz first to keep the plaster from sucking up the paint. It actually looks pretty good.

I decided to tackle the bathroom next. I thought maybe if I got it started, it would be easier for the landlord to come in and finish it. Almost like saying, "see, I'm willing to work toward making this place better, come meet me half-way. It will only improve YOUR property value". I spoke with him about it beforehand, as I didn't want to step on any toes by messing with his house. I always clear any project I want to do with the person who owns the house. His attitude was "great", "go ahead". At that point, he told me he would come in and put up wallboard that looks like white tile, similar to what he had in his kitchen and bathroom. He even showed me some extra that he had in his garage. I got excited, and started ripping down the badly eroded wallboard in the bathroom. I left up the one wall where the only outlet literally has electrical wires running to the lighted medicine cabinet. I don't do electricity.

I started scraping the wallpaper off the bathroom walls, but then found that underneath some of it, there is a weird black felt-like substance that I cannot even identify. I wasn't sure how to deal with it, so I let it go. And let it go, and let it go.

I kept pressing the landlord to do something about the bathroom, and late last spring he agreed to have a contractor come in and appraise it. He actually agreed to give the whole bathroom a makeover, including the floor. The sink that is falling off the wall and only held up by one half-rusty pipe would be replaced with a vanity. The contractor he had look at it over the summer suggested the clawfoot tub be taken out and replaced by a stand-up only shower. While I mourned the loss of the tub, I felt that a stand-up shower would open the space up quite a bit! It is an extremely small bathroom, aproximately 5'x7'. You have to open the door all the way, then squeeze by the tub to turn the light on and shut the door.

The next time I asked for a bathroom update, the landlord said that the contractor was going to charge too much. He and his son were going to take care of the cosmetic part of it, while Home Depot was going to come in and replace the sink and the vanity. The clawfoot tub would stay, and a licensed plumber was going to deal with the old piping for the sink, and a licensed electrician would deal with the medicine cabinet. It was scheduled for October when his son had a few days off from school.

I asked the landlord to give me a couple of days heads up so I could clear out the bathroom. I have a couple of of racks and shelves in there that I didn't want to be in the way, nor did I want my clean wash cloths full of remodeling dust. As we reached the weekend I thought the remodeling was going to happen, the landlord finally told me, "Something came up". Nothing was going to happen. I never got a clear answer out of him, and haven't pressed it further.

Here's the thing: I agreed to host a baby shower for my cousin's daughter that takes place in less than a month. I never would have agreed to it if I knew the bathroom would look the way it does. I am mortified. Mortified! I had thought that the bathroom makeover would push me to maybe make some cosmetic improvements to the rest of the house.

Here I am, stuck not just on the bathroom, but I haven't done anything else. There is no money, and I'm running out of time. I figure the rest of the house is going to have to be what it is. None of the people coming to the shower are related to me, so I guess I'm going to have a "who cares" attitude".

Here are some "before" shots of the hideous bathroom. I'm just going to finish scraping off the old wallpaper, and spray everything with white Killz, and hope for the best. The wall with the old paneling and blue sink and electrical wires running from the outlet to the medicine cabinet is going to have to stay as it is, I'm not messing with that!

I had to post pictures because a while ago I told Whiskey Marie that my bathroom was worse than hers.

Help! If you have any handy and cheap ideas, feel free to chime in!


Gwen said...

My first thought is that the electrical to the vanity looks dangerous. I'm not suggesting being pushy but I think you need to stay on the landlord about the dangerous stuff.

As for the cosmetics: paint. Killz and paint gives any room an instant and cheap face-lift.

I also think you could attach a "skirt" to the sink to hide the pipes using velcro tape. You should be able to find velcro tape with a sticky backing - stick one side to the sink and stick or sew the other side to a pretty fabric. Voila! Instant vanity.

Bella@That damn expat said...

Sweet Jesus, that bathroom looks AWFUL! Sorry, I'm just being honest.

You need to get that fixed, and not just cosmetically. Ride the landlord until he gives in!

Whiskeymarie said...

Okay, you DO win. but only by a hair. I still haven't worked up the courage to post pics of my old bathroom- when we get closer to actually working on it and having "after" pics, maybe.

Also- what Gwen said. Paint, spackle, and a skirt on the sink will be a good temporary fix, but I would make sure the landlord sees how it is now before you paint and make it look better. You might have to really get on that dude and be a little pushy, but he needs to fix this- stat. The electrical does look sketchy, and he could install a new sink/vanity himself if he has even a smidge of handyman skills- hell, my husband did it in our old bathroom long before he knew anything about remodeling, for under $200.

Angie said...

Holy crap. I'd call a health inspector. That looks awful. Is there anyone in your area that holds landlords accountable? I would try to find someone...he needs to either fix that or be fined until he does. That looks dangerous. Good luck.

Whiskeymarie said...

Now, after reading part 1 of this (and now knowing more about your landlord and lack of a lease), I see why you maybe can't push too hard with this guy.
Do you know anyone with some handyman skills? If you do, I say price out an inexpensive sink/vanity and the wallboard. Offer the landlord a deal- you'll have someone install them for just the cost of the materials and say, $50 (this is assuming you know someone who would do this for you cheap and/or free,which would even be better). If he is unwilling to go and get the stuff, tell him you will get it and just subtract the cost from your rent, providing a receipt, of course.
Tell him you will happily do the painting yourself since he is so busy and can't get to it (just to kind of "remind" him that your doing this is a favor to him, not the other way around).

Maybe this will work, maybe it won't. It seems like you're happy there otherwise, so maybe it would be worth it to just do this lazy dude's work for him.

Fancy Schmancy said...

Thanks for the comments and suggestions, guys. There is so much else wrong with the house, you wouldn't believe... The electricity is a NIGHTMARE!

My mother also suggested calling the health department or fire inspector, or whoever handles the many code violations, but the reality is that the landlord would either raise my rent or evict me after.

WM, I know no handy people. I'm going to have to wing it. The landlord himself doesn't want to touch the pipes, they are so old. He was hoping to stick it to the Home Depot plumbers if anything broke. Believe me when I say that he absolutely knows what it looks like.

So, I guess I'm going to go with the velco skirt as suggested not only by Gwen, but also by my sister, Kouf.

Kouf, help!

Janie said...

I'm a landlord myself, so shoot me.

I'm thinking by those pix that you might have a touch of black mold. Do you? Black mold is something that makes any sane landlord jump through hoops to keep his renter safe, etc., avoid lawsuits, etc. So, first, I'd call the landlord and ask him to come look and bring a plumber with him. Barring that, I'd call in a plumber just for a service call and let him look.

You have rights, you know.

Whiskeymarie said...

If I lived closer, I'd make my husband come over and do some work- he's no professional plumber, but he's used to dealing with messed-up houses. I'd help paint because that's all I'm qualified to do.

Good luck, toots.

Laura said...

I feel your pain - when we moved into our condo we had to redo the downstairs bathroom because of the hideous wallpaper. We also had layers upon layers we had to remove. My husband had to mud the whole room because of the damage. It was terrible!

And I LOVE claw foot tubs! So jealous.

JoJo said...

Eegads, that doesn't look safe or healthy. Is that black mold? You absolutely HAVE to get the landlord to do something about it and pronto. You can't have the shower at your house if there's black mold in the bathroom. It won't go over well with the mom to be, I'm sure.

A quick fix for the walls and ceiling, however, would be to just tack up some kind of tapestry or old sheets over the walls and ceiling.

Scope said...

I am of no help. I have no skills. You know, like plumming skills, electrician skills, carpentry skills... Girls only want boys who have great skills.

And my bathroom is seriously, my favorite room in my condo, even though I rarely use the whirlpool tub.

"I'll be leaving now," Scope says, as he dodges the empty wine bottles and rotting vegetable hurled at him.

Scope said...

But seriosly, play the mold prevention card. The normal seal that keeps moisture out of the walls has been broken. It might be okay now, when the air is so dry, but if nothing is done by spring, which is right around the corner, he's just asking for mold. Fixing the bathroom NOW will save him money not just in he long term, but in the mid term, also.

You say he lives inthe other half of the house? Does he want to have the WHOLE HOUSE evacuated while they treat for mold?

The phrase I like to use is, "enlightened self-interest". Make it clear how if he doesn't do this, it will TOTALLY screw him over, but it's not YOU doing it, it's the bathroom that is the common enemy. Since he's thinking "pocket book" Google the cost of a mold remediation in your area. That should get him out, stimulating the economy to the tune of a bathroom update.