Updated March 16, 2019
George Vickroy said to me, “Mike this was the hardest DIY remodeling project I’ve ever done, but I’m getting so much more than I expected back from it!”
Doing a DIY bathroom remodeling project can be a pain. Plumbing, electrical, drywall, heating, heavy materials you’ve got to lug in and out of the home. The need to get constant input from the people leading you along the way. You have to have so many skills to – as Larry the Cable guy would say “get ‘er done” – it can be downright mind-boggling. The challenge becomes once you’ve decided to bite the bullet and tackle the job how do you pull yourself through it? How do you prevent from leaving a half-done trail of a “job-almost-well-done?” You don’t want your family asking, “So when are you going to finish the bathroom exactly?”
When I visited George and Tena Vickroy’s house to take pictures of their new bathroom (we worked together on the glass block walk in shower and solid surface shower pan in this job) it was amazing how George and I started reflecting on how our Dad’s advice was still ringing in our heads today (and in my case my Dad passed away 28 years ago!) – even while toiling through a bathroom remodel.
Maybe George and I got nostalgic about our Dads because we’re just a tad bit older (I’m 57, but think I can look 37 at any time after I use my magic $9.99 bottle of Miss Clairol for men hair coloring. I also think being “delusional and happy is a good thing- but I digress). Maybe it’s because as you get older you start to realize how much you don’t know. Maybe it’s because Dad had a lot of wisdom – but when we were young we sometimes blew him off and said to ourselves, “What does the old man know anyway?”
In the article below I’m going to show off the DIY bathroom remodeling project George did in conjunction with his wife Tena, his son Clayton, son in law Mike, friend Neil and even a former student KC Weber. We’ll look at this project through 6 thoughtful words of wisdom from our Dad’s. At the end of the article let me know if any of these “Dad-isms” (not sure that’s a word, but it should be) ring true with you. I know Dads can also be wacky (yes, I do resemble that remark – ask any of my 3 kids and they will back that statement up) – but sometimes the “old man” knows a thing or two, or six.
Dad’s Words of Wisdom #1 – “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” – Be practical
If you’re like George money didn’t grow on trees (and still doesn’t today). By necessity George had to be practical growing up – and still watches his money big-time today. When you’re doing a bathroom remodeling project you need to look at unexpected opportunities to get more bang for your buck (or more thought per square foot as my builder friend Mark Braunsdorf of Compass Homes would say). Bathrooms are tight – every inch counts.
George looked for practical ways to make the space not only work better for himself and Tena, but also designing the space to be able to fix problems down the road if they arise. One of these opportunities presented itself when George looked at the Home Depot vanities they picked up and didn’t think they were going to provide enough drawer and shelving space for Tena. So, he created 3 custom drawers and shelves around the corner to make the bathroom work better.
In addition, he wanted access to his plumbing down the road. This bookshelf (doesn’t everyone need a bookshelf in the “study” – AKA toilet area) comes out from the wall to provide access to the plumbing. Now that’s home-town ingenuity!
Dad’s Words of Wisdom #2 – “You can do this, son!” – Seek out inspiration
You may have heard the overused acronym for fear (False Evidence Appearing Real). Dad would challenge us to push through fear with a little of his magic dose of inspiration. Maybe you can remember your Dad helping you push through fear the first time you learned to ride a bike. I remember running inches behind all 3 of my kids teaching them to ride and hoping they wouldn’t fall and get scraped up all while saying, “you can do this!” Bathroom remodeling projects can be daunting. There are so many skills to know. How can you muster up the confidence to get this project done?
I would suggest looking for inspiration like you got from Dad when you were young. Inspirational construction systems and products which make the project simpler to do, inspirational YouTube videos showing you how, inspirational people (like Dad) who will give you words of encouragement or the swift kick-in-the-pants you need to get started. In George’s project, he used YouTube for the first time to get advice on various aspects of the job. He got lots of input from the guy at Home Depot. He came to my office and I told him as I set out the layout cards showing how the glass block wall would be shaped, “George, putting together this block shower wall is like an adult version of Lego-blocks. You’ll be able to do this yourself without a hassle.” Seek out inspiration and advice.
Dad’s Words of Wisdom #3 – “If Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy!” Make sure everyone using the bathroom will LOVE it!
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” If you were fortunate enough to grow up with parents who had a loving relationship you understand the truth in this equation. Love = Sacrifice. As Dad would say, “It’s not all about you son!”
A DIY bathroom remodeling project is not all about the man or woman doing the remodeling work. It’s about making a space everyone will love. George knew Tena really wanted a new bathroom – but he also understood the project wasn’t going to be cheap and would be difficult to do. He was willing to take this job on to make it nice for Tena (and nice for himself as well).
Tena took the lead in selecting the products (the biggest element was the glass block walk in shower) the colors (she selected blue pearl solid surface walls which actually sparkle) and “hidden comforts” including a heated flooring system. George – whose been married for a few years and has 3 grandkids to prove it– knows a happy wife does equal a happy life.
Dad’s Words of Wisdom #4 – “Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish” – Make wise investments
Do you remember half-do something and Dad caught you right in your tracks and refused to let you slide by? My Dad considered the word “mediocre” a dirty word. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish (that was one of my Dad’s favorite sayings).
In this project, George certainly took this fatherly advice about quality to heart. It takes some thought to shell out more money for an expensive product like a solid surface shower pan.
It would be cheaper to pour a concrete base and slap some mosaic tiles you get from the big box store. This is the short term cheapest way to get a shower base built, but is it the best? Poured in place (AKA a mud-set) shower pans are cheap – but they also leak the most. If your shower is not built on a foundation which is “built to last” you can have serious problems redoing the shower down the road. If a shower pan fails “Houston you have a big problem!” Not only does the pan have to come out – but usually the wall surrounds and possibly the ceiling below as well (failure is NOT a good option!).
In addition to the choice of a better pan for the floor, George and Tena made the shower significantly wider and deeper than their old 48 x 36 standard fiberglass unit. They are enjoying the additional size (which is 68” wide by 48” deep). As George said to me, “Mike, the thing I like the most is I can dry off and don’t get bloody elbows from banging against the shower walls anymore!”
While it was tough for George to part with the money for a more expensive and expansive shower pan – he embraced the fatherly advice not to be penny-wise and pound foolish and is enjoying the “dividends” (i.e. no bloody elbows) today.
Dad’s Words of Wisdom #5 – “When the student is ready the teacher will appear” – Be ready to learn…from everyone!
George – who is a retired elementary school teacher and principal – knows a thing or two about being a teacher. He not only was a teacher, but he hired hundreds of them along the way. When George was hiring, he looked for good people with lots of common sense (something his Dad demanded of him) who were willing to learn. Even with this being said, you also have to realize as a Dad, as a leader, or just as a random guy looking to get a DIY bathroom remodeling project completed a “wise person knows what they don’t know.” You need to get help and learn from others along the way.
It was ironic that one of the places George needed (and thankfully got) help was from a former student, KC Weber. Even though KC is busy growing his flooring business (KC Weber and Company Flooring) he took the time to help George (his former teacher) install the in-floor heating system (check it out below – it looks like some fancy Christmas lights).
Maybe the popular saying about students and teachers needs to be changed to – “when the teacher is ready his former student will appear!”
Dad’s Words of Wisdom #6 – “An ounce of perseverance is worth a pound of genius, and in this family, we ain’t got no genius, so work your butt off!” – Humility and hard work take you farther than arrogance
This is my favorite saying from my Dad. When my Dad figured out I was the guy admitted to an advanced college-education program at George Washington University when I was 17, but was only one of two people paying from the program (I was the guy admitted to “round out the class” – AKA probably the dude with the worst SAT scores) he pulled me aside and said, “Son, an ounce of perseverance is worth a pound of genius, and in this family, we ain’t got no genius so work your butt off!”
When I see the completed DIY bathroom remodeling project George and Tena did you know there was a lot of blood, sweat, maybe a few tears and aggravation (yes – cutting the part for the 3rd time is part of real-life remodeling projects all the time) which came along with the way.
While few of us are geniuses (not even those people at the “Genius Bar” in the Apple Store!), with tenacity (and a few friends and advisors along the way) we can get to the finish line – and to a bathroom which is cool and works exactly like we want it to.
Its funny I wrote this article about DIY bathroom remodeling from the perspective of fatherly words of wisdom when Mother’s Day is only a couple of days away. The reality is Dads are sometimes the “red-haired-stepchild” of the “parental-unit.” In most homes, Moms are “King” and Dads are “Queen” … at best. I can relate to this challenge of being behind “Mom” in importance. My son Parker, when he was 5 years old knew there was a Mother’s Day but he asked me, “Is there a Father’s Day also?” I tease him about this to this day (even though he is 18 I still won’t let him live it down!) No matter if your inspiration comes from Mom or Dad (or both) remember when you’re doing a DIY project of any sort to reflect on the lessons from your parents. It makes things go easier– and if they’re around and able, they may even lend you hand!
Can I (or a member of my team) help you?
It’s not good to “go it alone” for a DIY bathroom remodeling project. If you’re looking for input on DIY shower wall panels, glass block shower kits for nationwide supply call me (or any of us) at Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888. If don’t want to hassle with this DIY thing – we get it – call our Cleveland Design and Remodeling division at 216-658-1270 or The Bath Doctor in Columbus at 614-252-3242.
If you’re a remodeler or builder and want practical advice on remodeling products, industry trends, marketing and sales tips to grow your business (and cut day to day hassles), start reading my newest blog – Innovate Builders Blog. It’s packed with ideas you can use now. Click here to Sign Up for the Innovate Builders Blog.
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