One of the inevitable facts of life is that home renovation projects take longer than anticipated. The company managing the renovation had estimated the work would take five to six weeks, but here we are in week fourteen and there’s another one, possibly two, weeks still to go.
The project was supposed to have started way back in autumn, but COVID-19 put a stop to that. Then it was to be a early June start, and finally got under way in the first week of July – mid winter! As part of the project involved adding a large skylight in the expanded upstairs bathroom at one end of the house, and a light tube into the dining room at the other end, some delays were inevitable due to inclement winter weather.
On top of that there’s a total of 6 rooms involved to varying degrees, and the project manager has to organise tradies from his own company and the subcontracting businesses. It’s quite surprising how many subcontractors are involved: scaffolders; electricians; plumbers; plasterers; painters; vinyl floorers; light tube installer; double glazing installer. It only takes one subcontractor to fall behind schedule for some reason to have a flow on effect. And there’s been one flow on effect after the other…
However, we can now see light at the end of the tunnel. We have a working loo upstairs and downstairs at last. This might not seem a big deal to some, but at our age traipsing downstairs to the loo at the opposite end of the house to answer a call of nature in the small hours, and then traipsing back upstairs is no longer the trivial pursuit it once was.
For myself, I loathe turning on lights during the night. I’m hypersensitive to sudden changes in illumination. The experience borders on painful – probably an autism trait. To lessen the discomfort, we have a nightlight in the hallway that provides a soft illumination when there’s no other source of light.
While that’s perfect for getting from the bedroom to toilet, once the toilet door is closed, the problem of lighting raises its head. This is especially an issue for us males as we’re required to aim throughout the performance, so lighting is essential. In the past, its been a matter of gritting my teeth and bracing for the discomfort before switching in the light.
No longer. The new loo has built in lighting “under the rim” which makes hitting the target a simple task. No need to switch on that ceiling light any more. And the wife appreciates the heated seat and integrated bidet.
When it comes to “toilet technology” this country trails way behind the gadetry that can be found in the wife’s homeland of Japan. When I first visited Japan in 1971, heated toilet seats and integrated bidets were quite common. Now it’s not uncommon to find such gadgets as automatically opening lids, automatically raising or lowering the seat depending on which way round you approach the bowl, ultraviolet sanitising, automatic flushing, and integrated bidets that not only wash the privates but also gently air dry afterwards.
When I last visited Japan a couple of years ago, I found myself counting the number of controls in toilets and trying to figure out what each one was for as many only had Japanese script, which I can’t read. Some even had touch screens that as well as providing all the controls for the toilet, seemed to have the functionality that a smartphone or iPad would be proud of!
One commonality that both Japan and Aotearoa share is that it is rare to find the toilet in the bathroom. It’s in a room all by itself. In this country it’s always the case if there’s a single toilet in a home. It’s bad enough having a single toilet for a whole household, but the mind boggles to think of the complications that must arise in a typical family household when washing and toileting share a common space.
And how can anyone enjoy a long luxurious soak in the bath knowing that at any time someone might have an urgent call of nature? It really doesn’t bear thinking about.
And while on the subject of toilets, what is it with American toilets? Most American toilet bowls contain enough water to float the Titanic in! It took me a long time to get over the fact that they weren’t blocked and about to overflow. Ours are “minimalist” when it come to water. as you can see from this snapshot of our new installation.
There’s a little over 30 cm (12 inches) from the water line to the top of the bowl whereas in the US the waterline in some toilets was so high, one is in danger of dunking one’s undercarriage.
Our new toilets are somewhat more water efficient than our old ones, being dual flush,and using either 3 litres (0.66 gallons) or 4.5 litres (0.99 gallons). I know President Trump has issues with water efficient loos. Apparently he finds it necessary to flush them up to ten times after use. May I suggest, Mr President, that the problem isn’t the loo, it’s you. Get yourself sorted.
But back to the renovation project. The largest part involved expanding the bathroom on the upper floor into unused roof space so that we could install a decent sized bath. The old one was narrow not very deep and very short. It was impossible to immerse the entire body at once, and no way could the wife and I share a bath. So we overcompensated.
The new bath is a whopper, being 1795 mm (70.7 inches) long by 1050 mm (41.3 inches) wide by 490 mm (19.3 inches) deep and holds 275 litres (around 70 gallons). Plenty big enough for the two of us. We would have liked to have installed a Japanese style bath but they’re not readily available in this country and due to the quantity of water they hold, considerable strengthening of the floor joists would have been involved. As it was, it was necessary to fix steel plates to the joists underneath the new bath.
The new bathroom is divided into in two zones, somewhat similar to a typical Japanese bathroom. A dry area that contains the vanity units, storage units heated towel rails etc, and a wet area that contains the bath, shower, and body jets. The two zones are separated by a glass door and glass side panel on which is printed a photograph of a Japanese autumn scene.
And that glass door is the last of oh so many delays. The manufacturers mistakenly made the glass door and panel to standard door height specifications instead of the size of the opening between the two zones, which extends to ceiling height. So now they have to manufacture a new door and side panel and reprint the image onto the glass. It’s supposed to take up to ten working days to complete which means it won’t be ready until Wednesday next week.
And when this project is complete, we start planning for the next one, which is painting the exterior of the house. Due to the height of the building and steep pitch of the roof, health and safety regulations requires safety scaffolding to be used. Unfortunately as the scaffolding will exceed six metres (19.7 ft) in height, it must be installed by a certified scaffolder. It’s going to be expensive – very expensive, both to hire and install.
Some might argue that as only the wife and I occupy our very large (by NZ standards), multifloor home at the top of a steep hill, we would be better off moving into a smaller single floor dwelling on the flat, especially as we’re now in our seventies.
But we’ve grown into the space available and the incredible view eastwards over the town to the Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges, and Manawatu Gorge in the distance is priceless. We’ve decided we’re staying until we’re carried out in a wooden box.