Timing is everything, and the year our daughter was born, the Los Angeles real estate market was in a slump. It was the first time in my adult life that home prices had actually gone DOWN…

…and we took advantage of that by purchasing a bank-owned home whose previous owners had defaulted. The bank had made it move-in ready, with fresh paint and new carpets everywhere.

I remember thinking the house was perfect for our young family, and the only thing I wanted to change were the ugly bathrooms, which are small, featured 50-year-old formica sinks and counters, linoleum floors, and very little storage space.

That was 23 years ago. We never got around to doing anything about the bathrooms. Until this month.

The Sad Truth About Home Ownership

Let’s just say that during all those years I was lamenting on how tough it is to afford a house in Southern California, I never appreciated how tough it is to pay for the upkeep on one.

I now understand that homeownership is just a series of improvement projects that have to be taken one at a time, as your budget allows.

And the sad truth is – we often made hard choices that delayed home improvements until they were absolutely necessary. My husband’s family lives in the UK. Money that could have been plowed back into home improvements was instead used to visit my daughter’s grandparents.

I don’t regret that choice for a nano-second. My daughter is close to her grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins on both sides of the Atlantic. I call that a success – even if I’m ashamed to let anyone see where I live.

The Dreaded Ugly Bathroom

Several years ago, the shower in our master bathroom sprung a leak. The easiest way to deal with it was to simply stop using it. The shower in the guest bathroom tub works just fine.

A couple of years later, the toilet in the master bathroom broke, too. And then the plumbing in the sinks. The master bathroom became the place where we kept the cat box, and he was perfectly happy to have that space to himself.

This was not as hard as it sounds – especially after our daughter moved away, there were just the two of us. The only person who ever complained about it was my sister, who decided that a house with so many plumbing issues needed a second working toilet.

The Estimate

At one point, we did look into replacing all the broken bits and bringing the bathroom up to date.

We figured the project would cost about $10K.

The estimate came in at twice that amount.

For one thing, the entire room needed to be taken down to the studs. The space is small and the built-in vanity was about 5″ narrower than the prefab units on the market, and non-standard sizes cost more. New construction means bringing plumbing and electrical up to current building codes.

Half the cost of the estimate was for the demolition, so my husband vowed to do it himself. But he works long hours during the week, and when the weekend comes, all we want to do is relax. (This is one of those hard choices I mentioned earlier).

Before we knew it, another five years had passed.

Biting the Bullet

A couple of months ago, we came to the conclusion that we were never going to do the demo on the bathroom ourselves. We called a half a dozen contractors with 5-star ratings on Yelp and invited them in to bid on our bathroom project.

We had a rapport with one of them who gave us a quote we could live with. I spent the next several weeks obsessed with shopping for the components of a new, working, modern bathroom. Demolition commenced on July 8, and this last Saturday, we took our first shower in our new space.

I won’t show you pictures of the mess it was before (I was too ashamed to keep the evidence). And I’ll save the messy details of our renovation for a future post. But I’m here to announce that our ugly master bathroom is downright beautiful now:

We still have one more ugly bathroom to renovate, and I can’t wait. Hopefully, this time around, we’ll have the resources get it done sooner rather than later.