By Catherine Zola
Wood and nails for anyone who can use tools and has built a book shelf can be conquered to one degree or another. Plumbing however, is a problem. It took me three tries to get running water in my tiny house WITH help! I used my welding skills from college sculpting class, and wished I had learned more in algebra so I could calculate materials etc. But I didn’t cry until I got to wash my first dish in two years in warm, indoor running water. But those were tears of joy.
The shower however has been another story altogether. For the last two years I have showered in the garden, behind a rose bush, under a water tower. For six months of that the water was warmed in the hose by the sun until I discovered a wonderful invention called an outdoor propane water heater. Who knew such things existed. My outdoor shower recently got an upgrade with some free sliding glass doors that providence sent to me, probably out of pity. They help keep the elements at bay and provide a wonderful view of the mountains until I figure out the mystery of indoor shower creation. Which after two years and three months I am still doing.
And here is how it has been going:
Let me start with this: It is particularly important to trust the timing in projects when you don’t know what you are doing. It takes time to research materials, to discover new angles, to invent solutions when none exist, and to make modifications to fit insurmountable personal or material limitations. One needs to mull things over, cogitate, acquire new knowledge and skills for a huge project such as building a house. Unless of course you are lucky enough to be a carpenter. I have complained about how long an indoor shower has taken to figure out but if I had rushed I would never have found Schluter Kerdi.
I bought the heavy cement board one usually lines showers with but took it back after some consideration. Each panel was so heavy I couldn’t fathom fitting it into a house with weight restrictions. There has to be a way to make a shower water proof without that nonsense I cried. If I had not designed my tiny shower with a bench I would have broken down at that point and bought an RV plastic shower. But no, I had to do things the hard way because I figured if I was going to go to the trouble of building my own house I wanted it how I wanted it and that’s final! But I paid. It took me months of searching for alternative water barriers and cheap, thin, lightweight, glass tile. Finally found the tile: Bright orange was the only color they had. Good thing I like orange! And then I went into a tile place in town and the nice man behind the counter told me about Schluter Kerdi – a European shower system that uses cement and thin water proof paper. It was expensive and a lot of work, but I got it installed.
Then came the nightmare of cementing over that and placing the tiles. Something I should have taken a class on before attempting. Or maybe at least watched a couple dozen youtube videos. I am finally at the caulking stage and using a dark green color to tone down the color of the tiles. The bench of course just added to the pain and headache but in the end it really does compensate for the tiny size of the shower by allowing you to sit down to wash your hair etc.
Despite all the trauma and time I’m mostly pleased with the bathroom’s design because it is open and contributes to an ample feeling to the house. If you clock how much activity a bathroom gets it is small in comparison to the amount of space it takes up in tiny homes. I wanted the space to be usable when it wasn’t being used as a bathroom so I altered the original design and removed the door, and widened the doorway so the light from the bathroom window would enter the kitchen. Now the bathroom bench is usable for visitors to sit on while I cook.
Schluter Kerdi paper (coincidentally the same lovely orange as the cheap tile I found), paper backed tiles from hell (but they were 2.50 a sheet as opposed to the $15+ glass tile normally is) You get what you pay for my mother always said. And the paper removed. Ooooh almost looks like a shower. Wow!
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