My wife and I bought a roughly 40-year-old country home several years ago. We've tackled many remodeling projects in the house and are pleased with the results. The worst experience, however, was the day my wife came home to find half an exterior wall missing from the house - when I was just supposed to be installing a new tub surround!
The bathroom on the main floor was still original. Besides updating the fixtures, sink, toilet and flooring, we also wanted a new tub / shower surround. As it would be the largest piece to install, I wanted to tackle it first. One Saturday morning, I started removing the old surround with the help of my buddy, Jeff. My wife kissed me goodbye and headed into town for a day of errands and grocery shopping.
Jeff and I got the old fiberboard surround out without too much grunt work, only to discover that the caulk job around it had deteriorated years ago, so water from every shower since had penetrated and destroyed the wall plaster. So, we set to work pulling off crumbling plaster, resigned to the fact we'd have to re-drywall the tub area.
An hour later, we finished making a major mess, broken plaster and chalky dust strewn from the tub, out of the bathroom, through the kitchen and outside to a pile. Then, we found water-damaged, rotten wall studs at the end of the tub - the outside wall of the house. I looked at Jeff. He looked at me. We went and got beer from the fridge.
After a few minutes of discussion, we came to the only option: The studs and sole plate would have to be replaced. It's amazing the weight of the upper floor hadn't snapped the rotten studs. We headed out to the garage and grabbed some two-by-sixes. Back in the bathroom, I cut the stuff to fit, and we braced the ceiling joists.
I went to get the chainsaw while Jeff confirmed that, thankfully, there was no electrical wiring or piping in this section of the wall. Even with ear plugs in, that chainsaw still deafened us inside the small room.
Ten minutes later, the bathroom wall fell onto the grass, giving me a view of my wife pulling into the driveway. Jeff disappeared somewhere. Thanks buddy.
Fortunately, my wife, after taking a few minutes to breathe and calm down, was rather understanding. We had planned to replace the siding that summer anyway, so that timetable just got bumped up. The new tub surround was easy to move into the house with such a nice big hole right there. Jeff and I made quick work of re-studding the wall, and we threw up some plywood sheeting to close things up at about 11:00 that night.
So, it was more work than I ever expected just to install a tub surround, but I can't say it wasn't fun to cut a wall out with a chainsaw and yell "Tim-ber!" as it fell.
By Robert Birnschein