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July 21, 2013
The master bathtub


In the upstairs sitting room, Gail works on a supporting structure for the master bathtub

Last weekend, we finally finished the staircase at our mountain home after working on it for almost four years. This weekend, we finally got to a project that we’ve had on hold for the past three and a half years.

Back in February 2010, Gail found a five-foot bathtub on Craigslist. It would be years before we would need a bathtub, but she thought the deal was too good to pass up. We bought it and brought it up to our mountain home, where it has been sitting in a corner ever since. To be fair, our occupancy permit only required one functioning bathroom, which we satisfied with the hall bathroom. The rest of the items on the occupancy checklist became our highest priorities.


In February 2010, we made a map of the mountain house master bathroom on our Bay Area kitchen floor to make sure we had room for a five-foot bathtub


The bathtub has been sitting in a corner of the mountain house master bathroom gathering dust for the past three and a half years

Our occupancy permit is now in hand, and the master bathroom is one of the last unfinished areas of the house. With the stairs finished, Gail asked if we could finally build a structure to support the tub. Russell warned her that the initial work would involve more measurement than assembly, and we wouldn’t make much visible progress during a first weekend.

Russell needn’t have worried. He was able to find his old notes from 2010 when he had sketched out full designs for the bathtub structure. We would be able to hit the ground running.

We drove the van up on Thursday, July 18, with some 2x4 boards in the back. It was another long commute during the afternoon rush hour, so we didn’t start work until Friday morning. Once again the weather throughout the weekend was in the mid-90s, and once again we were crabbier with each other than we wanted to be.

Our first step was to revisit Russell’s original design, which was an oddly-shaped supporting platform designed to fit into the small bathroom. After mapping it out on the floor, Gail decided to make the platform even smaller.

    
Russell's original notes from 2010…

    
… and his revised notes from 2013

    
Before we could start, we had to remove some cement board from the floor where the tub structure would be installed

Our manufacturing process was straightforward. We constructed each side of the five-sided structure as a square of 2x4s. When it looked like we would run out of wood, Gail reduced the number of joists, saving us a trip to the hardware store. By Friday evening, we had the framing completed and assembled.

    
The framed structure in place. On the right, the three braces that will support the tub.

Saturday’s challenge was to make a flat OSB platform for the top. It had to be the same size as the pentagonal shape, with a hole in the middle for the bathtub. The hole had to be four inches smaller than the outside lip of the tub, so the structure could support the tub like a gigantic cup holder. Russell traced the bathtub onto a sheet of clear plastic, then eyeballed a smaller oval on the OSB. We cut the OSB with a skill saw and a jigsaw.

    
Once he had traced the outline of the bathtub, Russell used some geometry to find the exact center point. This helped us determine how to make the platform completely symmetrical around the tub.

    
We cut the outside of the OSB with a skill saw. We cut the inside with a jigsaw.

    
The structure with the OSB platform and bathtub in place

The next step was to construct a cement board with the exact same shape as the OSB. (The cement board will support the final tile finish.) Unfortunately, most of our Hardie Back cement board is back home in the Bay Area. Fortunately, Gail scrounged enough pieces on hand to cover the entire shape. Unfortunately, one of the pieces was too hard and thick to cut with the jigsaw.

It was late afternoon, and we decided to make the hour-and-a-half round-trip into town to buy some more. We were on a roll and wanted to finish. We got back just before sundown, and we cut the final piece of cement board outside as the sun set. (We turned on an electric fan to keep the mosquitoes away.)

    
We cut the cement board outside because of all of the fine dust. We went through three jigsaw blades cutting the cement!

Sunday morning was devoted to cleaning up the gigantic mess we had made upstairs and downstairs, inside and outside the house. The tub is now sitting inside of its support structure, and our next step will be to call our plumber to connect the water and drainage lines to the tub. Then we can do all of the finishing work.


The structure with cement board. We won’t install the sides until the tub has been fully plumbed.

On the wildlife front, we only had two deceased rodents this trip, both from sticky traps. However, Gail keeps hearing something rather large in the ceiling between floors – coincidentally, right below the upstairs master bathtub. At some point in the near future, we will need to remove this part of the ceiling to plumb the bathtub. At that time, we will undoubtedly find out what’s making all that noise. We can hardly wait to find out.


A view of the master bathroom with the bathtub in place. Gail plans to install tile all around, a shower and a corner shelf unit.

 

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