Covid Shower Reno


“It’s arrived! The MULTIPANEL Waterproof Shower Base Kit from Melbourne has arrived!!!”

The excitement was tangible. Several weeks in the making and the empty shell formerly known as the ensuite shower was finally about to take shape. 

Demolition had started in the throes of our semi Covid lockdown. There we were, holed up at home, and suddenly the bathrooms were looking a little tired. How about new shower screens to modernise? A little economically sensible lift would do the trick. A  bathroom Botox equivalent, as it were. Measuring and quotes ensued, and we were all set for sparkling new shower screens which surely would take years off its current state.

The shower screen company was inundated, and the installation would take weeks. No problem, we had time. Perhaps a little regrouting was in order. A trip to Bunnings later and my husband produced a grouting tool, an industrial vacuum cleaner (‘going for a song’) and a range of other little knick-knacks to ‘make the job easier’. I said nothing, knowing better than to come between a man and his tools. I made a sort of silent, compassionate Covid pact that from this time forth, I would only utter building statements.

My husband’s enthusiasm and increased handyman confidence had become increasingly contagious. Familial concern was met with a reminder of his kitchen recycled timber benchtop reno. A work in progress perhaps, but hey, almost there. So inflated was his confidence that I would not have been in the least surprised had he undertaken a light aircraft construction in the lounge room. Youtube is that powerful.

Anyway, back to the job. Regrouting the guest shower progressed with apparent ease. Our ensuite bathroom proved to be slightly less successful. After a little overzealous use of his ‘multi-tool’ a tile smashed to the floor. And then, before any consultation, he decided to smash them all. “Old anyway”. And there, one would think, it would stop. But no. Tiles, it seems, don’t just merrily part company with particleboards, they bring the board down with them. Still, this did not seem to be in any way problematic for my budding builder. He cut away the boarding with his handy little Youtube-inspired Japanese saw (bought online for another time, another job). 

All was going swimmingly until he sawed straight through a water pipe. Behold the dreaded home renovator groan, followed by a sprint to the water meter and an appearance of copious amounts of plumbers tape.  A real-life plumber arrived the following day but not before a slow leak through the night. A few hundred dollars later and our demolition derby was back on track.

The demolition included several trips to Bunnings and the aptly named Total Tools. For vague reasons, a “Detroit Demolition Hammer” was produced and my builder in training proceeded to jackhammer up the shower floor tiles including the shower “sand and mortar base”.

 Much later I heard him soberly chatting on the phone about breaking the seal. The only ‘breaking the seal’ that rang a bell had biblical connotations so at last, I ventured a question. What seal, why and how? Slightly sheepishly, he admitted that yes, he did break the shower seal. By mistake. “But hey, this is an old house, it was going to start leaking someday anyway.” In another 20 years, perhaps. Moving forward …

Next came long evenings of online research. Now and then I heard “Jack” or “Zac” or “Frederick” enthusiastically wax lyrical about how to make sealing your shower an absolute cinch. The long and short of it was that there was a revolutionary, no-fuss way to seal showers and all architects worth their salt were now on board. The slight hiccup was that it had to be ordered, cut to size and shipped from Melbourne. 

It would take weeks to exterminate … I mean fabricate. While waiting for the MULTIPANEL to arrive, some new tiles were in order. These were duly ordered, and delayed delivery meant plenty of time for further Youtube research.

 “I can do it,” he emerged, flushed with (false) promise after another video extolling the virtue and supposed simplicity of tiling oneself. Another trip to the big tool shop later and he had knee pads, face masks, tile grout, cement, tile spacers, even a ‘line laser level’ for perfectly straight lines. (“Look! It doubles as a disco light!”). He had acquired everything (and more) that a seasoned tiler would need for the job. Bandied words such as “puddle flange” were mentioned – sounding suspiciously like an eighties dessert! 

Another real-life plumber was called in “on an advisory basis” and to later install a brand new tap mixer (tellingly, the ‘Botox’ beginning was hurtling towards a full-blown facelift). I arrived home to a solemn twosome staring at our empty shell. For the very first time, my husband looked slightly crestfallen. He broke the news with a distinctly sombre tone. Elliot had advised him to enlist a tiler, a  professional, tiler. Bless his steel-capped boots. 

“Wouldn’t touch the job myself,” said Elliot. Now, when a seasoned tradie utters those words, you listen. Everyone knows tradies can do anything. Only social distancing curtailed my enthusiastic embrace of Sir Elliot. “I’ve got just the guys for you,” he added, soothingly.

Wally and his partner arrived the next day. They stared at the MULTIPANEL propped against the shell of a shower wall with a mixture of mystification and slowly, a rising element of respect. They’d never seen a MULTIPANEL before. Ever. In all their 30 plus years of tiling.

My husband looked on a little smugly, a glimmer of Covid confidence returning. “YouTube research,” he said. 

“And of course, I’ll need first to pour the levelling concrete and install the puddle flange.”

© 2020 Lois Nicholls, author & freelance journalist