The Bunker


Day 23. We have walls and a ceiling.


And what walls they are. ‘HardieBacker’ replaces plasterboard as the optimal stud wall lining for tiles and apparently it’s like sawing into concrete. Right at the moment the room manages to create the sort of ambiance one might enjoy while standing inside a sea container. Or, indeed, a bunker. If (God forbid) the three minute warning should ever sound in these parts the builders, so I’m told, will all be legging it over here and sheltering in our bathroom as the most bombproof structure they know.

It’s plasterboard on the ceiling. If it had been any other room in the house we’d have been calling up the lime plasterers, getting the laths replaced and finishing it with haired mortar and lime skim in the traditional way. As we did with the bedroom. The trouble is, this time it’s not just any other room in the house, it’s the bathroom. With a power shower. And humidity. Back in the days when the house was built there were no such things as bathrooms. A tin tub in the garden, or hauled inside in winter and placed in front of the fire, was as good as it got: just as we saw Ross Poldark demonstrate, rather enticingly as it happens, in a recent episode of the historical drama. Back then they didn’t need to worry about the fact that lime plaster and excess humidity don’t go well together because excess humidity had yet to be invented. Certainly as far as a power shower in a windowless bathroom was concerned.

The solution was to rebuild the room as a ‘pod’ within the main body of the house, created using modern materials, which will enable us to enjoy all the trappings of a 21st century bathroom experience while allowing the old structure to continue to breathe, unencumbered, around it.



Another bit of progress this week: the wet room deck for the shower.



The beautiful old beam.

I couldn’t board that up. Especially now that Mike has managed to strip the beam of the layers of black paint which sadly covered it before. It’s the opposite end of the room from the shower and vapour extraction should keep the worst of the steam at bay.



Day 25. The ceiling is plastered and the ‘first fix’ is complete.


Five weeks in and it’s fair to say that the novelty of ablutions in what was once a guest en-suite bathroom has long since worn off. This bathroom was clearly designed for guests who might not want/be required to stay for very long. It’s little more than the size of a cupboard to be honest. The corner sink has the capacity of a shoe box and if that wasn’t bad enough there is a corner vanity cupboard placed on the wall directly above it. Cleaning one’s teeth of a morning requires a bodily contortion that surely no vertebrate should ever be asked to perform, prising your head into the minuscule gap between the cupboard and the sink, your face suspended a bare two inches clear of the ceramic. It’s either that or open the cupboard and plunge your forehead into the array of shaver (his), deodorant, moisturisers and all other paraphernalia of the daily routine to gain that vital extra inch or so of over-sink airspace. I generally opt for the latter.

But, no matter. Yesterday we had the first working day sans tradesmen for all of those five weeks. The bathroom is now prepared for tiling and there’s a natural pause in proceedings until the tiler is free to start work. The builder took me aside on Friday and quietly intimated that Mike was planning to take me for a grand day out. Slap up lunch and everything. To make up for all the hardship suffered during the last month and a bit. Should I have noticed a mischievous glint in the builder’s eye? Possibly. We got as far as the tile shop. To buy grout.



The new bathroom tiles.

A warm light grey for the main walls and floor and a positively glowing turquoise for the feature back wall behind the bath.


It’s a long time since we’ve done any tiling. Naively I had assumed that grout still came in white. Or grey. And maybe a slightly darker shade of grey for the truly adventurous. But no. Nowadays it seems grout comes in just about any shade you can think of. Even turquoise. Comprehensive colour charts are produced. And, should you be one of those lucky people taken on a special outing to the tile shop by your husband, you can have really cool little sticks of grout (each contained within its own metal housing) to lay alongside your tile of choice.

We opted for white grout. But the darker grey for the turquoise. Somewhere, buried deep in the heap of discarded copper pipes and offcuts of HardieBacker, a scrap of that old pioneering spirit may still linger on.



2018-08-22T14:57:32+00:00August 21st, 2018|Tags: |


  1. Jayne Hill August 21, 2018 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Visions of an extremely tortuous early morning version of Twister – just to clean your teeth, no self-respecting gardener should have to start her day with such indignities.
    I don’t suppose decamping downstairs and using the kitchen sink would be easier? Analogous to our campervan – which has a TINY bathroom, with an even TINIER sink – it’s honestly easier to wash in the TINY kitchen sink, which at least is more accessible 🙂

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      A tiny sink I could cope with too, but accessibility is the problem for sure. You just can’t get near the wretched thing! Every week I tell myself it won’t be for much longer and so I stick it out. Nearly six weeks now..

  2. Denise August 21, 2018 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Firstly, it looks like you have Daleks trapped behind your HardieBacker. (Sorry, but that just made me laugh in a ‘Carry On…’ kind of way.) Are you storing them in preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse? Will the workmen or Ross Poldark release them before taking up residence in your super-duper 21st century all mod cons bathroom, because let’s face it, if you’re going to be trapped in one room in your house during a Zombie Apocalypse it’ll always be the bathroom. Well, the bathroom with a kettle, maybe? And a fridge. And a little camping stove. It’s all very exciting!!

    Secondly, I am VERY proud of your step towards the Colour Side. I like to think it is a reciprocation based on my own recent compromise of painting my front bedroom ‘Pebble’ which is basically ‘Grey’ and you know how much we battle about grey. Kudos, my friend! It’s a lovely turquoise. I look forward enormously to seeing them in situ in all their gloriousnessnessness…(shut up, Denise…sigh….)

    And thirdly, well…much admiration of your determination to do right by your lovely home. Your integrity, your precision, your attention to detail….ooooh, EVERYTHING! And providing us readers with such an entertaining read, too. It will be a marvellous bathroom indeed.

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      Well thank you very much Denise. Every time I rise up on my tippy toes to perch atop the cantilevered loo (it may yet be too high) I shall now be thinking of the daleks hidden behind the HardieBacker and wait to be exterminated. Surely only Ross Poldark can save me. Actually, that might not be so bad..
      I too am very much looking forward to seeing the tiles going up on the walls. The tiler would seem to be very good. If anyone can cope with the challenges of the chez rusty duck bathroom, hopefully he can.

  3. derrickjknight August 21, 2018 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Such an amazing project – more comfortable to watch than to carry it out

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      My front row seat is a little too close for comfort.

  4. Mary August 21, 2018 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Love the beam. That brings the past and the present together very nicely in that humid environment.

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      The glass door in the old oak frame will definitely do that too. If we can overcome the technical challenges of fitting it!

  5. wherethejourneytakesme August 21, 2018 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    My days out with DH are always to the builders yards or such like – some places I feel too scared to get out of the car like the merchant near Armley prison in Leeds!
    Looking good though – and yes I know what you mean about the grout it looks like a box of Caran Dache. Soon you will be able to get it mixed like paint LOL!!
    We are about to be invaded again to have part of our house rendered – it involves grinding – really? More dust on my garden – just cleaned up from the grinding when the repointing was done.
    As you so calmly say – onwards!

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      I do love it when suppliers go to that degree of effort to showcase their product. Especially something like grout, where you really don’t expect a premium product experience! Sadly those little boxes are apparently proving too expensive to produce and they’re going over to sticks of plastic (!) to represent the colours. Arrrrgggh!

  6. Linda from Each Little World August 21, 2018 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Love your comment that humidity had not been invented yet! Sometimes I am not sure if the multitudeof choices are a step forward or back.

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      We do have too much choice these days. It’s certainly made the bathroom project a lot harder, but maybe that’s just me.

  7. Kris P August 21, 2018 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    You face challenges I can’t even conceive of. I love that turquoise tile, though. As to the builder’s trick to pack you off the tile shop, I hope you demanded lunch out at least!

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      I can’t complain. We had a lovely lunch out the day before so perhaps two days running would have been excessive. And a weekend of plant buying opportunities, of which I took full advantage!

  8. offtheedgegardening August 21, 2018 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Great progress, love the tiles, won’t be long now ……. 🙂

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Plenty of water to go under the bridge yet..

  9. Chloris August 21, 2018 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    Your energy is amazing, I feel tired just reading about your projects. Different coloured grout? It’s a whole new world.

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      It is. A frightening world. I have enough trouble with paint, which we’ve also had to choose this week. My head hurts.

  10. germac4 August 21, 2018 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    What a project … I’m intimidated by re-doing the grouting .. especially now that I know I’ll have to choose a colour! Good luck!

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Opting for white leaves me with all sorts of qualms about keeping it white.. but I can’t see any alternative if we want a light and airy look.

  11. Vera Coe August 22, 2018 at 8:27 am - Reply

    I love the colour of the tiles you have chosen,,,,,very elegant and quite in keeping with the rest of the cottage.

    • Jessica August 22, 2018 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks Vera. The turquoise was a chance find when we went into the showroom to look at something else entirely. Love at first sight, I just hope it will work!

  12. Carrie Gault August 23, 2018 at 11:30 am - Reply

    oh good golly I just love this, you are living my dream but without me having to do all the worrying and decision making – THANK YOU! xx

    • Jessica August 26, 2018 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      And what a lot of worrying and decision making there is.. six weeks of it have left me exhausted!
      Thank you for your lovely message via the contact form too. To hear that you’re enjoying the blog so much is enough to make me more than happy. x

  13. hb August 23, 2018 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    Did I really miss Ross Poldark without his shirt on?!? Drat!

    Beautiful tiles! My own bathroom remodel project commencement is imminent; so I ponder your adventure with hope and fear. Mine won’t be nearly so interesting. No beautiful and ancient beam, for example.

    • Jessica August 26, 2018 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Poldark mania has reached California? Wowser. Although I shouldn’t really be surprised.
      Best of luck with the bathroom remodel Hoov. There’s no easy way to do it. I just hope, for your sake, it doesn’t take six weeks and counting!

  14. grammapenny August 24, 2018 at 2:14 am - Reply

    oh yum.. i love the turquoise.. it will look fabulous with the dark gray grout too.. can’t wait to see the results

    • Jessica August 26, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      I’m waiting for the turquoise tiles going up with hope and fear, to steal hb’s words above. I hope it will look fabulous, but it’s not something I’ve ever tried before. What to do if it doesn’t??

  15. Virginia August 25, 2018 at 5:24 am - Reply

    That builder knows you well!! I’m not sure about white grout Jessica. We opted for a fairly pale grey grout for our (modern) bathroom, and I’m glad we did, as the grout in the kitchen (no, it’s a waterproof sealing product) has started to shlow dark patches where we stand the chopping boards behind the taps. Sigh. He doesn’t even notice it, but I can’t stand it. It will have to be replaced.

    • Jessica August 26, 2018 at 8:58 pm - Reply

      I have been in two minds about the white grout I must confess. A windowless room needs to be light, so with the exception of the turquoise feature wall that’s the way we’ve gone. A darker grout would emphasize all the joins, especially over the shower tray where there are, of necessity, many lines of grout to follow the changes in level. But what if in two months’ time the white will start to look less than white? The tiler believes any potential problem can be overcome by using a spray sealant, reapplied at regular intervals. But I will speak to him again. I do need to be sure. Thank you for your thought provoking comments Virginia.

  16. Cathy August 25, 2018 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Where was coloured grout when I wanted it the last time it I tiled?! Interesting to read about the HardieBacker board too. What fun you are having Jessica!

    • Jessica August 26, 2018 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      Some of the colours are truly amazing and predictably not stocked by the little tile shop in deepest Devon. A bit like Arsenic on the Farrow and Ball paint chart, I did wonder how many of them ever get used. Although I do have a match pot of Arsenic. It was bought as a joke when I was contemplating the colours for Mike’s study walls..

  17. bumbleandme August 25, 2018 at 8:13 am - Reply

    I’m sure your patience won’t go unrewarded, it’s going to be beautiful. And those tiles are most beautiful opulent colour. I can’t wait to see it all finished, and I hope for your sanity’s sake, it’s not too long. Xxx

    • Jessica August 26, 2018 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      I hope it’s not too long either but I rather think it might be, knowing what still has to be done. Never mind. Plenty to do in the garden to keep me distracted. Once it’s dried out after all today’s rain!

  18. aberdeen gardening August 27, 2018 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Oh Yes, coming on very nicely. I can picture it now, perhaps you could add a music thingy to the power shower, I have seen this, honest.

    • Jessica August 27, 2018 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      That would go very well with the disco strobing pee light.. 🙂

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