My 16-year-old daughter has always shown a bit of interest in the projects I work on. When she was 8, I taught her how to finish sheetrock while I was finishing our basement to make room for baby number 4. She picked it up quickly! Now she says she wants to help with the tile and learn how to do that. I saw my opportunity and explained that it all starts with the prep work and when doing a shower, the first step is the curb. I’ve torn out too many rotten curbs over the years, so I no longer make them out of 2x4s, but pour a concrete curb instead. I mixed up concrete and poured it out into my form for her and had her work to spread it out and give it a nice even top.
The fun didn’t stop there though. Once that cured and I could remove the forms, it was time for making the pre-slope for the shower floor. I’ve helped in this process before, by mixing the “mud”, but have never actually tried my hand at doing it. So, like any good father looking to expand his daughters’ horizons, I mixed more mud and instructed her on how to make the pre-slope. Much like the sheetrock years ago, it turned out pretty good!
Before we could install the mud bed though, I installed the vinyl shower pan liner with a little help from my wife, Stephanie. Folding the inside corners of the pan wasn’t bad, but I was having trouble visualizing how to cut the liner to go over the curb and I didn’t want to cut it wrong. Stephanie is much more visual than I am, so she was a great help in “measuring twice and cutting once”. To make sure everything was leak free before installing the mud bed for the floor, I needed to block off the drain and fill the pan with water. I’m pretty sure I have an inflatable test plug at the office, but I didn’t feel like driving to the office to search for it. This is where one of the younger kids was helpful, without even knowing it. I mentioned my dilemma to Stephanie and asked if we had any balloons. From somewhere in the kid’s stuff, she produced a long “punch balloon” made of thick latex. I stuck it down the shower drain, blew it up, tied it off and low and behold, it worked!! After filling the pan with water and letting it sit for several hours, there was no sight of a leak, so I pulled out the balloon and watched all the water quickly drain away, leaving just a couple of small puddles where we didn’t get the pre-slope “just right”. Little did she know, that wasn’t the end of her involvement. With Christmas break ending and my daughter getting back into the routine of school and dance, her time to help pretty much vanished.
Not wanting Stephanie to feel left out, I asked for more help, explained what I was looking for with the slope of the mud bed and got to work mixing more cement and sand for her to start packing and shaping. At some point she became too uncomfortable crouching on the floor working and I had to take over. I’ll admit, this didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. Our level line around the edges wasn’t so level and I have a pesky flat spot near the drain on one side. Anything is fixable though and I’ll just need to address those issues before we start laying any tile on the floor.
So far, I’ve roped my wife and 16-year-old daughter into helping with this shower. Now I just have to figure out how to get the other 3 kids involved (if I can even call the 19-year-old a kid anymore). Maybe if I play my cards just right, when I get too old to do this type of work, I can call on them to come help. Or more realistically, maybe one day when they have their own houses, they won’t be afraid to tackle some DIY projects of their own around their own homes. I’ll consider that a win.