Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Bitchen: Bathroom + Kitchen

Tim came over to help me install the shower pan and shower surround. When he saw the roofing panels he asked me if I didn't want to install a fiberglass shower surround.

"That would just be too suburban," I said.

"I knew I missed you," he said. It took him much longer to install my corrugated roofing panels, but it was worth it. He had to install a backer board to support the corner. And cut the panel to fit at the end. Then screw it all down with numerous screws. We will trim the edges with wood later.

I love the shimmering reflective surface. It is a humble building material that reminds me of Thailand. Yet it also has a modern industrial look to it.

Protecting the surface did worry me. I didn't want it to rust. Others who had used galvanized metal just sprayed on the Rustoleum clear aerosol, but aerosol products are against my religion. I chose the Rustoleum clear latex and brushed it on. It sagged a bit, but I just kept brushing it upward. At the end of the job I read the back of the can and it said not to use it on metal. Well heck. Then I read another tutorial on using galvanized roofing for a shower and they didn't protect it with any product and reported that it just dulled over time. So we'll see.

The drain for the shower pan proved a challenge to find at my local hardware store. Standard shower pans use a much bigger drain. This being an RV shower pan it had only a 2" drain. In the end I had to order a drain from an RV site. I chose one with a stopper so I could use the shower pan as a giant foot bath and a sink if needed. The RV pan has much higher sides than a conventional one so gave me this option. I hadn't decided whether to go with a conventional shower pan or an RV pan, but in the end I had to choose the RV pan because I was afraid the drain hole would land on top of one of the beams of the trailer below. Only RV pans offer a drain on the side like this. I also worried about how it would be installed because conventional shower pans need to be mudded in to drain properly. It turns out that the RV pan comes with a very thick styrofoam base that supports the pan so it drains properly. Tim had to cut some of the wood away from the wall to get it to line up flush to the wall. This was a better idea than trying to fill the void with wood as I had thought to do.

While Tim worked on the shower I worked on my kitchen cupboard doors. I had assembled the door frames with the Kreg tool and was satisfied with how that worked. I cut thin ply to cover the back of the doors and painted the ply to match. Then using the left over corrugated metal I cut pieces to fit inside the door frames. Tin snips were too arduous for cutting and left a mangled edge so I ventured to try the grinder with a metal cutting wheel and that worked well. I made sure to use the factory edge on the side that would be seen most and it looks fine.

I did not really like any of the door pulls I found at the hardware store although I would have used a nickel bar type handle if I had not found some conduit pipe hangers in my dad's workshop drawers. They inspired me to try making my own handles because they only had tabs on one side so did not need to be mounted flush. And when I held them up to the doors I found that I could mount them inside the frame which would then hold the conduit pipe away from the surface. This looked terrific when I put in the pieces of conduit pipe.

Having derived such cool handles I now needed to choose the right hinges. I tried gate style hinges, but they covered too much of the frame. It became clear that a butt hinge would mirror the shape of the handles in a very stylish way even though it would require the use of a chisel to cut a mortise for every single hinge twice. Style won out and I got out my chisels.

The completed cupboard door. Even though it took two pieces of leftover corrugated panel to cover the door you cannot see the joint. Such is the power of illusion. Viewed from above the line is not noticeable.

I also created a rolling cutting board cart to fit between the cabinets. It wasn't part of my design, but when I realized that I had made the counter taller than normal because I had forgotten to take into account the thickness of the counter I decided to make a pull out cart of the right height that would also give me the opportunity to work in a compost bucket for greater efficiency of clean up. And the height of the cart in turn created a perfect space for a trash can and recycling bin. The cart itself is only 8" wide but could support a cutting board of any width.

It took me a while to build this cart because of all the components that had to be painted separately. I again used pieces of doors which gives the shelves that nice thickness. Thin ply make up the back and side. I had a lot of conduit pipe left over from the 18 tables I made for a play two years ago so wanted to use it in the design. The construction is not as solid as I would want it to be because the conduit pipe flexes a little in the joint, but it is good enough.

I also took the trouble to install shelves in the back of the cabinet I got from the desk because Tim pointed out that there was space behind the drawers and he suggested I make a secret compartment. I decided I would make extra shelves which will come in handy for canned goods and other supplies.

Once installed the entire kitchen came together in a very satisfying way. All the components looked great together. I put in a different trash can I had in my office and the porthole gave the whole thing a nautical look like a ships galley.

You can also see the installation of my horse feeder sink which is simply screwed to the wall with lag bolts in the valleys of the corrugated panel. I ordered a sink drain from an RV store which was chrome and gave it a touch of class. Tim installed the hose bib which goes right through the wall and connects to an inlet valve for connecting to an outdoor hose. The inlet valve is another RV specialty item.

The wood counter is finished with 4 coats of Waterlox which is the preferred product for kitchen counters because it fills the pores of the wood and locks out moisture. It was easy to apply, but must dry 24 hours before it can be coated again. I was very pleased with how nicely that old desk cleaned up.

When I showed this picture on Facebook one of my fellow tiny house builders called it a Bitchen. It certainly isn't a bathroom in the conventional sense. I can still fit in the shower pan with the sink there and use it for bathing, but mostly it's a utility area for washing up. There is no shower head. Only a cold water tap. My intention is to fill the sink with cold water and add hot water from my electric kettle. Then pour water over myself Thai style. I couldn't be happier with how it all turned out.


  1. What a great idea for bathing! I have found that I really enjoy bathing in a similar way myself. Bathing in such ways makes it easier to focus on oneself and be aware of your water usage. It slows down the process and involves one in it. Thank you for sharing your housing path.

    1. Those are good points Ann. I'm looking forward to using it. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. A shower and they didn't protect it with any product and reported that it just dulled over time.