It’s Just a Shower Curtain! How Hard Can it Be?! (Part 2)

When I left you at the end of my last post, I was standing in line at Menards with my shower curtain rod in hand, eagerly anticipating the prospect of taking a real shower the next morning.

When we got home from Menards, I went right to work assembling the rod. Well, I tried, anyway. I pulled all the pieces out of the box, checked to make sure everything was there, and then started reading the instructions. The curtain rod was designed to go with a free-standing clawfoot tub. Usually for that kind of setup, the plumbing for the shower would be exposed, so the first step in the installation process was to fasten the main hoop piece to the vertical pipe that ran water to the shower head. Our tub obviously isn’t free-standing and doesn’t have an exposed vertical pipe, so I skipped that step.

Picture of the shower curtain rod box

The front of the shower curtain rod is designed to attach to the plumbing, but it also has two supports that screw into the wall.

Picture of the bathtub

My non-free-standing tub with no exposed vertical pipe.

The next step was to install the framework to hold up the curtain rod. There were two horizontal support pieces that were supposed to screw into the wall by the shower head and then run to the front of the hoop. I needed to measure how far we wanted the hoop from the wall, and then cut the supports to that measurement.

That’s when I realized we needed a hacksaw. After looking around in our house and garage, Zach and I determined that the previous owners did not leave us a hack saw. So, back to Menards for a hacksaw.

At Menards, a helpful employee pointed out the hacksaws, and I even thought to buy an extra blade in case the first blade broke. (Hacksaw blades tend to do that).

Back at home, I did a temporary assembly of the main hoop part of the rod in order to determine the placement. I was disappointed to realize that the shower curtain rod was significantly smaller than our tub. However, I decided that as long as the hoop was centered over the tub it would still work out okay. I got Zach’s input on placement, measured the desired distance from the wall, and went to work cutting the supports to the right length. The first hacksaw blade broke, but the replacement–a better quality blade made specifically for cutting metal–finished the job. I had finally made some actual progress!

Cutting the supports resulted in two nearly-identical pieces of extra pipe. I put two and two together and decided to use them to make the hoop the same size as the tub. The only problem was that these pieces were the same diameter as the hoop pieces, so they wouldn’t fit either inside or outside of them. Undaunted, I took a hammer to the ends of the spare pieces in an attempt to pound them into a shape that would fit inside the other pieces. After several frustratingly unsuccessful attempts I decided to give it up. An undersized hoop would have to do.

After cutting the supports to the right length, the next step was, of course, to screw them to the wall. For this, I needed to determine the exact placement of the curtain rod. Since the hoop would have to run by the window anyway, Zach and I thought it should be high enough to hold a curtain that would completely cover the window. No extra curtain rod necessary. This meant that the rod couldn’t be more than five inches below the ceiling.

I measured and marked the placement for the first support, figured out where to drill pilot holes, and then started drilling with my special ceramic tile drill bit. Close to an hour later, tired and discouraged, I went to find Zach so he could finish drilling the first hole. Zach was able to finish the hole pretty quickly, so we were finally ready to put in the first screw. Unfortunately, although we had gotten all the way through the tile, we hadn’t drilled far enough into the plaster behind it. The screw broke off in the hole, and we had to start drilling all over again.

We were now up past our normal bedtime, but we were determined to get the shower curtain up. Thankfully, the drilling went faster with Zach at the helm. After getting through the tile we used a longer, normal drill bit on the plaster behind, and so we got the first support up without much more trouble. Around midnight our sleepiness won out over our desire for a normal shower, and we headed to bed.

On Monday morning, we took took our improvised showers again. This worked wonders on our motivation to complete our little project.

The next step in the process was to drill holes for the second support. We measured and marked the location for the support, and got to work. The drill bit was getting dull, so I started the holes with a larger bit and switched to the correct bit before the holes got too big. This approach worked well, and kept the process from taking forever. In retrospect, this was a great decision, because the correct-sized bit broke before we finished the last hole. Thankfully we were almost done drilling, so we decided to try going the rest of the way through with the broken bit. Amazingly enough, it worked!

We were finally ready to attach the second support to the wall. Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts at measuring, we had placed the pilot holes too far apart. Our options were quite limited because the first support was already placed and our special bit was broken–not to mention that we were sick of drilling through tile!–so we decided to use just one screw to fasten the support to the wall. Once the screw got about halfway in, though, it wouldn’t go any more. We didn’t want to round the bit or the screw, and we also didn’t want to risk breaking another screw, so we called it good. Since the first screw didn’t go all the way in, though, I tried adding the second screw to make things a little more stable. Contrary to my expectations, this worked out pretty well–at least, the second screw went in as far as the first screw had, and the support seemed much more firmly in place.

Now it was time to start assembling the actual hoop and attaching it to the supports. Once we put the front part of the hoop together, we realized that the supports weren’t level with each other. This meant that the hoop wouldn’t be quite level. It wasn’t a big difference, though, and the supports were a little bit moveable, so we hoped we could level it out when we put up the support on the back of the hoop.

But then the support at the back was another problem. Although it was never stated on the box, or even explicit in the instructions, this support would only work if the curtain rod was at least a foot below the ceiling. We had placed it a mere 5 inches from the ceiling.

You would have think I would have been tipped off by the length of the support pole in the picture.

You would think I would have been tipped off by the length of the support pole in the picture.

As I thought about how to make it work, I came up with two possible solutions:

  1. Make two more cuts with the hacksaw (something I was not excited about doing) and drill a hole through the metal tube (which I wasn’t even sure would work), or
  2. Come up with a completely different method of supporting the back of the hoop, which would require another trip to Menards.

We opted for the second choice, but with all the time it had taken to get the supports up and take care of our other responsibilities (such as going to work) it was too late that day to make a Menards run.

They say “great minds think alike.” I’m not actually sure that’s true, and I’m not going to claim great-mindedness, but at this point Zach and I both came to the same realization. We could assemble the entire hoop and then jerry-rig it up until we found a more permanent solution. Being the resourceful crafter that I am, I dug out my crochet thread and got to work. First, I pounded a nail into the top of my tall storage unit at the back of the shower. From there I ran thread to the back part of the hoop. Then I tied the side of the hoop to a bracket that had previously held up the lacy curtain over the window. Voilà! My frugal depression-era grandpa would be proud to claim me as his descendant.

The shower curtain rod attached to the old curtain bracket.

The shower curtain rod attached to the old curtain rod bracket.

We already had a pretty shower curtain which we had used in our apartment shower. We hung this on our new curtain rod, and overlapped it with a plain white shower curtain that we had picked up on our way home from work. The new curtain covered the back of the shower and, conveniently enough, reached all the way around to cover the window. Tuesday morning we finally took our first real showers in our new house. What sweet victory that was!

The window is completely covered. That worked out well!

The window is completely covered. That worked out well!

It may be crooked, but it works! It even lets some light in through the window, too.

It may be crooked, but it works! It even lets some light in through the window, too.

On our way home from work Tuesday, we stopped at Menards to decide on a game plan and pick up the necessary supplies to finish our installation job. We wandered the store for about half an hour, confusing at least one helpful employee in our quest to resolve our problem, and came away with nylon-coated guy wire, wire cutters, rope clamps, screw anchors, and screw eyes.

The final steps of installation went basically without incident. We put screw eyes in the ceiling above the back corners of the hoop, looped the wire through them and around the curtain rod, and fastened it all in place with the rope clamps.

Our shower curtain solution. It's even a pretty blue color!

Our shower curtain solution. It’s even a pretty blue color!

The curtains overlap so no water escapes where they meet. The white in the foreground is a decorative curtain, the purple in the back is a liner that goes with the decorative curtain, and the white on the right side of the picture is another liner that goes around the back of the tub and covers the window.

The curtains overlap so no water escapes where they meet. The white on the left is a decorative curtain, the purple is a liner that goes with the decorative curtain, and the white on the right is the curtain (liner) that goes around the back of the tub and covers the window.

The final result.

The final result.

Our new curtain rod isn’t perfect. It’s a little uneven and can be a bit wobbly. It works well, though, and it even solved our problem of covering the shower window. All in all, I think it was a success. If nothing else, I got a good story out of it.

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