Remodeling “Mads”ness – Our Bathroom Remodel!

Can you say, “MAKEOVERRRRR“?!?

I know I said I’d share fabric organization stuff next, but I haven’t gotten photos of that yet. (Mostly because my yarn still needs to be organized and put away…shhh!) So how about a detour to our new bathroom instead? It’s only one door down the hallway from the sewing stash! 😉 This post is definitely not sewing-related AND it’s really long, so if sewing is all you’re here for it’s totally cool if you close this tab and move along. No hard feelings!

A year ago, we decided to seriously explore having at least one of the 2 bathrooms in our house remodeled. This project was without a doubt the biggest undertaking we’ve ever had as homeowners, and definitely took a lot of time and energy. (And also $$ but that’s because we hired a professional.) Now that it is finally finished (our designer came to take final photos earlier this week), I thought it would be fun to share the project with you guys from the beginning.

Background

Originally, we had planned to try doing both bathrooms–they both needed some major TLC, but for different reasons. One was just old and outdated in its fittings (or so we thought), while the other was new but definitely not done properly. We knew we wanted to hire this out: we’re somewhat ambitious DIYers, but this seemed like something better left to a professional.

After getting a quote for both bathrooms, we discussed it and decided that, while it would be awesome to have them both redone, we would be better served using the money for the second, newer bathroom on a mini-split system for the attic and a new water heater (ours was 20 years old). We have exactly ZERO regrets about that choice, for the record. 🙂 Having made that choice, we moved forward with our plans for the upstairs bathroom!

Here is what that room looked like when we bought the house (and until we remodeled it):

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The back corner of the room; note the original baseboards!

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Old vanity, medicine cabinet/mirror, and sconces, plus the linen closet! Also note the outlet–it will move and look nicer later!

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Original claw foot tub, rigged to function as a shower. That cupboard thing is hiding the water lines. Classy, no?

While our contractor employs designers, we had a definite idea of what we wanted: a walk-in shower with tiled walls and a frameless glass door, a floating vanity, and vinyl plank flooring. We also picked our own color scheme very early in the “nebulous will-we-or-won’t-we discussion” phase. Believe it or not, Tom is the one who picked out the final paint color at first! The only disagreement we ever had–and which was more of a running joke than an actual disagreement–was about the purple accent tile he wanted but that I vetoed as hard as I have ever slapped down a design suggestion in my life. It was awful. 😉 (Imagine “Cotton Candy Purple” glass tiles, in round bubble shapes of varying sizes. Just…no.) ANYWAY. We had ideas. The final result is very true to what we wanted, which makes it that much more exciting!

It Begins

We had decided to do the demo work ourselves to save money ($1,000), and also to save that magnificent bitch of a bathtub you see in the photo above. See, our contractors are good people, but they’re not historic salvagers. They were going to smash that tub into bits to get it out of our house, folks. I couldn’t allow it. It hurt me to think of that tub–an original piece of our home’s history–being destroyed and sent to a landfill when it could still be of use to someone. And at least in our part of the world, people WANT these antique tubs! I don’t get it myself–I haven’t taken baths since I was a little kid–but I will happily contribute to the supply. I called our local architectural salvage (yep, that’s a thing we have in Columbus!) and they not only came and hauled the tub away with nary a scratch put on it OR my house, they paid me for that. In cash. I know, right?!? So I did a good deed AND got $50 for it. Unfortunately, that was where the good aspects of doing the demolition ourselves ended.

First, we had to cut the water and drain lines to that tub before they would come and get it. (Fair enough, right?) This required turning off the water to the entire house because there were no shut-offs for these pipes. Oh, and we also needed a saw and caps. And one water line was bigger than the other, so an emergency trip back to the hardware store for a different size cap was required at like, 7PM. Yay. We had no trouble removing the old sconces, medicine cabinet, or vanity. Well, I say “we,” but mostly I mean Tom. 😀 Tom also replaced the old outlet with a new GFCI outlet and relocated it; we also installed a new vent fan/light combo mostly ourselves, but with an assist from our roofer with the outdoors parts.

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Much better than the can light that preceded it.

I will note that we would have LOVED to redo the ceiling in this room, but it would have been a big expense. We have no idea what state the original plaster is in under that ugly-ass paneling, and that wasn’t a can of worms we were interested in opening and paying for since the paneling isn’t in disrepair. 😦

I took the lead on removing about 90 years worth of poorly-applied paint from the baseboards, since we were going to repaint them and wanted our fresh semi-gloss paint to look nice. This project took me weeks, and actually resulted in nerve damage to my right ulnar nerve; I still lose feeling in my right hand on occasion, even 4-5 months after finishing that work. As such, I am definitely counting the paint removal as demolition! 😀

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That grain hadn’t seen the light of day in close to 100 years…

We had to resort to some heavy artillery to get the paint off (Peel-Away 1, if you find yourself in a similar situation–IT IS AMAZING but also very involved), but I’m so glad we put the time and money (and bodily injury) into that project because there were SO MANY LAYERS and most were so badly applied! And since the base layers were old lacquer paint applied over the original stain, they didn’t respond to anything less intense than this product.

That’s not to say things went totally according to plan; one huge issue was revealed when the vanity was finally out of the room:

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Yep, that’s a hole in the floor and allll the vanity pipes come out of it. (But do you see my nice new outlet?!?)

That little gem is definitely NOT up to building codes. And my designer, upon seeing a photo of it, said she had “never seen anything like that–ever.” Hooray. That metal button on the wall is an old vent pipe for a sink that has long since been removed; that pipe is still in the wall, BTW. It is also lead, as were all the original pipes in this house before they were eventually converted to modern PVC. Our theory, which is probably close to the truth, is that the lead pipes to this bathroom had frozen and leaked, and this was someone’s quick and cost-effective workaround. When we bought the house, there were still lead drain pipes in use in this bathroom (which we replaced during the Polar Vortex of 2014 when they, surprise, froze and leaked) so that just makes the most sense!

You are probably wondering WTF that gray shit is all over the floor, right? Yeah, that was what was still stuck to the subfloor after we removed the roll-on vinyl floor (as seen in the “Before” photos further up the post). Tom had to remove that, too; it was a difficult job and he’s my hero for doing it by himself. And then the floors looked like this:

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What The Actual Fuck?!?!?

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Seriously, can we put the fuzzy gray stuff back on?

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But WHYYYYYYYYYY????

Clearly, the original floors in this room had been hard done by, as evidenced by their almost total replacement with a patchwork of mostly-plywood subfloor. The original floorboards are the narrower slats you see in the last pic, up against the wall. For the uninitiated among you, the number of joints in the subfloor in these photos is BAD. More joints = less structurally sound. This floor and those pipes for the vanity were a hard lesson for us in remodeling an old house: once you start a project, there’s no turning back, no matter what sort of fuckery you encounter. And fuckery was present in abundance: some asshole used PEGBOARD to support the rotten floor under the toilet and water lines for the tub. Pegboard. Which comes with holes already in it and is basically made of compressed glue and sawdust. >=[ If there is a heaven, the people who ruined this bathroom did not go there.

To make matters worse, because of repeated leaking and nobody ever moving that original cast-iron tub (EVER–they even cut holes and slits in the old vinyl floor to go around the feet), the floor had a definite dip where the tub used to be. The floors in the entire room also slant slightly toward the vanity wall, but this didn’t worry us–or our carpenter–much. (All the floors in our house do this–it’s 106 years old, and that chimney is so heavy that it has created a vortex of suck over time. Not ideal, but not a scary “The House Is Going To Fall Down!!!!!!!!” kind of thing.)

Bringing In The Pros

Finally, we had the demo finished. Unfortunately, our carpenter was still stuck on a previous job due to a last-minute catastrophe. As a result, our start date got pushed back to October; not a big deal, but we had done the demo at the end of August/beginning of September because we expected a September start date. So we essentially ended up with an unnecessary extra month of living with only 1 bathroom. (I know that’s a total First World Whine, but you’d be amazed at how fast you can become accustomed to having 2 toilets for 2 people…) But in October, the pros arrived and the rebuilding began!

Phase 1 for poor Doug the Carpenter was plumbing. It was at this juncture that we all found out–because learning is FUN!–that some asshole (who, again, is not in heaven) had cut off all the vent pipes for this bathroom long ago. If you didn’t know, bathroom plumbing requires venting for sewer gas in order to work properly and meet modern building codes (at least in the US); our vents had been cut and capped for reasons that still elude us. It took Doug a couple of weeks to have the plumbing done properly, but he did it!

And because of the awful nature of the subfloor already, Doug decided to do the plumbing work from below–our kitchen has a drop ceiling, so access was very easy to obtain and didn’t damage our ceiling in any way. Unfortunately, making room for Doug to work from there meant that our kitchen got torn apart and rearranged for the duration of the remodel. But what can you do, right? We just went to the basement if we needed to use the microwave and made it work. 😀

Here are some fun photos of the preparation phase of the plumbing work:

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This is the spot where we found pegboard used to support the sad floor. O_o

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That’s Tom, in our kitchen…downstairs. Thank goodness for drop ceilings! (PS: See the pegboard in the upper right corner???)

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Ever wondered what the top of my oven and vent hood look like from the next floor? Here you go. I made cookies the day before!

And here are photos of Doug’s work, done properly (at last):

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Future shower head/faucet! (Those paints in the frame are NOT the ones we used–we did a slightly darker variation of each.)

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What a plaster and lathe wall looks like on the *inside*…pretty cool, right?

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New vanity plumbing, NOT coming through the floor underneath.

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New toilet plumbing and drain stack

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Shower drain and rough-in for the pan; those dark areas of wall are where baseboards used to be.

And because Doug is a goddamn hero (and a professional), he laid new subfloor over top of the shit-show that was already there:

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LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE THO.

Now we were getting somewhere! Next is the really fun stuff: the shower being built! But before that could happen, Doug needed his supplies. Unfortunately, between us having to take the doors off the room AND the closet and all Doug’s supplies, this meant a few weeks of living in the middle of an obstacle course:

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Ummm…did I accidentally wander onto the set of Nickelodeon’s GUTS?

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Somehow, this shower pan was going to fit in my bathroom.

I can’t tell you how many bruises I had on my upper thighs from cracking into the vanity there in the foreground of the first photo! But we did get used to it, oddly enough; like the kitchen, it was just something we had to live with if we wanted the bathroom done.

The shower really began to take shape once the pan was installed, though:

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First phase: cement board!

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Next, a rubberized waterproof coating; it goes on pink and dries red!

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Holy shit, it’s our tile!!

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Even without the grout applied, it looked amazing.

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You can *just* see the Schluter metal piece on the outside of the tile here–we did that instead of a bullnose tile.

From here, Doug did the grout to finish off all the tile. (We went with a light silvery gray to match.) Once he had this done, he turned his attention to the flooring and installing the vanity. At this point, I was told it was okay to start painting the trim and walls. The toilet needed to be installed as well, so I started in that corner. I had already primed all the baseboards–never skip that step! 🙂

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OMG THE FLOOR!!!

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Even 1/3 done, it looked awesome.

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Making its way toward the closet…

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Magical Levitating Vanity, plus paint!

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Coming together!

From there, things moved fast: Doug installed the toilet, did me a solid by painting the woodwork and wall under the vanity, and installed the shower fixtures and shelves and the quarter-round along the baseboards and pan. After that, your intrepid blogger finished painting the rest of the room and the doors. About a week later, the shower door arrived and was installed. Considering how long the first parts took, this all felt like it flew by!

All that remained was for us to install the wall cabinets, mirror, and fixtures we’d bought at IKEA, put the re-painted doors back on, and have the final inspection and pass it (which we did). And then, in December, IT WAS FINISHED:

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Even the toilet is pretty!

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Seriously, it is a different room now!

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Close-up of the AMAZING shower tile and shelves. The glass tile is a beautiful iridescent purple but it’s hard to photograph…

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‘Sup.

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So beautiful!

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Automatic nightlight action

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How I felt when it was all done

So, that was our big remodel adventure of 2016! It took months, and at times felt like it would never be finished, but we are really glad we did it. We’ve added a few things since I took these last photos: there’s a towel bar on the back wall (with the window) now, a hand towel bar under the cabinet next to the vanity, and some hanging hooks on each door. We also got new bathmats and towels thanks to my in-laws, who gave us a Kohl’s gift card for Xmas. I hope you guys enjoyed the transformation; it’s still hard to believe that this bathroom is part of my house–especially after seeing it during that demolition phase, LOL!

Hopefully I’ll see you guys back here soon with fabric organization and possibly even some SEWING! Thanks for sticking with me! ❤

*I should note that we bought the IKEA stuff (mirror, cabinets, bathroom hardware, and vanity), along with the shelves for the shower and the flooring and underlayment ourselves, with our contractor’s encouragement. Our designer was wonderful at helping us determine what things would be cheaper to source ourselves.*

Have you undertaken a big remodeling project before? Tell me about it!

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Remodeling “Mads”ness – Our Bathroom Remodel!

  1. Looks amazing!! In 2013 we completely renovated the downstairs of our house. We converted our internal garage into a dining room and smashed down the wall to integrate it into the kitchen. Then knocked out the wall between kitchen and lounge so all of downstairs is now open plan. We built an extension to the front of the house so we could build a downstairs toilet and bigger entrance hall…..it was hell!!! We lived in our bedroom, with our son’s bedroom full with our belongings and sofa etc and kids sharing a bedroom. No kitchen for 6-8 weeks, literally just a pipe coming out the wall for water. Our lovely church family cooked us meals. It was worth it now but never again!!!

  2. This was such hard work. You really remind me of myself decades ago. I have been there and done that. And it is necessary and the outcome is really nice. I hope you will enjoy the space now that you own it, and it is clean and functional too.

  3. Fuuuuuuuuuuck. I am looking at yours and know that mine is going to be the exact same thing. We know the sewer gas isn’t vented because we get a whiff of it every now and then (and we already know our sink pipes come up from a hole in the floor because WE CAN FUCKIN’ SEE IT. Like they didn’t even try to cover it up!). Add to that that the overflow pipe on the tub isn’t properly connected and so leaked into our kitchen the first time we had a bath, and….just ugh. We bought an old house too (we were told 100 years old when we bought 5 years ago), and long story short, two owners ago just didn’t take any care of the house, followed by house flippers who CLEARLY had no idea what the fuck they were doing. At all. Like, I am not particularly tall, but the shower head is so low that I have to duck to rinse my hair. Like… ugh. We figure, though, that we are going to have to rip into the kitchen ceiling when we do ours too, but we want to redo the kitchen since that is also a huge mess (our sink is literally directly next to the oven……can we say worst idea ever? +cheapest cabinets they could find, huge kitchen but no counter space, etc., etc.), so we are just going to save up and do them both at the same time like a bunch of lunatics.

    Having said that, seeing your finished bathroom gives me hope! Every mess is fixable! It looks SO lovely and I am so happy you guys have your bathroom back! 🙂

    • Oh my word, it sounds like you guys will have your work cut out for you. I am always shocked at the way some people just don’t care about maintaining their home–as in, keeping things working properly, not design! It’s so frustrating, especially when the house is old and has endured decades of disrespect. I just want to shake people and ask why they bought an old house if they had no intention of helping it survive for another 100 years…just buy a McMansion then and leave the historic real estate to people who are capable of giving a f*ck, GRRR!

      But I am glad that our redo made you feel more hopeful rather than less; it CAN be fixed and honestly, the pride you guys will have in having “made it right” for your house will help get you through the Fixing. And I won’t lie, the Fixing can be very demoralizing. But you will get through it; having the right contractor is a huge help to morale too, especially in an old house.

      I think your instinct about doing the kitchen and bath together is the right one: trust me, even with a job as relatively mild as ours, we have remodel fatigue. It’s better to just knock out as much as you can at once and then when it’s done, it’s DONE. If we’d had the funds and a not-leaky 2nd bathroom to rely on, I think in retrospect we’d have probably done the exact same thing.

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