Prepping for my bathroom renovation has been a daunting task. Today I’m going to be tearing out the full upstairs bathroom of my 101 year old house! Though I’ve been preparing for this project over the past six weeks, I never feel quite ready to begin.
Well the time for hesitation is over, and the time for swinging a sledge hammer has arrived!
Planning for a DIY Bathroom Renovation
Before I begin any home project, I rough out my anticipated expenses and timeline. I’ll discuss this process in more detail in a future post, but for now I will share that my total expected expenses for two full bathroom renovations is approximately $6,000. I could definitely complete these projects for less, but I’ve opted to go with some higher end upgrades to really improve both the appearance and quality of each bathroom.
As for timeline, I am aiming to have this bathroom totally finished by August 31st – that gives me only 18 days to complete the job. To make things even more interesting, I have four AirBNB guests arriving on September 1st! In other words, I need to hit this goal! It’s an ambitious one and it’ll take a couple helping hands, but I’m confident we can do it.
Now for the particulars on this bathroom and the improvements I’ll be making.
Rewiring Electrical and Replacing Fixtures
I’m going to start this project with safety in mind: that means temporarily shutting off the water to the house and flipping the breaker to kill any electric running into the bathroom. As far as wiring goes, my existing bathroom somehow manages to be both extremely simple and particularly quirky.
There is only one light switch, one light fixture, and one outlet – can’t get much simpler than that. I call it quirky though, because the light switch is located on the far side of the room, beyond the sink. As a result, people who have the unfortunate experience of using this bathroom for the first time at night typically earn a charley horse on the thigh from banging into the vanity in the dark. Plain and simple, the light switch needs to be at normal hand height on the wall immediately next to the doorway.
Hey David, I have a simple solution to the phantom light switch problem. Just stick one of those Glade plugin nightlights in the outlet. Superb idea – I’ll do that now! Aha, and now we discover the other oddity with the electric: the outlet’s power is controlled by the light switch. When the light switch is off, the outlet is off. This also means no charging that electric razor overnight, unless you want to leave the bathroom lights on all night as well.
The last thing to mention about the bathroom’s electrical wiring is that it runs off of the same power source as the outlets for the adjacent bedroom. Oh, and did I mention that this also happens to be old knob and tube wiring?
This part of the project is going to be fun! Here is the quick rundown of my next steps:
- Shut off the electric to the bathroom
- Disconnect and remove the old fixture, switch, and outlet
- Replace the knob and tube wiring with new 14 gauge wire
- Replace the outlet boxes
- Cut a hole for a second outlet, one on each side of the vanity
- Move the light switch closer to the door, adding a second switch for the installation of a new exhaust fan and light combo
- Cut a hole for the new exhaust fan/light system over the shower. Install system through attic, attaching the boy to a ceiling joist.
- Run two separate power feeds from a box in the attic (already installed during a previous project) to first outlet and the light switch box. Then run power in a series from the 1st bathroom outlet to the second bathroom outlet and then to the bedroom outlet located on the same wall. Finally, run two lines from the light switch – one to the vanity light and one to the exhaust fan/light.
Uninstalling and Replacing the Toilet
My current toilet was the main culprit behind a staggering $400 quarterly water bill earlier this year. When flushed, the handle sticks more often than not, letting water drain continually until you open up the tank and jiggle the chain and plug free. Let’s just say that I will be very excited to install a new toilet!
I will be keeping the toilet in exactly the same location, maintaining the current 12 inch rough-in distance from the wall. This may require removing the plaster behind the toilet area so that I can fit a new sheet of drywall on without encroaching ever so slightly on the space needed to fit the new toilet.
Assuming the plumbing for the toilet looks good, this step should be fairly simple:
- Turn off the water to the toilet
- Flush the toilet draining as much of the remaining water as possible. Unscrew the water feed line and drain water into a nearby bucket
- Remove bolt caps and unscrew toilet from the bolts holding it to the floor
- Lift toilet from its place and dump water from bowl into a bucket or the tub. Have towels handy for water spillage
- Stuff a rag into the drain to prevent sewage smell from entering room
- Replace flange and/or wax seal as needed (flange may still be in good condition)
- Install new toilet, hook up water feed
Removing and Installing a Vanity and Sink
In keeping with the rest of the bathroom I will be leaving location unchanged; however, I will be upgrading from a 30″ vanity to a 36″ vanity. The wall along which it is located has plenty of extra space to accommodate a 6″ increase, though probably not a full two sink upgrade. It would be tight!
I have matching vanities for the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, though the downstairs vanity will only be 30 inches. I also have matching mirrors, with the upstairs vanity once again getting a slightly wider mirror than then downstairs vanity.
Removing the old vanity and sink should be a pretty quick job. The sink top is simply resting on the vanity frame, not connected by anything other than the plumbing. Once the plumbing is unhooked I should be able to easily carry it out in two pieces.
Here are the steps for removing an old vanity and sink:
- Turn off the water to the sink
- Unscrew the water feeds and the drain pipe – have a bucket handy to catch drips
- Detach the faucet from the drain pipe (plug plunger) and remove
- Lift off the sink and carry it out
- Detach the vanity frame from the wall and floor using a hammer and crowbar
- Replace plumbing, valves, connectors, etc as necessary
- Install the new vanity on top of the new flooring. My new vanities stand on legs atop the flooring, rather than sitting flush with it all the way around, as the old one does.
- Silicon the sink to the wall as gaps between them dictate
- Install the new faucet hardware and connect to the water supply and drain.
- Turn on!
Shower and Tub Remodel
Okay, let’s get to the fun stuff – tearing out the old shower surround and cast iron tub! Removing a cast iron tub may actually be the most difficult part of the entire process. This thing is old and HEAVY, likely weighing between 300 and 400 lbs.
The shower itself is in pretty bad shape. The tiles are falling away from the wall which has no doubt been rotting away for years from water seeping back there. I am sure that anything behind the tiles will need torn down to the studs.
The shower is going to be the more fun and likely time consuming part of the job. Once the old tub is removed and all the framework for the shower has been torn out, the space is going to need to be completely rebuilt.
The first thing will be to secure that the plumbing is all still usable. At the very least, I will be raising the height of the shower head, moving from a two handle hot-cold system to a single handle, and installing a pressure balance valve, AKA anti-scald valve. This will keep the shower from becoming scalding hot when someone flushes the toilet or runs the washing machine!
Tiling the shower will be the other time consuming part of replacing the shower surround. I am going to run tiles from the tub’s edge all the way to the ceiling without actually tiling the ceiling.
Here is the non-exhaustive list of how we will remove the cast iron tub and demolish the shower, then install a new tub and tile shower:
- Shut off the water to the shower
- Disconnect the spigot, handles, and shower head
- Rip out the frame around the shower. Break apart the overhead frame to open up the shower to the ceiling, and tear out the built-in shelving
- Remove tiles and plaster from the shower surround, taking the walls down to lathe
- Disconnect the drain pipe from the tub
- Remove the tub by sliding it down the stairs on a blanket (team of 4 people likely needed), or break the cast iron tub with a sledge hammer
- Replace or repair any plumbing as necessary, including installing a pressure balance valve and extending the pipe to raise the shower head.
- Build the frame for the new shower and closet, preparing the walls and ceiling around it for cement board and/or drywall. Frame spaces for in-shower shelving for soaps, etc
- Install the new tub and glass shower door
- Cement board the walls around the tub, mortar, tile, and grout over the cement board
- Add the exterior wood frame for the facade of the tub
- Caulk in any cracks or space between the tub and wall or frame
Remodeling the Rest of the Bathroom
After all of this, we’re still left with the major aesthetic renovations needed for the remainder of the bathroom, such as the floor, walls, and trim.
I will be tiling the floor as well, albeit with a different design than the shower. I’m thinking along the lines of an imitation wood tile, a look which has recently started growing on me.
The walls will likely be unsalvagable plaster, which I will either tear out or cover with drywall, depending on the condition and potential thickness issues that may create around the door and window trim. I will also be adding a white wainscoting panel around the walls. The white beadboard panel will sit on top of the existing baseboard (unless it needs replaced), and will be topped with a decorative cap piece.
Finally, I will also be hanging a mirror over the vanity, building shelving on the backside of the shower wall, and installing towels bars on the wall and door. Replacing the door is not in the current budget for this project, but will also be needed eventually.
Here are the steps needed to bring this bathroom renovation down the home stretch:
- Rip up the linoleum floor
- Remove the paneling from the walls. Repair or cover the plaster as necessary
- Pull down the tiles from the ceiling. Repair or cover the plaster as necessary
- Attach cement backing board as the underlayment on the subfloor
- Mortar, tile, and grout over the floor, using spacers to keep the tiles in line and a tile saw to make cuts as necessary
- Install open shelving on the backside of the shower wall. Leave an access door below in order to access the shut off valves for the shower water lines
- Install the mirror, towel racks, toilet paper holder, or any other decorative pieces
And that’s it! I’m sure I forgot to mention a million small steps, but in a nutshell that’s the plan for redoing this old bathroom.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress made each day and any adjustments to the plan.
Now it’s finally time to start the demolition! Let’s make that sledge hammer sing!