Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bathroom Remodel Part 1: Smash It With a Hammer

We finally moved into a place with two bathrooms, which meant no more holding it while someone is showering, holding it while someone is getting rid of it, or holding it while a BATHROOM REMODEL is going on! 

I'm talking about you, hallway bathroom. Your days were numbered the moment we first laid eyes on you.

Feast your eyes on that faux wood laminate floor, the mismatched towel bars, and my personal favorite: the vinyl base trim. 

And how could we forget that rusty old vanity with cultured marble sink...

...and matching cultured marble shower walls?

Are you guys as turned on as I am right now?


You should be, because there Boyfiancé is in all his manliness, using tools and whatnot.

So yeah, we decided to move forward with this bathroom remodel despite the fact the future-in-laws are staying with us for the week of Thanksgiving and that we are hosting Thanksgiving at the house. Call it built-in motivation to finish this thing fast (it's not going to happen, but hopefully we'll at least have a functional shower and toilet by then).

Most of the fixtures came out pretty easily. I actually developed a fondness for cultured marble during this process simply because it is SO easy to remove. Smash it with a hammer, pry it off in large chunks, throw it in the backyard (hope none of the neighbors complain), done.

I don't have too many photos of the whole process. Remembering to stop hulking out all over these walls to grab the camera was not happening.

Boyfiancé made great progress while I worked downstairs on the concrete vanity form.

The bathtub was a tricky one. With some help from Dr. Google, we diagnosed our tub as the steel variety. The way to tell the different between a steel tub and a cast iron one is to feel the underside; rough = cast iron, smooth = steel. This is important to know because taking a sledgehammer to a steel tub will only lead to chipped enamel and frustration, whereas a reciprocating saw will cut through it like a hot knife though butter. Really hard metallic butter.

The other puzzler was getting the tub out without damaging the plumbing. We decided to slice off the backside, scoot the whole thing away from the plumbing, and tilt the tub out.

It totally worked.

Now this is what our side yard looks like, minus the cement board. Super. Classy. 

Here's where we left it at. We still need to scrape up the laminate floors (it's SUPER sticky underneath, so we've been holding off), and rip out the edging around the window, but otherwise we're pretty much ready for some framing and plumbing!

Now here's where my six months at an interior design firm really paid off. Our firm does a lot of fact, they sort of specialize in them. As a result, I've learned a TON about how to design and plan a bathroom remodel. I also have access to the SF Design Center showrooms, which have opened my eyes to all the possibilities outside of the big-box stores (PSA time: please, for the love of god, do NOT buy tile at a Home Depot or Lowes. It is all super ugly and super out-of-style and you can get better, prettier, and sometimes cheaper things at a dedicated tile shop). Also plumbing...did you know that the handle you use to turn the water on is just the trim piece? You also have to buy what is called a "rough-in" valve, which is the mechanical piece behind the trim where all the magic happens.

So yeah, information I never thought my brain would contain.

Anyway, here's the design!

"Is that a wooden tub face? Why would you possibly do that in a wet environment?" Hear me out: I'm using a European teak wood called "afromosia" which doesn't rot and has excellent water resistance. I plan on sealing the wood as well as installing a vapor barrier behind it to protect the framing and subfloor. The teak will sit flush with the tub edge, so there won't be a lip for water to collect on. It's going to be great. Nod your head with me.

I've designed a concrete vanity that I'll cast myself. I only sort of know what I'm doing, so I'd put the success rate at about 50%.

And here's a matching concrete shower niche. I love shower niches.

As you can see, there are a lot of non-standard design elements in this little space, so we're just going to bite off a little at a time and chew as we go.

Another trick I've picked up at the firm is to create a spreadsheet to keep track of materials and expenses. Speaking of which, Boyfiancé and I agreed that $5000 including materials and labor seemed like a reasonable budget for this project. Let's see if we go over by the end.

Boyfiancé took the OCD a step further and created a flow chart of the steps. At first I rolled my eyes, but considering we've referred to this thing multiple times a day since we started, I take it back. A bathroom, we've come to realize, comprises of decades of engineering stuffed into a tiny space, and the order-of-operations is oh-so-important. Knowing the dependencies for each step has prevented us from making mistakes such as tiling the walls before installing the plumbing (that one seems pretty easy, but you never know, shit happens).

As I write this, we've actually just finished the plumbing (can you believe Boyfiancé actually learned plumbing?), built out the tub frame after finally receiving our tub (can you believe UPS actually lost our tub for a week??), and are about to install the tile floors so we can get the toilet back in (can you believe we were dumb enough to start this remodel weeks before hosting Thanksgiving dinner???). 


  1. I am so looking forward to what's coming up! It's been a year since we called the gut and replace stage of our bathroom remodel done, but your photos jogged my memory of how much work that was! I'm sure your space will be fantastic!

  2. I thought a bathroom remodel was not necessary after seeing those before photos. However, I changed my mind after seeing your designs. Hehe! I'll be looking forward to seeing these drawings come to reality. I bet the previous interior design company can get your services again after you finished your bathroom project. What do you think? :)

    Kristopher Diss @