Remember that time that we tore up our only main-level bathroom a few weeks before Christmas and knocked out a complete remodel in about a month, while also working full time jobs, entertaining and visiting family over the holidays, and wrangling a 17 month old?
YEAH. ME NEITHER.
We thought this was a good plan. We did, in fact, demo our bathroom down to the sub-floor, tile backer, plaster and lath walls the second week of December. It is now Mid-February, and Jesse and I are still tip-toeing downstairs nearly naked in the middle of the night when we have to pee because we are apparently 80 years old and can’t make it a full night without getting up.
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I say “mini-master”, because the bathroom is right next door to our bedroom (also can’t be called a master with a straight face). It is shared with the second upstairs bedroom in a classic early 20th century layout, and it is SMALL. The space outside of the tub is almost exactly 5′ x 5′. Because it has to function as our “master”, the kid’s bathroom, and guest bathroom if we have people over for the evening, we have to make the most of it. I wouldn’t trade our small house though, and I love DIY projects like this that allow us to add our personality and truly make it our own home.
This project is quite a bit simpler (in theory) than the complete from-scratch bathroom that we built in the basement 3 years ago. As it turns out though, it’s much more difficult to get these kinds of things done when you have a toddler. Add to that the fact that we’ve made a couple of serious bone-headed mistakes in this DIY process (don’t worry! lessons learned will be shared!), and it feels like our schmancy new bathroom may never be done.
I’ve been feeling a little bit anxious about the seeming lack of progress on this project, especially during the week. Back in the pre-kid day, we could come home and spend a few hours every night building a custom shower pan, painting, or tiling, which was a slow but steady and rewarding process. Now, by the time we get the kid fed and in bed, we barely have time to eat dinner and relax on the couch for an hour, much less think about getting out our construction materials and starting up the tile saw.
So since we don’t yet have this project completed and ready to show off, I figured it might be fun to put together a mood board and talk about the renovation plans. It’s good to remember the big picture and the pretty end-goals while you’re stuck in the middle of the drywall dust on everything, tools everywhere, toilet in the laundry room, one step forward, two steps back phase of the project.
First things first, let’s look at where we started.
We bought our little 1929 house in 2012, and it had been flipped a couple of years before we found it. It was a 3 bedroom, 1 bath when we bought it, but the finishes were all pretty well done and mostly to a nice neutral taste at the time. After 7 years, we are pretty over the very beige-y color scheme in the house, and we’ve made our own updates one room at a time.
The bathroom has definitely been live-able, but we were starting to notice some moisture issues over the past couple of years. We had some cracks developing in the old plaster walls and ceiling. We could also tell that the grout in the shower was failing and there was visible mold growing around the top edge of the tub, so lord knows what might have been going on behind the tile.
We knew we needed to tear out the shower tile and replace/repair/cover up most of the walls and ceiling. That was the minimum. We figured if we were going to get into a renovation, we might as well update all of the finishes, which led to plumbing fixtures and lights. When in Rome.
Here is the mood board I’m working with, mostly with the exact items that we’re using since we’re well into the project.
- 3 Light Vanity Fixture
- 3×12 Handmade Look Subway Tile
- Floret II Cement Tile
- Midnight Blue Vanity
- Crystal Pendant Chandelier
- Teal Bath Towels
- Fringe Shower Curtain
Here is an outline of our plans (and some progress photos, for fun):
1. Replace and/or cover up old, cracking plaster walls and ceiling with new drywall.
We knew tearing out plaster could get a bit messy, so we ended up minimizing the plaster demo and took it down to the lath only on one of the shower walls that had been furred out previously. We decided to add a new layer of drywall over top of the plaster on two full bathroom walls, as well as the ceiling. The shower walls all got a new layer of cement board to use as tile-backer. Then, texture and fresh paint on the walls and ceiling.
2. New tub.
We debated about whether or not we needed to replace our tub (it really was not a NEED). We had a pretty standard cast iron/enamel tub that functioned just fine. This is both our kid tub and our adult relaxing tub, so we thought a little more soaking depth would be nice. Ultimately, we decided that if we were going to tear up the whole bathroom, now is the time to make a change.
3. Demo and replace floor tile.
I fell in love with the bold designs and classic Spanish look of cement tiles a couple years ago, and knew I wanted to go all in and make our floor a feature in the bathroom. We decided on a tile, ordered it (in May of 2017), and then let it age (not actually a thing) while we had a baby and grew him into a toddler.
4. New Wall Base.
We hadn’t planned on demoing out the existing base trim. Originally we were hoping to salvage what was there to give ourselves one less step in the process. When we made the decision to drywall over the plaster walls, we were hoping that we could find 1/4″ thick drywall that could sit on top of the base and we wouldn’t lose any real noticeable depth between the wall and the base. Unfortunately, we found out that they don’t make moisture resistant drywall in 1/4″, only 1/2″. So it would have reduced the reveal on the trim to almost nothing, which just wasn’t going to work. So, we ended up tearing out what was there (turned out to be some sort of porcelain, which was painted and I always thought was wood). We thought about doing tile base trim, which I’m not crazy about, especially introducing another tile next to the cement tile floor. I think we’re going to enlist the help of my step-dad to make a custom wood base trim that will roughly match what we have throughout the rest of the house.
5. Demo and replace shower tile.
With the cracking grout and mold issues we were seeing, this was a must. We were also pretty excited to get rid of the builder-grade beige on beige, and freshen it up with something cleaner and more modern. We also wanted to run the tile all the way to the ceiling, rather than half-assing it and stopping mid-window like the previous installer did.
6. New Vanity.
We had nothing against the vanity, but the brown and beige colors wouldn’t have worked well with our new floor. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted going in and did quite a bit of browsing. We were able to find a pretty (blue!), simple/sleek and inexpensive vanity at Home Depot.
7. New Light Fixtures.
Again, the overhead light and the vanity light we had were fine. They were just a bit “meh”, and we thought we could update them with something a little more farmhouse and a little more glam.
8. New Mirror OR Medicine Cabinet
We STILL have not figured this one out. A medicine cabinet would make so much sense, because our bathroom is tiny and we are so limited on storage. We failed to make the decision while we were in the messy drywall phase, and I haven’t yet found anything I love in either a mirror or a medicine cabinet. So we may very well have to cut back into the wall that we already finished to install a recessed cabinet. There are worse things.
So basically, we’re refinishing this thing from top to bottom. When we started, I asked Jesse how long he thought it would take us. “Four weeks”, he said. He’s hilarious, it’s one of the many reasons I married him. We’re lucky enough to have a trip to Hawaii coming up (leaving March 10th), so we’re really hoping to be mostly finished by then but we’re running out of weekends. Wish us luck!