Master Bath: Update
If this bathroom project were a preggers woman, it would have delivered a baby by now. That’s how long it’s been since I started this. Now, I don’t know if you noticed this, but I haven’t posted in a while. A few factors contributed to this sad fact. 1) I pushed myself too hard doing a laundry closet remodel in 5 days, and busted my DIY bubble in the process, making anything that sounded like house work distinctly unfun. 2) Medical stuff. Which is both expensive, and spectacularly energy draining.
Lucky for all of you, both of those issues are now gone. Also, a new fire has been lit under my ass. I discovered a rot issue in my one remaining fully-functional bathroom. So now we’re on a timer to get stuff done! Also, I really want to enjoy the shower I’ve been building for a bit before we decide to sell the house next year.
To that effect, I want to give you an update on all the things I’ve done so far. So, the beginning… Here’s what we started with:
I have this classic 80’s layout of a vanity room attached to a full bath. I’ve always hated the fact that there’s carpet in the vanity room – a place where there’s a sink. I have a strong opinion that no room with running water features should have anything but tile (or some other strongly water-resistant material) in them. The vanity itself is this dated wood piece with a horrible faux-marble plaster monstrosity atop it. Classic giant wall mirror slab over it all. Then the bathroom with these terrible hollow core, luan swaths of sadness. Classic 80’s bone colored shower/tub insert. Little alcove for the toilet. Tiny linen closet choked with overcrowded shelves…
When I bought the house, I had the idea to paint the bathroom bright, saturated yellow. I hate plain white walls with a passion and I thought the yellow would make the room lively and happy, but with the shoddy lighting, it just turned into a cheap fiesta of regret. I knew that had to change, but first we needed to do my favorite part: demolition.
Ripped out the carpet. Hubs beat away at the tile. Those suckers were so in there that we had to sledge at it like we were in a death match with the mother of all grizzlies. We were so adamant with our demo that we got anonymous
complaints queries on the neighborhood Facebook community asking what all the noise was about. We decided to set a self-imposed rule of no demo or power tools after ten o’clock from then on… heh.
We scraped off those wretched popcorn ceilings, disconnected the boring ceiling lamp in the bathroom, hauled out the vanity, and took a heavy duty fiberglass-cutting sawzall blade to the shower/tub fixture. That was super fun to take out, and trust me, it’s so much easier to remove one of those in pieces then trying to fit it through awkward doorways. Plus, pieces means less weight. We filled two entire Bagster bags with trash by the time we were done with this little bathroom.
Next up: constructing a shower stall.
We lined the subfloor with cement board, framed out the shower bed with a stack of 2×4’s, lined the whole thing with a vapor barrier, and dumped a bunch of mortar in it. We used one of those “Kirb Perfect” kits to get the perfect right angles on our shower lip. Also, you have to create a very specific slope in the mortar to get the drainage right. Something like 1/4″ over every 12″ from the drain to the shower’s edge. I recommend drawing a line around the edge in pencil on your liner to make sure you hit your mark, then tamp the mortar down as you go with a spare piece of 2×4, going around from the drain like a clock’s hand. Also, cover the drain with tape to avoid putting cement down your new pipes. Oh yeah, we did new plumbing for this too since the drain for the tub was close to the wall, and we wanted it in the center. The plumbing for the showers in this house is a little too small for code, so it used to cause the tub to fill up like a bath every time we showered and no amount of miracle drain-o would help. So we enlarged that too since it was conveniently accessible through the garage.
It was important that we reinforce the joists where the shower panel would hang later, putting in some extra bits of 2×4 to anchor it into when we got there. I love alcoves in showers for creating space to store shampoo and razors, and while it’s not a huge deal to create those with 2×4’s and cement board, I paid a little extra to get pre-sealed edges using these do-dads from the Tile Shop for auto-creating them. You just screw the things onto the joists and the lip is the perfect depth for sitting flush with your cement board when you install them, making it super easy to seal the seams after. We then slathered 2-3 coats of Red Gard over everything from floor to ceiling after we got the cement board in and sealed all the seams with mortar and fiberglass tape. The stuff looks like bubblegum pudding when you open it, and dries like a murder room. It’s fantastic.
Then came the fun stuff! We patched the ceilings of any damage from scraping the popcorn off. I removed the section of the drywall where the vanity mirror panel had been glued before. I wanted to rewire the area for better lighting when doing makeup, so I wanted sconces on the left and right of every mirror at eye level. That meant I would need to rewire from a 5-bulb light bar over the mirror to three sconces a couple of feet below. I installed the houses for all the new fixtures and put the new drywall piece up. This was my first time drywalling, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bitch. Trying to leverage in drywall behind two existing corners of drywall is an act of precision and patience akin to those scenes in spacecraft movies where the astronaut is trying his damnest to land a perfect connection between the shuttle and a cargo carrier. One false move and everyone is outsies on the airlock, stuff is blowing up, and everyone is full of terror, sadness, regret, and death.
I’m obviously exaggerating (or am I?), but it was a hella painful process. Also, I am super not patient when it comes to mudding drywall seams and when you aren’t super patient… it shows… badly. I think I remudded and sanded those seams maybe five times before I got to a point where I was ok with it. I am not good at drywall, you guys. I learned this.
Then: tiling. I foolishly decided that a herringbone pattern was the way to go for this with some faux wood tiles. I love herringbone patterns and it is so choice, but it was so much more frustrating to put in than plain ol’ stacked and staggered rows. Just the tip: Always lay your herringbone tile in one go. That way you can adjust spacing while everything is still wet and movable across the floor. Hubs and I cut and dry laid all the tile beforehand, but I did the actual mortaring of the tile in sections, thinking it would be easier to do if there were cured sections to press against later to keep the 45 degree angle. What happened with this was that I ended up with different spacing than when I originally dry laid it. Some pieces were in there at just a minuscule change of angle and it made all the difference later, making it very hard to place every piece just so by the end. I ended up with lots of weird widths between some of my tiles despite using spacers and having to re-cut some tiles just a little. Then I built some floating shelves above the toilet for storage.
After that, I started on a new vanity.
Having lived with a single sink vanity since I bought the house in 2009, I knew I wanted a true his & hers for this next go around. The problem was that every vanity close to the 72″ mark (which would span the length of the space) was close to or over 1k in price. Well, the pretty ones anyway. That’s where my addiction to Ana White comes in. I found some plans and built this two-shelf, slatted spa-like vanity using just plain pine from the big box store. I bought two vessel sinks off Ebay for around $44 a piece. I can’t wait to show you how this turns out.
And that’s where we ended half a year ago. We’re close to finishing this project now, just a few more things to do and I’ll be able to show you how it turned out.