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New Bathrooms
Both the main floor and upstairs feature fully rennovated bathrooms with all new fixtures. This includes a new bathtub and surround, water-saving toilet, sink, vanity and lighted medicine cabinet. The information presented below shows the quality remodeling of the 1st floor bathroom. The bathroom upstairs was expanded from a half bath to a full bath, with identical attention to workmanship and detail.

Downstairs Bathroom

Note: Click on thumbnails for expanded images!

Before tearout Before tearout What can I say...this bathroom was UGLY! Almost unchanged since 1946 except that several layers of old paint were peeling from the walls. One of the neat "features" was a double-hung window right in the bath/shower area. Kinda cool, being able to lather up and wave to your neighbors at the same time, right? Back in 1998 when the new windows and siding were installed, I had a smaller awning-type window custom made and mounted up high. From then to now, I kept it covered with plastic until the remodeling could start.

tile wainscoating Like the attic bedroom project, I decided to do a complete tearout and replacement. This was a big job, since the lower half of all the walls were covered with tile wainscoating. The only way to remove this stuff is a dusty application of brute force.

Plaster torn down No ceiling! I started by removing the toilet and sink so that I had some room to work. Then I worked on pulling all the old plaster and backer board down from walls and dumping it in the driveway, one trash-can load at a time. Once the upper parts of the walls were stripped, down came the ceiling plaster and loose fill insulation! It took several more trash-can loads to clean up that mess.

tearing out the tile tearing out the tile Next came the tile wainscoating. What makes this such a pain to remove is the way it gets put up. When they install wainscoating, a wire mesh is nailed to the bare studs. Then an inch or so of mortar is loaded and troweled onto the mesh. The tiles are then set into the mortar. Very heavy and strong! To get it off, I used the round head from a 2 Lb ball-pein hammer to fracture a path through the tile. This helped divide things up into smaller, more manageable sections. Wear goggles during this part, since little shards of tile fly everywhere! Then a crowbar was used to pull the section away from the wall, while cutting the connecting mesh with tin-snips. Very slow going!

tearing out the tile tearing out the tile Here are a few more photos of the tile removal that show how to chip out a section, and then pry it down.

This Old Tub At this point, all that is left in the bathroom is the floor and the bathtub. But not for long....
I had already decided to replace the tub, since the porcelin finish was pretty crazed. So, how to get this heavy-ass cast iron tub outside by myself was the question. This leads us to the most entertaining part of the bathroom remodel process!

Whack-ed tub Whack-ed tub WHACK! Take that, you nasty old tub! After several swings from the big sledgehammer, there was not much left of the tub. A few more trash-can trips, and it was gone.

Pulling up the floor Pulling up the floor Once the tub was gone, the room was pretty much stripped. Except for the floor I was standing on, that is. Oh well, why stop here...up with the floor! By following the floor joists, I was able to hammer a flat pry bar under the lip of the tile floor and crack it. With liberal application of prying and sledge-hammering, the floor was broken into small enough sections to haul outside.

First layer of sub-floor Time to sweep up! The next step was to put down some 3/4" plywood as the first layer of flooring. It will take 2 layers to bring the floor back up to the proper height, but at least this keeps me from falling into the basement! Speaking of the basement, just a little bit of plaster and mortar fell down into the laundry room right underneath...not too bad, right? ;)

Insulated ceiling Now that I could stand in the room with falling through to the basement, the re-assembly could begin. Just the reverse of the previous procedure, right? First, I installed a ventilation fan and R-19 fiberglass insulation in the ceiling joists. I'll put the actual vent fitting through the roof later on. I think some of the paint peeling that was happening before was due to insufficient ventilation, so this fan should help out.

New pipes, as seen from down in basement New pipes for sink and toilet Since the risers for the hot and cold water that supplied the tub, sink and toilet were the original galvanized steel, I went ahead and replaced them with 1/2" copper. This turned into a project that convinced me to replace all the supply lines in the house that were still the original iron with copper. I used 3/4" copper for the main lines, and 1/2" for branch lines to fixtures. Silver solder (lead free) was used, which required me to borrow my Father's "Mapp" gas torch to sweat the fittings. Straight propane just doesn't have the heat to make the new solder flow nicely. Mapp gas is a propane and acetelyne blend that burns really hot. Now, everything from the water meter on is all nice shiny copper!

Location of duct, before tearout duct extension The next mini-project was to extend the heating duct from the bathroom to the upstairs hallway. We always kept the duct fully closed or the bathroom would get roasting hot when the heat was on. Not only that, the location of the duct was going to be in the way of the vanity I want to install. I went to a local HVAC shop and had them make me up an extension for the duct.

Custom duct parts
At the top of the wall, a few custom pieces were needed to run the duct past a stud and turn the corner to the upstairs. I had to do just a little trimming to get them to fit just right. I also had to trim a vertical stud, but since the wall is not load-bearing, it really doesn't matter.

Prep for tub install Next up was installation of the new bathtub. I decided to use an "Americast" tub from American Standard as the replacement. Americast is a blend of powdered cast iron and composite materials. This makes the tub lighter than traditional cast iron, but retains the heat-holding properties and solid feeling. I hate the sound of a stamped steel tub when you rap it, and fiberglass tubs look kinda cheesy in my opinion. First, the outside wall was insulated with R-13 fiberglass bats. Then a horizontal stringer was mounted according to the tub's installation instructions.

Water-resistant drywall on ceiling, note the vent fan The tub is in! My Father and I also installed the water-resistant drywall (greenboard) on the ceiling and back wall. I figure it's best to install it before the tub to save from backache! Next was to haul the tub in and wrestle it onto the stringer. A few shims were needed under the close side to get everything leveled out. Once happy with the tub alignment, galvanized roofing nails are used to secure it to the walls.

Greenboard is installed! New pipes poking through With the tub secured, another 3/4" sheet of plywood was installed as the subfloor, followed by a 3/8" sheet of sanded AC Grade plywood. The letters on plywood grading tell you the quality of the finish. Grade "A" has the best finish, with no knots or blemishes, with a sanded smooth finish. Normally used for furniture making, this is also used underneath vinyl floors, so that the finish of the floor is nice and even. Any imperfections in the subfloor will show right through vinyl! Grade "B" will have knot holes that have been filled with football-shaped plugs. Grade "C" has knot holes that are left unfilled. So the plywood I installed was Grade "A" on one side (that side goes UP), and Grade "C" on the bottom. Once the floor was set, my Father and I finished hanging the rest of the greenboard. It was pretty easy, except with a little measuring and fitting to get the sink and toilet pipe holes in the right spots, as seen here to the right.

Almost mudded! I'm almost done "mudding" the bathroom now. I finally have a technique that requires little or no sanding, which is a huge improvement over my condo rennovation of 7 years ago! I use the metal reinforced tape for inside corners, and plain tape for the butt and taper edges. My technique is to apply the first layer with a 6" blade. Once that dries, I use the 6" blade to knock off the high spots where the mud oozes out around the side of the blade. That is followed by a coat with the 10" blade. Knock off the high spots again, then a final, paper thin coat with the 12" blade. After all that, sanding screens smooth out any rough spots. The picture here to the left is before any sanding is done, and you may be able to see that hardly any will be needed!

Very white! Finished window With the sanding done, 2 coats of vinyl-ized primer and 2 coats of white semi-gloss latex paint were applied. This really makes the bathroom start to look finished! Once the paint was dry, I "trimmed out" the window. I used an extra large window stool, figuring it would be a convenient place to store shampoo bottles and other stuff out of reach of small hands.

Tub surround After letting the paint on the window trim dry overnight, I got to work installing the tub surround. I chose a simulated-tile fiberglass surround from Trayco. It has a granite finish, and looks almost identical to real tile. Since it is a solid sheet instead of individual tiles, it installs quicker and cannot leak into the walls. My digital camera had a hard time taking a small picture with all those grid-lines, so check out the larger photo for a better look.

Medicine cabinet Vanity I also mounted the medicine cabinet to the wall. It has a light fixture built right into the frame. The vanity is just sitting on the unfinished floor right now. Once the flooring is installed, then I can hook it up as well.

Finished bathroom
Well, everything is installed and ready to go - New floor, toilet and the vanity is mounted and plumbed. Here's a picture of the completed bathroom. All I have to do now is get my tools out!

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Last Updated: 5/22/2000

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