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Home Reno Update: Bathroom

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For those who’ve been following (and asking about) my bathroom demolition adventure, here’s an update: So yes, we went all in with the smashing and the power tools and then… I went quiet for a couple weeks. It’s NOT because we gave up or lost steam. I went quiet for two reasons: one, we found an amazing handyman to help with some of the foundational stuff, and he was on vacation for a couple weeks. Two, I have finally gained the ability to be patient and do things the right way! My usual way of doing things is to get a big idea, barge in and make do with whatever is available at the moment (because when I get an idea, I want to do it now), and then lose steam.

Did I mention that when I get an idea and decide to do something, I need to do it all right this moment? That’s often caused me to go with “lesser” options than what I really want, in an effort to get it all done in the moment. Or my excitement causes me to rush, which then leads to carelessness. Then I become disappointed with the results, which causes me to lose steam or get bored, and then I give up. This ADHD diagnosis and Adderall have been an absolute godsend. Not only have I been wildly productive and following through on things for months now, I’ve been able to pull back and take my time. So, for example, a few months ago, I was looking for wallpaper for another project. I spent hours looking at options online, and I found several that I liked. My old way of doing things would have had me choosing one from images online, ordering a few full-sized rolls right off the bat, receiving them, realizing the one I chose didn’t look that great in person, and then… abandon the whole darn thing until I started the cycle again a few months later. Then when I found something I *did* like, I’d have to wait because I blew my budget on an impulse. (That right there pretty much decribes the last couple decades of my life!) In the last five or so months of taking Adderall, I’ve really been able to keep the bigger picture in mind. By simply being patient, I’ve finally been able to fully translate what’s in my head—and all my big ideas—to reality. It’s pretty freakin’ cool. So that wallpaper I was looking for…? I did what most “normal” people—I ordered samples! And I found that I hated the ones I thought I loved. So I spent weeks going through samples and looking for just the right wallpaper. And when I thought I found it, I slapped the sample on the wall and left it there for a few weeks to see if I still liked it.

I am completely in love with what I’ve chosen, and it took me about fifteen samples to get there. It was a very good lesson before starting this bathroom renovation project.

So for those of you just catching up:

We’ve lived in this house for over ten years now. We bought it knowing it needed a lot of cosmetic work and seeing the vast potential. There are a lot of little things that are broken, need to be replaced, don’t work properly, or are just ugly. For ten years, we just had so much other stuff going on, and I just never felt a real attachment to this house. (That’s a story for another day.) However, that’s started to change in the last couple of years. Our en suite bathroom was a mess, and getting worse by the day. I tried to change little things, bit by bit, but small changes only made it worse. It needed a major overhaul, and that felt overwhelming. About a month ago, I just couldn’t take it anymore. No amount of cleaning made it any better. So one morning I woke up and said, “Let’s tear the bathroom apart.” (Sidenote: We have two other bathrooms in this house, so I knew that the worst case scenario would be that our bathroom would be out of comission for a long time; in that case, we just use the one downstairs. I was willing to take our time.) Let me also point out that were were only planning on replacing the shower right now. We were going to rip out the shower and set up the new one, ourselves. The old shower was a neo-corner fiberglass surround. The new one will span the entire side wall, be 100% tile, and have a semi-frameless door. As we began, I knew we needed to:

  • remove the old surround shower
  • remove all the drywall where the new shower and tile will be
  • remove the floor tile where the new shower floor will be
  • prep and waterproof the shower-area walls with cement board
  • prep and waterproof the shower-area floor with a showerpan/waterproof membrane, cement (sloped towards the drain)

Notice I said, “We were only planning on replacing the shower right now.” I’ll get to that. (Spoiler alert: WHOLE NEW BATHROOM.)

Step number one: rip out the fiberglass shower surround. I googled and then told Husband he needed to go to the hardware store and buy a circular saw. He was terrified, but game. I was excited—I love any excuse to play with power tools, and I have 100% faith in our ablity to learn things and figure it all out. It was not, of course, nearly as easy as to remove a fiberglass shower as all those YouTube videos said it would be. (Shocker, right?) But we did it!

If you look at the picture above, you’ll see the space where the old corner shower was. We decided to expand the shower to fill that whole space.

Once the shower was ripped up, I tackled the drywall. Here’s where it gets interesting. And by interesting, I mean here’s where I smartened up, because every time we’ve had someone do work on this house, they’ve uttered something along the lines of, “In over twenty years as an electrician, I’ve never seen anything like this.” Some shoddy work has been uncovered, and we also surmised that the husband in the previous owner family fancied himself a DIYer, and… he shouldn’t have. Listen, you might be saying, “But Nikki… aren’t you telling us that you fancy yourself a DIYer?” Yes, yes I do. But my version of DIY is knowing what my limits are and what I shouldn’t mess with.

So after I finished opening up the wall where the shower will be, I took a good, long look at the pipes. I saw lots of green patches, and after googling, I found that it could be nothing or it could be something major. It was probably nothing, but hell yes, let’s go with better safe than sorry. And at that, we called in a professional handyman. (If you’re in the Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland area, I highly recommend him. Though I’m hesitant to give out his info if you ask—he sounds pretty busy, and I’m hoarding his time for the bathroom and several other projects this year!)

Anyway. Once we called in a professional, it was game over. It went from “let’s just start by replacing the shower” to “let’s demolish and renovate the whole damn thing.”

And here’s where we’re at now:

Our handyman repaired some iffy sections of pipe and secured others. We decided to have him lay down the foundational stuff to make sure it’s done right. We’ll demolish and remove what we can ourselves, and I’ll do all the painting and tile work.

After patching the plumbing, he pulled up the rest of the old, stone tile where the shower will be. He then moved the drain (it was not and would not be centered), laid down the shower pan (waterproof membrane), and poured the cement. (I knew that the cement had to be sloped, to keep water moving towards the drain, and I decided it would be safer to have a pro handle that part.)

The old sink and sink cabinet was in the way; I told him that we were going to replace that, too, so he just tore it out for us.

We decided we want a shower buttress (a half wall) and will attach a towel warmer to it. I’m obsessed with towel warmers. When I lived in Prague, every single apartment I lived in or saw had a towel warmer—even the smallest, dinkiest little Panelaks at the end of the yellow line. It’s a European thing, and I don’t know why they haven’t caught on in the United States, because they are amazing. Our bathroom is always cold, so this is a small luxury.

Well. We were going to just get a plug-in warmer, since the plug could be tucked against the wall behind the sink. Then the handyman said, “why not just wire it in?” We’d talked about this originally, but the wiring would have been too much work. However—when I showed him the style of sink we want (a wall-mount, floating sink), he said he’d have to remove the drywall to  do some reinforcing for the sink. He’s also doing some rewiring to give us an overhead light (it had previously only been “vanity” lighthing). Since the wall will be open and he’s doing electrical now, anyway… we’re getting a hard-wired towel warmer!

We previously had a dimmer switch for the overhead light, but we lost it when we had an exhaust fan put in. (The one large dimmer/light switch became two smaller switches—one for the light and one for the fan.) I really want my dimmer switch back. I’m not a morning person, and I hate being blasted with light first thing (well, anytime, actually). Our new overhead light will be BRIGHT. So I said, “Can we change the switch up to have a dimmer again?” Et voila! The rewiring includes a new box on the wall to include three full switches: one dimmer light switch, one exhaust fan, and one for the towel warmer.

That’s right. We’re not just getting a towel warmer… we’re getting a fancy-pants timer on/off switch. I may have just died and gone to heaven.

If you’re not sure what a buttress is, look here:

Image from www.scenetherapy.com. Click image to see original post.

That white, half wall to the right hand side of the shower is a buttress. The towel warmer will be installed on that. This is also very close to what our finished bathroom will look like. We’re doing this same black hexagon floor tile (but with darker grout), white subway tile with dark grout (laid out brick-style), and small, black penny tile on the shower floor. We’ve also built in a  “niche” (the tiled, recessed shower shelf). Our showerhead and faucet are on the right hand side (behind the buttress).

Ok! So there’s the first part and big plan. See what we did this past weekend next!…

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