Remodeling the bathroom was originally a phase 3 project – not a high priority since everything worked. It was builder’s-grade and beige (which just looked dirty in a room without any natural light), but it was usable.
We had already done some minor improvements like changing out the light fixture, painting the walls and replacing the sink top.
The bottom of that beige tub had a weird texture – one we decided was created by a repair kit. We figured the previous owners must have had a crack in the tub and repaired it. Again, it was unsightly, but that was not enough to move the bathroom up on our priority list.
However, one night my mom told us the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom (right below the upstairs bathroom) was wet. Sure enough, as we monitored it, we found it got larger with every shower we took. Suddenly, the bathroom renovation moved into phase 1.
Start with the tub/shower
The debate over the type of shower we wanted was a short one. We initially talked about getting another insert simply to save money. Gary’s parents have a nice one with a faux tile look. The ease of cleaning those inserts is a big plus. But I really wanted something that would go all the way to the ceiling to help make our small bathroom feel bigger.
TMI warning: We also like to shower together and that little builder’s-grade tub did not make it easy. We wanted something a bit wider.
We knew our dream was a tiled shower with a wide tub. If we went with the cheap fix, I knew we would never redo it unless there was a problem because I’m just too frugal. After crunching the numbers, we decided we would go with what we wanted – tile that was affordable and a wide tube. (It also meant holding off on our deck until we saved our money again.)
Finding the tub was fairly easy. I google searched for wide tubs and found this one from Kohler that fits a standard space for bathtubs. Your standard tub is 60 inches long by 30 inches wide. The one from Kohler starts at 30 inches wide and bows out to 36 inches in the middle. It’s also taller than your typical tub giving it a soaker-tub feeling.
As for the tile, my dream was Carrera marble, however at about $7 a tile that was a no-go. We found a tile with a faux stone look that was six inches by 24 inches for about $1.50 a square foot at Lowes. I love the look of long narrow tile. We also thought the larger tiles would make tiling easier and quicker than if we went with a smaller subway-size tile.
We tore out the old tub and got down to the studs on the wall. That was when we found the real culprit of our leak. While we had assumed it was the cracked-and-repaired tub, our plumber found that the drain pipe in the shower had corroded and fell away from the tub base. This was something that could have easily caused hundreds of dollars in damage if it wasn’t caught.
Then came the floors
Without the tub in the room, the tile floor started having issues. It was not a nice tile – tan with brown grout – but it was usable until we had extra money to replace it. But the tub must have been providing some pressure on the tiles, holding them in place, because once it was pulled out, the tiles began to rock and loosen. The decision was made to replace the floor too.
Then our plumber recommended that we beef-up the floor with an additional layer of subfloor.
And there’s always more than you plan
While everything was open, we decided to move the water controls to the other side of the shower. This would provide easy access to the water pipes in the future. (Originally, access was through the kitchen wall, which was blocked by kitchen cabinets when we did our kitchen remodel.)
We had also noticed that sometimes when the kitchen sink was draining, water would back up into the bathroom sink, which is just on the other side of the wall. After an initial investigation, our plumber (Best Plumbing of Poughkeepsie) cut open a section of drywall in the bathroom to investigate further. They found that the common drain pipe had not been installed with a proper slope. They did some re-configuring of that pipe to make everything flow downhill and now all drains do their job.
Our shower project just kept growing. But it also kept moving forward.
I was pregnant at the time we working on this, so hubby charged ahead and made sure I was only without my shower for two weeks. I was without my toilet for a couple days. (We have a second full bathroom downstairs.)
Cement board went up on the walls of the shower. They were then coated in a rubber-type water-proof coating called Red Guard that you paint on. We added two niches to hold all of our showering needs. Gary and I tiled the shower in two days and used a white grout.
For the floor we chose a dark gray 12 x 24 inch tile for the floor with a “DeLorean Grey” grout. (I refuse to do white grout on a floor after the revelation Christmas morning 2013 that the gray grout in my apartment bathroom was supposed to be white. Way too much work to keep it white after that. And as sci-fi nerds, we couldn’t pass up the DeLorean name.)
The floor tile took just one night to lay and then we grouted the following day.
While this project was not planned for at this time, in the end, it turned out beautiful. I love the look of the tiles in the shower and the floor and somehow they make the bathroom feel bigger than before.
The bathroom itself is still a bit of a construction zone with the walls needing to be repaired, and there’s still the matter of the vanity that will need replaced at some point.