Monday, March 8, 2010

Master Bathroom, Part 1, Destruction

When we bought this house, I knew I would want to update the master bath. It looked fine to a quick eye, like when touring a house for sale. But a little more than a glance and it was obvious it had been hastily updated. The layout was good though, meaning no need to move plumbing, and the size reasonable, not so small that sacrifices would have to be made but small enough that the cost would be in our budget. That said, people can go crazy and spend way too much on a place where you spend maybe one hour total a day? In reading remodel magazines, I've come across $8K as a starting point for a small bath. Wow. No wonder people want to do it themselves. If you are not moving plumbing, and are careful about fixtures and tile selection, it should be less than that! At the house in Houston, I remodeled both bathrooms. The first hall bath costing $2,300. We ripped out a wall, unearthed a beautiful original tub and wood floor, and recycled a trash-picked TV cabinet into a sink vanity. The master bath cost a little more, $3500. It was a small bath so it needed special care in design and everything was replaced. More on those in another post.

So as I'm standing in the ugly master bath, just looking and thinking, I notice the wall for the shower is, OMG, the crap that was on the walls in the basement! Rough wood paneling, painted peachy beige. WTF? So I look closely at one of the corners and, yep, all of the walls were this paneling. In the lousy remodel that was done, they slapped 1/4" drywall over the wood and painted it all the same color. There was an attempt made at design when they glued trim over the horizontal drywall seam, like a chair rail. Pretty! So I realized that not only would the sink, toilet and mirror need to go, we were going to have to strip the walls down to studs. Can you pass me that big can of worms, please? I'd just love to open it now. Hell, if we're tearing out the walls, why not remove the shower wall and open it up? Sure! And rip out all the painted tile in the shower stall (yes, painted tile). Wino loves the tearing out of walls and fixtures so this was a good day for him, well, until he pulled off one wall panel and the funk from a dead critter previously trapped in said wall filled the tiny room. Open window, please. I diligently removed trash from the bathroom, taking pictures of things I was going to give away, like the vanity, mirror, cabinet, light fixture and toilet. Posted on craig's list, it was all gone by the next morning. I love recycling!

We found a few scary/interesting things in the destruction phase of this remodel. When the mirror was removed, we discovered some creative wiring behind it. One side used brown duct tape to make the electrical connections, 'cause that's not a fire hazard. And the old medicine cabinet body and electrical boxes were left in the wall (see picture). Ripping out the shower was a learning experience. The tile was adhered with yellow glue to plain drywall from about 4' and up. From 4' and below, there was 2" think cement, then the drywall, then glued tiles. No plastic sheeting water barrier. The wall opposite the shower head was trashed inside. The bottom 4' of the studs were crumbling away from water damage. We ended up sistering 4 studs with new ones. (sistering them was easier than tearing out the old studs since it's an outside wall and the siding was attached on the back side). The drain was a lost cause too. The shower pan was a mud style one, basically hand shaped cement to shed water towards the drain. If you want a tiled shower pan, this is the traditional method. It's tough though and if the weep holes at the drain get clogged, water problems will result. I think this is what happened with age to this shower. Around the drain, the wood subfloor was also damaged. When Wino scraped the stick-em-down tiles off the rest of the floor, we realized the bathroom had been carpeted (yuck!) over particle subfloor and it had raised swell spots from water penetration in front of the sink and near the toilet. So out came the subfloor. Now there was a sub-subfloor of 1/2" regular plywood so at least we weren't teetering from one joist to another. There was also a drop ceiling in the shower stall that we removed and it left a gaping 4'x4' hole up to the attic. It got a little cold in that part of the house. The shower plumbing looked good, and we were able to check the plumbing for the hall bath too since they share the wall and supply lines. That was a relief after the rotted walls and floor. So after a full day's work deconstructing this 12'x5' space, I looked in the doorway and thought "We have lost our minds! What were we thinking????". Truly, I was glad we were able to discover and remedy the hidden damage, although the added cost and labor were something I know now to expect, even in a house that's not so old.

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