In this series, we explain the steps in our bathroom renovation. Part 1 focuses on tile removal and tearing up the old sub-floor.
Last Saturday began like any other. I woke up before the sun, conjured myself out of bed and tended to the animals in the house while the rest of the humans slumbered. Those hours before Handan and Barish arise are sacred. I have no obligations during that time: nowhere to go, no one to chauffeur, no chores and no responsibilities. But as I focused on the video game silently playing on the iPad before me, there was a nagging in my mind. My last three posts for The Navage Patch had been travel posts, and as much as I love writing them (and I know at least a few people like reading them, despite the onslaught of “unsubscribe” emails that flood my inbox each time I publish them), they never bring the big numbers like our “real” posts do.
The problem was, I didn’t have a project anywhere close to being done, let alone ready to be written about for the blog. What could I do? More to the point, what could I do in a day? (Preferably less, since my Saturday was about to be consumed by driving people around and running errands.) I have a demanding boss with strict quotas and deadlines (she’s also a lovely wife, and I love her dearly), so I needed something to write about soon!
A few days earlier, I had built a charging station for our tablets and phones. It wasn’t painted yet, but maybe I could write about that? The thought left me about as inspired as a top chef at a turnip convention. What else?
Ahhhh, yes! A vision began to coalesce in my mind’s eye. It involved a crescent…or maybe a box? Whatever, but it would hang on the wall by thick ropes of jute…or maybe it would attach with black pipe? Anyway, it would hold and conceal small battery-operated candles, so that their light would flicker against the wall…or maybe they would have LED rope lights? GAH! The damned thing kept morphing from shape to shape in my mind. Before long, what started as a simple wooden crescent had become three boxes connected by black pipe, wired for electricity with a window pane in each that displayed a softly glowing Edison bulb. Good lord, so much for simple!
By this point, Handan was awake, and she could see that I was agitated, because I was either pacing around and mumbling or standing stock-still and staring into the depths of oblivion. She offered a solution: I could write about the [name withheld] she had just finished painting that was to hang over the toilet in the guest bathroom. I seized upon her idea. It was my only hope. Besides, I’d built the [name withheld], so it was my project, too! What’s that? You want to know about the [name withheld]? Well, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait a little longer to find out about the [name withheld], because something came up…
I took the [name withheld] in my hands and walked into the bathroom to hang it up. As I held it above the toilet, I got to thinking about its color. I liked it, but I thought it would be even better if it was more of a pure white. Like the trim. I glanced around at the trim. Blech! The trim had seen better days. I closed the door and had a closer look at it. Zounds! What the hell happened to my lily-white door and trim? It looked like a heavy smoker had taken up residence in the bathroom for the last few decades. The white was streaked with sickly yellow. This would not stand.
“Babes!” I said, straddling the toilet.
“Mmmmm?” She said.
“Yeah, no problem.”
We took the bathroom door off its hinges and set it aside to be painted.
“You know, babes.” I said. “Since the door is off, would you want to quickly paint the walls, too?”
We had been planning to change the color from the current dark blue to the same light gray we used in the living room makeover.
“Yeah, why not?” She said.
I stood in the bathroom, looking out. The room felt huge without the door. I liked it.
“Babes!” I said, staring out of the bathroom, arms akimbo.
“Mmmmm?” She said.
“I like the room without the door!” Too bad it needed one. I doubted future bathroom patrons would appreciate an open toilet.
“Babes!” I said, an idea forming in my oatmeal.
“Mmmmm?” She said.
“I want to build a pocket door for the bathroom!” I said.
Handan walked over to where I stood.
“Okay…” She said. She was looking at me funny. It wasn’t like me to actually suggest more work for us. I was usually the one looking for shortcuts or making excuses not to do things. “Yes, my babes, I think that is a great idea.”
We looked at the door area. I’d have to tear down a wall outside the bathroom and move some light switches and outlets, but it seemed feasible. We looked back into the bathroom.
“Let’s get a new toilet.” I suggested.
“Yeah, okay.” She said. “If we’re going to get a new toilet, then let’s also re-tile the floor.” We had found several boxes of Italian tile at the dump a couple of years before and had them ear-marked for the guest bathroom.
I shrugged. “Yeah, why not?” In for a penny, in for a pound, it would seem.
“Since we have to take out the vanity to do the tiles, you can also finally paint that.” I said.
“Yeah, okay.” She said.
And so a simple trip to hang a [name withheld] over a toilet turned into a full-blown renovation. We didn’t plan it. We hadn’t prepared for it. The idea struck, so we grabbed hold and ran with it. Just another Saturday at The Navage Patch.
Our first stop would be Home Depot for supplies. As we were putting on our coats, a thought occurred to me.
“Hey babes? Let’s put in some wainscoting, too” I said.
“I was just thinking the same thing.” She said.
First, let’s take a look at how things were when we moved in 3 1/2 years ago:
When we repainted the house after moving in, we changed that red to the same blue that I have in my office. This was how the bathroom looked just before demolition began:
You’ll notice that we kept the orchid. I watered that stupid thing for months before I realized it was fake.
In this view, you can see where the pocket door will go. I’ll have to remove the wiring for the switches and the outlet to accommodate the door. I’ll go into more detail in a later post.
The floor tiles were in pretty good shape. In fact, these same tiles covered the entire first floor before the previous owners installed hardwood flooring over them in the rest of the house.
Around the floor register, two of the tiles had cracked.
And, yuck, that register was bound for the dump, as well!
Here’s a look at the outer wall of the bathroom, where the pocket door will go.
I’ll have to contend with the central vac outlet there. Remember the last time I discovered a central vac pipe behind a wall? But that project is still in the future. I decided to hold off on removing that wall until after we tiled the floor.
My first step was to remove the baseboard, the door casing (trim) and the door frame. I learned a lesson while removing baseboard for our living room makeover: first cut the caulk with a utility knife…
If you don’t first cut the caulk, pulling off the baseboard has a tendency to tear the face paper off of the drywall along with the paint on the face paper.
Using the pry bar, I removed the casing from around the door frame in one connected piece.
I repeated this process inside the bathroom.
Once the casing was removed, the jamb was exposed. The jamb is spaced in from the frame with shims and secured with nails through those shims. The smart way to remove the jamb would have been to use a reciprocating saw to cut down through the shims and simply slide the whole jamb out. But this was my first time dissecting a door, and I hadn’t done any planning, so I decided to saw through the head jamb with a Dremel saw. Also, though I occasionally suffer delusions to the contrary, I’m not entirely sure I’m smart.
Once that top piece (head jamb) was split, it was an easy task to pry off the two side jambs.
There is still a lot to be done with that door, but that will be a future post. Moving on to the toilet…it was time to remove it. I started by turning off the water, flushing the toilet, and then sponging out the water that remained in the bowl and in the tank. When the toilet was relatively dry, I removed the screw caps and unscrewed the nuts.
Next, I disconnected the water line.
With that, the toiled was free, so Barish and I could pick it up and move it out of the way.
Wanna see something gross? Check this out!
That’s 20 years of grime mixed with the remnants of the wax sealant ring from the original installation. I’m stuffing a rag into the pipe to keep the unholy odors of the leech field at bay.
Next up was the invidious task of removing the filthy remains of the old wax seal.
“Babes!” I called.
“Mmmmm?” Came the reply from another room.
“I need your help!” I said.
I monitored the job as Handan cleared the foul goop.
She was far more qualified than I for that job. And I really just didn’t want to screw it up…it was an important job!
Next up: removing the vanity. That was easy enough. I disconnected the hot and cold water lines, separated the drain pipe and then slid the vanity away from the wall.
As I was monkeying around with the vanity, Handan was busy removing the wall art she had made and hung a few years back. As a testament to just how little we knew about anything back in those pre-blog days, check out how we secured the pictures to the wall:
So Handan had a little patchwork to do on the walls…
When Handan finished patching the walls, we were ready for the real demolition work: smashing tiles.
So I improvised with the next best thing: a drill bit. And you know what? It worked beautifully. The first tile took a few more holes than the rest, since there was no room for the tile to shift once it split.
After the first tile fractured and the pieces were removed, it was smooth sailing for the SS Tile Breaker.
Behind every great tile breaker is an even greater cleanup crew.
Gloves are a must when cleaning up pieces of tile. Just ask Handan the Bare-Handed, who tried to do the job without and now has the scars to prove it!
Once Handan and Barish cleaned up the broken tile, Handan gave the floor a good vacuuming. We could see that there was still a lot of mortar on the sub-floor. It would be a royal pain in the buttocks to chip it all away to make the surface perfectly flat, so Handan suggested that we tear out the sub-floor and install a new one. My wife is a kick-ass engineer, so who was I to argue? If my babes wanted a new sub-floor, my babes was going to get a new sub-floor!
I grabbed my impact driver, sank to my knees and started unscrewing. I looked around me and my heart continued to sink. There were a gazillion screws holding down the sub-floor. I hate kneeling – it just doesn’t play well with my fat. But, I promised my babes a shiny new sub-floor, so it was knee-time for Old Chunky.
It was here that I started to question my life.
Despite the protestations of my screaming lower back and shattered knees, I finished unscrewing the sub-floor. Well, mostly, because some screws were covered by mortar. Handan and I wrested the sub-floor from the slab using the last of the day’s strength.
The demolition was done, at least until I removed the wall for the pocket door. The next day, we would go to Home Depot again for some plywood. Then, we would lay the new sub-floor and try our hands at tiling.