rachel twelmeyer

Bathroom Reno: Phases 4 and 5

Last Christmas break, all of Spencer’s family was in town. And in addition to being very generous people, they also really like a good project. And so it was decided that our shower would get renovated family-style. In preliminary estimates, we figured it would take a few days to demo, put up tile, grout, caulk, and maybe even repaint the tub – enough time to finish before our labor went home after Christmas. But as good homeowners, we’ve learned that “a few days” will never ever be an accurate estimation of how long something will take.


The first indication that this project was more extensive than anticipated was after the old tile got pulled out, we found out the wall behind it was rotted (at least I think that’s what happened, this demo happened while I was at work, so some of the details aren’t clear). Everything got ripped out and mold-resistant green board got put in.


We had planned on a cubby hole in the shower, but when we cut out the hole, we found a board and an old electrical wire running through it; fortunately neither were essential to anything, so they got pulled out. And we replaced a few pipes (I think?) and braced some of existing pipes while things were opened up.


Once the dry wall was in, we had to go through the process of making this tiny box waterproof. We ended up learning a lot about the orange “membrane” you see above, and hoped it would be worth the cost and effort of putting it in since we had just expended all that effort replacing everything that hadn’t been waterproofed previously. But after careful installation, we finally got to move to the fun part: the tile.

[It’s only fair to mention that the timeline was rather more elongated than the pictures indicate; the shower was waterproofed and tiled a few weeks after Christmas break ended. There were other distractions (see below) and obstacles, so there was some delay before we got to make tiling progress.]


During the interim, we were extremely grateful for friends that let us knock on their door late at night to use their shower, since we only have one shower in the house, (unless of course you count the hose running out of the water heater in the basement, which we both used when it was either too late or too early to shower elsewhere.) This is why Spencer looks so relieved here to have the tile up and some of the pipe elements attached.


We picked a dark grey grout, and Spencer tried to tackle it himself one night, which we learned was not wise; the grout ended up drying faster than we could manage and we ended up having to scrub and work extra hard to get it looking clean. In the photo above and to the right, you can see on top what was left after labored scrubbing that we ended up having to chip off, which was way more work. This was one project that would fall under the category of “I thought my life would end before this ever got done.” But now it looks incredible and we’re really happy with the result.


After getting the shower head on, the last task was to paint the tub itself. It was not in our budget to invest in a new tub, but the current tub had stains I couldn’t get out no matter how much I scrubbed. And given that it’s a solid cast iron tub, we opted to give it a fresh coat of paint. We used a special epoxy spray they sell at home depot, and ended up needing three coats. The surface is now more fragile (I can’t scrub it with anything too abrasive) but it was a good way to get extra life out of what we already had.


Phase 5: The ceiling!

This phase was completed concurrently with the shower renovation. You can see a sliver of the green board below, which shows which phase we were on when this happened.


All of the walls and ceilings in our house are still lath and plaster, which isn’t distracting in any other room, and has held up quite well. But given the steady humidity in the bathroom (and the lack of a fan/vent) the plaster in this room responded very poorly and bubbled in waves. After a brave attempt to cover it all with drywall, the boys decided to just pull down all the plaster down to the wooden lath boards, and then go ahead with the drywall.


Unfortunately these photos don’t portray the mess that is transporting that much plaster from the ceiling to the dumpster. 


But now everything is drywalled and primed, and it looks exquisite. Whoever the lucky soul is that buys this house from us may walk into the bathroom and not know that we have altered every single inch of space in this bathroom (except the floor, which we merely scrubbed on hands after every project.)

This catches us all up on the archives, and fortunately there are projects happening in real time that will hopefully lead us to a happy ever “after” (as in before and after? right?).

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