September 28th, 2018

Well well well, once more we choose to play our dangerous game: “Mayhem at the 53rd Precinct.”

Can you even believe the color palette in this bathroom??? If it were not for my knowledge of this room in its present condition, I would be too embarrassed to post this photo of this room. But alas, the photograph you see above is a room that exists only in our rapidly fading memory.

We have a pair of bathrooms in the house and it is a necessity to have a pair of functioning bathrooms in order for our team to function. So with that in mind, I knew I could not take my time with this renovation project. I set a goal to have it functional again within one week- and that is exactly what happened.

But what did I do? A little paint? Re-caulk the tub?

Hell no!  I can do far, far better than that! But first, a quick tour.  We start with this little Art Deco gem of a medicine cabinet.  Of all the things in the bathroom, this one was kinda neat.  It was an in-wall vanity mirror and medicine cabinet complete with overhead buzzing fluorescent tube along with a night light on the lower left that appeared to have ceased function long, long ago.  It also had an included plug on the lower right for all your toaster-in-the-tub needs.

Of course, they don’t tell you that the plug and night light were all wired up with very thin braided wire which just made this thing more of a hazard than it needed to be.  But still, it is a neat design from the 50s-60s.

It is in the trash.

Next we have evidence that the old owners have been afoot!  And that has never been a good sign in this house.  The untrained eye may miss it, but this tile in the tub does not match the tile in the bathroom.  It does not even coordinate!

But do you think they did a good job? You would be mistaken if you did.

This bathroom always had a musty smell in it and I knew it was due to water damage that was never properly repaired. We kept it dry as best as we could, but the evidence was there and I knew it would need to be addressed. Things like this:

There was almost zero mortar behind the tile I pulled away. And you can plainly see the stud was rotten. If the stud is rotten eight inches up from the floor… well you know that is years of neglect.

A couple years ago the guts inside the toilet failed.  No problem.  I can tackle that in an afternoon. …Or so I thought.

What we are looking at here is the shutoff valve behind the toilet.  This shutoff valve and broken tile is a result of me doing a temporary repair until the bathroom could be completely gutted.

Why did this need a repair?

Well I’ll tell you why:

Because there was no shutoff valve for the toilet!!!!

I couldn’t believe it!!

The half inch copper tube went straight down from the toilet, in front of the heater, through the floor, and down to the basement where it tied into the same shutoff value as nearly every other fixture in the house!

So to do a toilet repair would mean almost no water availability anywhere else. Not to mention: could you imagine if the toilet sprung a leak? Good luck figuring out how to shut off the water during that stress!

No bother… we took care of that along with all of this:

Love my Hart finishing hammer.

These cast iron tubs are so impressively strong and heavy! I really think they put them in place and build the house around them. If home builders from the 50s saw that we just do everything in plastic today… I think their heads would have exploded.

After everything was removed and cleaned, I replaced all of the insulation and added insulation on the interior wall (left) to help muffle the sound of water in the shower.

You’re welcome, singers…

I suppose the builder felt no insulation was needed in this cavity, so I added a bunch.

Everything had to go. Just like the kitchen, the room was left bare to the studs.

OH! And I’d like to take the opportunity right now to completely bash the horrible company 1-800-GOT-JUNK.  I decided to give them a shot because I was feeling bad about using Craigslist. So the way it works is you describe what you have to get rid of and select an appointment time. They do not give any sort of price range online. The quote is on site. The driver arrived 15 minutes past the two hour window they provided… but I expected as much.

He took a look at this mess and do you know what he quoted? $300? $400? No…


One. Thousand. Dollars.

They say they have to quote on site because that is the most accurate. Well.. that is bullshit. They arrive with the truck ready to take the junk and try to use pressure sales tactics to get you to agree. “Well, I am here and if you want to get rid of this mess…”  He was telling me about how demolition debris has to get sorted properly for recycling blah blah blahhhhhhh

Unfortunately for him I have been to the dump.  I unloaded my entire patio there. I have seen what happens. These debris hauler guys tilt the bed of their trucks, the junk falls out, and they drive away. The only thing we had to sort separately was non-reinforced concrete because apparently they can pulverize that pretty good and make new bricks for you to buy at Home Depot.

So a part of my old patio might be holding up your new house. : )

Anyway. One thousand dollars.

I kicked him off my property in unmistakable terms.  Do not use them unless you hate money.

Matil got a guy on Craigslist for less than $300 the next day. All clean.

So back inside now, here is the water damage that I found. This is the same spot in the photo above where I had the tile pulled away with the rotten stud. I replaced the stud, strengthened this corner, and reinforced the floor joists and installed a new piece of 3/4″ plywood after cutting out the rotten section.

Just as a side note- the little tiles from the original floor were more or less held down by gravity.  I could not believe how easy it was to lift them all up.  It really only took about ten minutes to clean the entire floor!  The tiles were laid on top of 3/4 plywood which was mostly in very good condition (surprisingly).

I was able to lay down 1/4″ cement board on top of this so that the bathroom and hallway floors would be level across the threshold. More on that later.

On the back side of the tub I came across this old water damage that was adjacent to the power outlet in the office. Good job, guys.

I understand that the water damage is probably the reason why they replaced the tile around the tub but they really did not do a good job- as we still could get water in the basement underneath the bathroom if we were not careful.  Additionally, I would have taken the time to support that stud with a sister stud.

…I took care of that now because they did not back then.

Emile is a fantastic helper through all these projects. He has a perfect memory for where I lay tools down as I go along- far better than my own memory. He even knows the things I shove in my pockets when I forget I even have pockets.

But his greatest assistance comes in the manner of food. He calls omelettes “Eggs Party,” and he just throws whatever he finds in there! And it always tastes awesome. Ever have a hot dog omelette? You should.

And always garnished with mint, cucumbers, sometimes oregano and other things that we have growing outside.

Back in the bathroom I learned why we had a slow drain in the sink. The “T” was nearly completely clogged with rust, debris, hair, everything. So I cut it away and replaced it with easy-peasy PVC. The vertical portions are never really a problem with galvanized steel pipe, but anything horizontal should be replaced at every opportunity. Of course I would replace all of it with PVC if access was easy enough, but in this case just replacing this section is all that was really neccesary. I ran the snake down the rest and it came back clean so I felt pretty good about leaving it alone. The top portion is the vent pipe section and the steel pipe to the right goes to the upstairs sink. That will be saved for another day.

The water lines should be left and right of the waste pipe, but in this case I put them this way by design due to the way the back of my new vanity cabinet was set up. I wanted to move the vanity a couple inches closer to the toilet to give me more clearance for the door, and this worked out well for that purpose.

Once the plumbing and electric was complete, the rest started to come together very quickly. I tried to work in a manner where I could work continuously while also allowing for things to dry and cure properly. Because this part with joint compound, mortar, wet tile saws, and grout is a dirty job, very few pictures were taken. I had a timeline I wanted to stick to and I could not let anything get in the way of that.

But in the above photo, you cannot see but I already had the ceiling Sheetrock installed with the first and maybe even the second coat of joint compound on it. The cement board had over a day to cure in position by this point and was ready to accept the tile. I just used these leftover pieces from the hallway to show how the floor will be level with the hallway. Originally I was going to do a dark floor but Matil decided we should keep the room bright instead, which turned out to be the better choice I think.

Additionally, you can see the heater has been replaced. The very original bathroom had a pedestal sink, and they had about a six or seven foot section of heater that ran on the long wall (right).  When the old owners replaced it with a vanity, they did not shorten the heater. Instead, they made a cutout on the back of the vanity so it would just go over the heater. So the cotton balls and soap and whatever else was stored in the vanity remained very toasty warm all winter.

Why? Because they are the old owners and that is just what they did….

I shortened it with a three foot and two foot section so that it would make a nice L around the toilet and then go back to the boiler after that. Even though the total length is shorter, I expect it to be warmer in there because a) the old enclosed section wasn’t doing anything and b) this heater section doesn’t have sixty years of dust on it.

The new toilet flange is by Oatey and I got it from a professional plumbing supply.  It converts the lead flange to PVC by using a really neat rubber gasket that is forced against the inside of the lead waste pipe by three stainless steel screws. When tightened, the screws pull up the lower section of the flange and the rubber is forced outward in a bulging donut shape that gives it a very strong seal.  Additionally- no more disgusting and messy wax rings!  Now they make these foam and gel-like donuts that sit perfectly and compress to make an equally strong seal.  The donuts even have holes to hold the toilet bolts steady as you are dropping the toilet on top.

Like I said, if we could go back in time and show the builders how we do it today…. wow.

I installed the tub and surround, and once that was complete my friend Chris helped me tile the next morning.

The tub was laid in a bed of mortar. These tubs do not specifically require that they are bedded in mortar, but I highly recommend doing so. On the initial dry fit, it did not move but it definitely felt like a plastic tub. Once we placed it in the mortar it felt pretty great, and once I stepped in it the next morning it felt like an iron tub! All the hollow noise was completely removed and there is absolutely zero flex.

Based on my reading, the key to it is that the tub must be pressed in to place but not “wiggled” or “shimmied,” as that would end of creating some low sections in the mortar beneath it. Mortar will not spring back into position if pushed.

Lastly, I installed insulation around the tub.  It is behind the wall of the tub that you see in the photo above, as well as all the interior and exterior walls around the wall panels. This helps to deaden the sound of the water splashing- and to ensure any singing or talking remains a soliloquy!

We got the tile done around 5PM and at that point I was stuck outside the bathroom. I think that was the only day I didn’t work until 8PM and it was tough because I obviously still had a long way to go towards completion and I was beginning to feel the sands of time wearing on me- as this was Thursday or Friday already. Maybe Saturday. Who knows…

You can see how the heater goes behind the toilet.  I am glad I took some measurements because there is enough clearance for an American Standard toilet, but not Kohler!

The grout was also going to be a slowdown so I actually didn’t do that until the following afternoon, because I had to get the Sheetrock up so that the first round of joint compound could dry. In the photo above you can see a nice transition from copper to PEX for the hot water baseboard as well. PEX pipe has been used for a few decades in Europe but is still relatively new in the USA- but it is 100% accepted by all building codes. It actually has a higher burst rate for frozen pipes than copper because it can tolerate a lot more flex than copper pipe. Additionally, the fittings are super easy to install. I prefer the solid copper rings that compress onto the fitting with a special calibrated clamp. The alternative is the stainless crimp rings but the crimp does not seem to be as permanent to me. But both are approved so I am sure they are fine.  You can buy color coded PEX, or use color coded duct tape to make life easy.  I used both methods.  PEX pipe for hot water baseboard is orange and is of some kind of special formulation for the heat.

Surgeons don’t make incisions as clean!

Now we are really getting somewhere!

Now things are really beginning to take shape!  I am so happy this room has perfect 90 degree corners!

Yes, that omelette is sitting on a pizza tray!

And because I was super busy from the time the sheet rock went up until completion, there simply was no time for step by step photos. And so I present the (near) finish product:

We selected a gray vanity to give the room a little contrast and definition as opposed to plain white. The white and gray marble top works nicely with the porcelain tile floor. We wanted a clean and modern bathroom, but still decided to get loud with the walls. I think the combination came out beautifully. What do you think?

The molding in the bathroom is all PVC, with the sole exception of the sill plate on the window. I siliconed the molding to the floor to help control things while mopping. Mold will never reach the Sheetrock anyway because I kept it 1/2 to 3/4 inch off the top of the tile.  Additionally, I placed plastic grip pads under the vanity which are almost completely invisible. This will prevent mop water from touching the wood while it dries.

I went with Koehler Lilyfield fixtures and towel bars. The quality is definitely a step above what I was expecting.

The gap you see between the wall sections and top is there by design. The lip of the tub rises about an inch above the wall section, on the back side, and there are hidden water channels to take any water that does make its way along the seams down to the tub. I tested it pretty thoroughly and everything seems to be in perfect shape.

So that’s where we are at! I just need to select a couple nice black and white prints to hang on the walls and we are done!

And speaking of Black and White…

After playing with this photo on the camera, I decided what color I am painting this room if I ever decide to change it! Classy!

Cheers, Everybody-

Ps- Joey is quite pleased that all the work is finally done! But he is forever the faithful companion.

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