Friday, January 25, 2013

Contemporary bathroom remodel

We started the demo on the bathroom back in November (yes NOVEMBER people) and finally completed all of the 'snags' last night.  It has been usable (bath & loo plumbed in) since mid December but those final snags have taken their time to get done.  Big pats on the back to me & Mr me!  And it looks pretty damn good, if I say so myself. We did the majority of the work ourselves; a lovely handyman moved the drain for the bath tub, did the plumbing for the new shower and framed out the bath and we got stuck in to all the other jobs.  It was a first for me on tiling but Mr has done electrics and plumbing before.

I know, pretty professional looking isn't it?!!  The fact we managed to do it on a budget was also a huge win. I spent a lot of time trawling the internet for the best deals for individual items (I found considerable variations in price between websites) and getting the sink vanity unit & cupboards from Ikea saved us a princely sum.  For those of you interested I shall give you a source list at the bottom of this post.

So a quick reminder of the vision in salmon that was the bathroom before....

Here is what we did....

First up is the fun part - demo which was a days work.

Sink & washing machine out

Before removing bathtub & loo

Floor taken up & new drain plumbed in
bath tub frame

The bath tub was dropped into the frame and set it in concrete. This was done by our handy handyman.

I decided to paint the walls next on the advice of our handyman. A nice easy job that could be done whilst Mr. put up hardiebacker around the bath & its frame and covered it with a waterproof membrane.  An extra precaution as hardiebacker is waterproof; gotta do that job properly, right?

Next was the considerable job of tiling, this took us a lot longer than we anticipated which threw off our original deadline. Mr. quickly threw up the 'muck' on the bath surround and gallantly set to tiling it with the mosaic tiles. Six trillion cuts and as many swear words later he finished that job. Glad it wasn't me.  Note to self: don't use mosaic porcelain tiles when you have to do multiple cuts.

I had chosen white subway tiles for the bath surround which do require a bit more work in terms of pre-installation preparation. As I mentioned this was my first foray into tiling so here are a few of my top tips that are worth noting.

Subway tiling top tips
  1. Have the right tools for the job which include a paddle for your drill to mix up the thinset, notched trowel for spreading on & out the thinset, regular trowel, tile spacers, level, tape measure & pencil (or chalk line), tile saw, grout float, sponge & bucket.  Luckily we had friends who lent us most of the tools. Thanks Tim!
  2. Mix the thinset well.  Follow the instructions on the packet and mix for longer than you need to, or until its pancake batter smooth. I had a few lumps in my first batch and I worried that its strength was compromised. If you follow the instructions on the packet future batches should be the same consistency so will apply the same.
  3. Draw as many guidelines as you can be bothered. It does really help, even if you have put thinset over them it helps guide your eye.  Don't forget to include the gap made by the spacers when you draw out your lines.
  4. Start from the bottom and work up. Better to have odd cuts at the top rather than around the edge of the tub.
  5. Start by tiling a small area. I found doing one row at a time at the back of the tub plenty until I got my confidence up.
  6. Be consistent with the amount of thinset you apply. A tough one; too much and it oozes out between the tile (hard to get off & then makes grouting difficult) but not enough and the tile may come down (that was my worry!).  Scrap your trowel lines horizontally.
  7. Check your levels frequently & use a ruler/tape measure. I obsessively checked the tiles were level and evenly spaced to start with but once I got going I found I was very good at judging it with my eye. Find what works for you.
  8. Wipe excess thinset as you go, its much easier to get off when its wet.
  9. Allow plenty of time to get the job done. It goes without saying but its very annoying if you have to take the kids somewhere half way through your job.  The back of the bath took me an afternoon.
  10. Precut all your tiles before you start.  Makes it soo much quicker and easier. I wrote in pencil on the back of cut tiles where they went up. Putting a cut tile in the wrong place can mean having to cut another whilst your thinset is hardening on the wall.
This list is by no means exhaustive but its what pops into my head as important.  Tiling is not that difficult, once you get going its quite straight forward, boring in fact, so have the radio on!

Completed tiling minus grout
I found the grouting a lot more stressful than tiling.  After researching & chatting to the helpful Home Depot guys we chose sanded grout for the wall tiles.  Lets just say it was obvious why its 'sanded' grout; our bright white grout had a distinct pinky sand coloured hue to it and an distinct grittiness showing through...It has dried whiter and you don't really see the texture unless you peer very closely, but still I will be using non sanded grout next time!

Tiling the floor was a breeze with the 12"x24" tiles.  We spent time laying them out, centering them from the hall door & around the tub, then did all the cuts before we laid them.  Those puppies went down a dream.  We used grey grout to match the tile. Wipe off the excess grout as you go, it is a million times easier to get off when wet. I didn't on the bath surround and its still there now in places...

Floor tiles minus grout
The Ikea cabinets in the laundry area were super easy to assemble and secure in place; the washer/dryer stack took some acrobatics from Mr. to get fitted in, fortunately he was able to climb up & out.

So there you have it, job done. I am now gathering materials and strength to start on our en-suite. 

Breakdown sources

  • White subway tiles - Home Depot
  • Grey 12" x 24" floor tiles - Lowes 
  • Grey mosaic tiles on side of bathtub - Lowes. All the tiles from Lowes were 'free' as we had a store credit from a deal we got when we bought our replacement windows. Sweet.
  • Wall Paint - Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue
  • Sink & vanity - Ikea
  • Sink tap/faucet - Moen from efaucets
  • Tall cupboard & laundry basket cupboard - Ikea kitchen units
  • Granite counter top - off cut from Stone Solutions
  • Toilet - Kohler Wellworth from Home Depot
  • Bath tub - Kohler from Home Depot (I'm sure I paid less than now listed on their site)
  • Shower head & tub kit - Moen from efaucets
  • Shower screen - Dreamline from Mainfaucets
  • Bath mat - Target
  • Towels - Kissing Rabbits by Anorak, bought by my Mum from the UK
  • Towel hooks - Every which way hook from The Land of Nod mounted on a piece of walnut we already had
  • Towel rail & toilet roll holder - Gatco Latitude II range from efaucets
  • Stools - Had years ago, they are Kartell Ghost stools, can get from Wayfair
  • Step - Ikea, spray painted orange
  • Vanity light - Nuvo lighting from Wayfair (again I got at a cheaper price, not sure why!)
  • Recessed ceiling lights - 
  • Vanity cupboard (on wall by door) - Amazon
  • Mirror about sink - was Ikea years ago stained to match walnut 
  • Washer & Dryer - already owned, seconds (they have a few scratches) from Samsung Clearance Warehouse
  • Nellies laundry soap tins - Crate & Barrel
  • Miscellaneous materials/supplies - all Home Depot (I had a 5 times a week habit at the height of the remodel)
I used Pinterest loads while I researched products and ideas on how I wanted it to look. For example, it was very useful to show our handyman a picture of how we wanted the framed bathtub to look.

We ended up spending about $5500 (for those of you interested in numbers) which we were pretty pleased with. If we had hired out I am sure we could have spent triple that number.  A big cost was moving the bathtub/shower drain as the concrete slab had to be drilled out.  It was worth every penny as it really opened up the room by switching the shower to the other end of the tub.  It took about 8 weeks to do the majority of the work & several more weeks to finish off all the snags. (I haven't even mentioned the first shower screen exploding on Mr.!!!) An an advantage of it taking so long is the costs were spread over the months.  The shower screen was the first thing I bought back in October. 

A nod of thanks needs to go to our friends who lent us tools and the endless use of their washing machine(s) as ours was out of action for months :-)

Wow - that was a long post, thanks for reading! 

Have you renovated your bathroom recently? Tried tiling for the first time? Jump on in! The thought is more scary, honest!


  1. Yeah, it looks like it’s made by a professional. It’s not easy to remodel a bathroom without going over your budget, but you were able to prove that not every remodeling project should be costly. The bathroom is beautiful and it looks fresh. You and your husband did an amazing job in this remodeling project.
    ***Lida Swisher

    1. Thanks for your comments Lida. They are much appreciated! Alice

  2. Wow, that's quite a lot of remodeling that you did! Truly impressive skills at home improvement you are displaying. Not to mention at photographing and cataloging your progress, seems like you do everything well and meticulously! The remodel job is very well done and certainly adds value to the bathroom and your home. Kinda weird with the tub in front of the door though!

    Essie Reed @ Valley Home Improvement