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The Bathroom Project from HELL !

(Not really, but it's a catchy title, isn't it?)

Click on the small images to see them full-sized

This project started when one of the bolts holding our toilet to the floor flange broke off. Imagine my surprise when I attempted to replace the broken bolt and discovered there was very little solid wood supporting the bathroom. After a bit of ripping and tearing, I discovered that about all the floor really consisted of was two successive layers of 1/4" plywood underlayment over the old tongue and groove subflooring. One spot right beside the tub could have caused a broken ankle or worse if anyone had stepped through the piece of soggy chipboard tacked up under the original flooring.

We had purchased our little 80 year old house in 2003 after renting it for several years. At the time, we were very busy caring for my Mom and didn't have time to spend house shopping. We also were buying the location, which we had fallen in love with. We knew the house needed some work but would have preferred to wait until next Spring to begin this particular project. Oh. well!

What started as a simple 20 minute repair turned into almost two months of hard part-time work and has cost about $2500 in materials so far. The bathroom had to be gutted by removing all the layers of flooring and soggy drywall down to the stud walls. Almost everything we found as we opened up the floor and walls needed to be redone.

After clearing out all the trash, the first job was to repair the top of the foundation sill, then level and reinforce all the flooring joists. We ‘sistered’ new joists to the old ones by “buttering” them with lots of very heavy duty urethane-based construction adhesive and fastening them tightly together using 1/2” diameter 4” and 6” bolts with nuts and big flat-washers. We used up one local hardware store’s entire stock of these fasteners! We then covered the newly-strengthened floor joists with exterior grade (waterproof glue) 3/4” plywood subflooring, using more heavy-duty construction adhesive and coated exterior-grade screws.  We used 4x4 shoring posts and foundation jacks underneath the joists during this operation to keep everything level until the construction adhesive set solidly.

The next step was setting and leveling the new tub so water wouldn't run onto the floor and soak the wood as it had previously. Next, we roughed in a new drain line and trap for the new tub/shower and a new PVC (plastic pipe) 'stack' for the toilet. We also ran all new copper supply lines for the toilet and tub. I plan to replace all the old copper piping in the house with new new water lines before long. We installed 2x6 treated-lumber waterproof backing behind the tub perimeter flange to add strength for the bottom edge of the ceramic tile. We also fastened and caulked the tub flange to the blocking to prevent any possible leaks. 

Next, new wall studs were added where necessary, making sure they were 'plumb' so that the corners would be plumb and square for straight tile cuts and grout lines  We then added backing behind the areas to be tiled to securely fasten the ADA-style grab bars we would add later. Finally, we put in blocking for the cement 'backer-board' and waterproof drywall to fasten to.

After we were done with all of this, we hung the backer board, again using waterproof urethane construction adhesive and special screws to penetrate through the cement board without drilling.  The cement backer board edges and corners were taped with fiberglass tape and skimmed with a light coat of Thinset mortar to make them waterproof. Now it was time for the electrical work. I ran wires through the walls from the light switch to the area to above the shower for a powered vent blower to remove any condensation from our small bathroom. I added a 3-gang switch box and wired up some rocker switches. Then the blower and outside vent went in. The soffit ceiling for the shower was built and the upper part of the shower walls and ceiling drywalled and finally, metal-edged, taped and floated. All of the drywall surfaces were primed with 3 coats of waterproofing primer and we were ready for ceramic tile!

We decided on 4" square field tiles with 4" bullnose tiles for the edges and got 'er done last weekend. The actual tile application took about a day and the grouting another 1/2 day, with a day allowed in between for the Thinset mortar to dry properly before grouting. We also installed soap dishes and 2 heavy corner shelves for shampoo and such for which I allowed an extra day so the mortar would be sure to set properly before being grouted. I chose an off-white for the field tile, Pat selected the accent tiles and we both agreed on a Dorian Grey grout which worked out nicely.  The stainless steel grab bars work well with the chrome faucets and handles, and the the neutral terrazzo flooring we haven't yet installed should pull the room together nicely. There's still a lot to finish, but we finally have full use of the bathroom again while we finalize the details, including a new handheld shower head and shower curtain plus selecting a color for the walls and trim. Maybe by the time I take the final pictures, the grout will have had time to fully dry to its proper uniform light grey hue also.