The Impromptu Bathroom Remodel

This is the only  picture I have of the master bathroom before we pulled it apart:

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Taken shortly after we moved in if I recall right.

The bathroom is only 54″ wide.  Its very long, at least for whats in it, but 54″ wide is tiny.  At some point the previous owners had pulled out the original tub and surround and replaced it with a corner shower.  To be fair, any tub that would fit in that space would be tiny, so I’d not have put in a new tub either.  Under the shower base we could just see the corners of two boards, we assumed that they’d been put there to help angle the base correctly for draining.

Back at the end of Oct my husband came out of the bathroom to tell me that the bit of one board was soaking wet.  When I checked it I confirmed that not only was it soaking wet, it had been for a while, it was black with collected mold.

We’ve got a water leak somewhere.  Oh fun.  Although we could access the shower water shut offs without pulling down the shower we had no idea where the leak was, or how much water damage had been done, so we made the decision to just pull down the shower (which wasn’t exactly a high end unit), fix whatever needed to be fixed, and replace it.  Since we have a 2nd full bathroom, complete with the original tub/shower combo the lack of shower wasn’t going to be an issue and we could take our time getting it done once the leak and damage was fixed.

Pulling up and out the shower we discovered that there wasn’t a leaking pipe after all.  The shower base itself had cracked just a bit at that corner allowing water to dribble right onto that supporting board.  The drywall that the board had been right up against showed a little water damage, but after cutting that out I was able to confirm no real water damage due to the leak.  Yay!  Right?

Like all projects in a not new house it wasn’t that simple….

The shower walls had been supported by a series of 2×4’s screwed into the wall.  Counting every single screw (of which there were over 20), 3 actually hit studs.  The rest just went into drywall.  With no drywall anchers.  In two cases the only thing holding the boards on was the fact that they’d also used silicone.  I have no clue how the whole mess stayed on the wall.  We were able to literally just pull most of the boards straight out from the wall without removing the screws first.

Then there was what we found under the shower base:

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I’m not sure what the hole on the left was, but I’m guessing old water damage that they “patched” when they replaced the tub.  See the plumbing on the right?  They had to redo the drain when they put in the shower.  The pipe itself sticks up above the floor level by almost half an inch.  The boards under the shower base weren’t to help tilt it for drainage.  They were to support it so that it didn’t crush the plumbing.  Cause that makes lots of sense……

See the kinda groady patch of vinyl between the two holes?  It flexed in a very nasty way when we started to step on it in the process of pulling down the whole mess.  When I pulled up the vinyl and very carefully put a foot on the spot it collapsed under a very small portion of my weight.  Old water damage that was never fixed.  Thankfully there didn’t appear to be any mold, just dry rot.

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See those little black specs?  Mouse turds.  The visible insulation was full of them.  SO MUCH FUN!!!  Arg.

So I pulled up the “patch” on the left hole, confirmed the presence of mouse turds in the insulation under it.  Pulled and threw away all the insulation in both holes, and then cut out the old water damaged spot and made the whole hole mostly square so it would be easier to patch:

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The spot under the old water damage had basically no insulation (and more signs of mice).  My cut opened up the next cavity that extends back under the floor of the rest of the bathroom.  You’ll notice there’s not much insulation there too.  At least there wasn’t any mouse turds in it.  But a flashlight and an awkward angle to peer into the cavity confirmed what we’d suspected about the whole house.  There was barely an inch of insulation under the rest of the floor.

We’d been pretty sure that the whole house needed to be re-insulated, but I wasn’t thrilled to get conformation of that fact.

I stuffed every nook and cranny I could reach full of insulation and made a quick patch till we could decide what we wanted to do.

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(actually I took the picture prior to insulation, but you get the idea)

We’d hoped to put off any bathroom renovations till a few years down the road when we’d planned to spend several grand doing it right.  We’re going to need to reinsulate obviously, the bathroom is the coldest room in the house.  We want to put in heated floors.  And a custom, 54″ wide, shower stall.  So we weren’t interested in spending a fortune getting this done.

In the end we picked an inexpensive corner shower, made out of better quality plastic than the old one.  Which of course meant we had to move the drain.  But my Father-In-Law was able to do that for us, and while he was at it he fixed the too high plumbing.

And we put up the shower walls.  And discovered that the corners of the room aren’t square.  Not sure why I expected them to be, but you know how that goes….

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There’s a piece of cement board under the shower now, to help with water control.  And we’re in the process of putting down 1/2″ thick rubber matting on the floor to help with the cold floor problem……but otherwise the bathroom is done.  Well.  For now……

4 Comments

  1. Comment by bluesun:

    “And we put up the shower walls. And discovered that the corners of the room aren’t square. Not sure why I expected them to be, but you know how that goes….”

    This describes every single home improvement project I’ve done ever.

  2. Comment by bogie:

    Your house and my house have a lot in common – including the hole in the floor under the shower. Thankfully, I am minus the mice though.

    Sounds like you are dealing with it well though – thinking it thru before doing any expensive fixes that you might want to tear out later. Good luck, and hope you don’t find any more surprises!

    Oh, and square corners? What the heck are those. LOL

    • Comment by Ruth:

      Well using the spare bathroom regularly showed me some problems there that’ll definitely need to be fixed before ANYONE uses it on a long term basis. Including a (not small) hole in the wall covered (on the outside) by ONLY the vinyl, and on the inside by a piece of plexi (I’m thinking the old vent maybe?)…..that one will be “fixed” as soon as I can get a chance to pick up more insulation *sigh*