Gutting the Bathroom

In a 1 bathroom house, it is no surprise the bathroom is about the number 1 priority before I can officially move in, especially since I knew it needed some major remodeling.  Just from a simple peek into the bath cabinet, I had pretty much already made up my mind that I would be needing to run new plumbing. There were signs of prolonged leaking around every fixture in the house (water heater, washer, kitchen sink, toilet, tub… I think that’s nearly the whole house). And from peaking into the crawlspace, I could tell that much of the drainpipes were still cast iron or steel, which had me thinking new PVC drains for the whole house would just be good measure also.

So here is basically how I found the bathroom (for all the bath “before” photos, scroll down or click here).


Within just a few hours work, the bathroom was almost empty. I tried to loosen the bolts “holding” the toilet to the floor, but they were seriously rusted tight. So I tried to see how loose it might be to get a saw blade underneath to cut the bolts, and I nearly picked it right up off the floor, no kidding! It was only held on one side, and barely at that. The sink vanity, although not in bad shape (I plan to put it by the curb with a “FREE” sign) literally felt like a child’s sink in height. I can only imagine the neck and back pains trying to wash my hands or brush my teeth in that, not exactly chiropractor approved for my 6′-4″ tall self.

The flimsy paneling wasn’t glued at all, just a few nails into the plaster so it ripped off so quick. And then I started ripping up the flooring. I didn’t take photos of every layer, so let me describe it: imagine a sandwich of linoleum, 1/2″ thick plywood, linoleum, strangely soft and termite eaten panel board, and then another layer of linoleum on top of the home’s original wood floor. Each layer showed signs of being glued at one time, but thanks to the amount of water it survived and what looks like hungry termites, they simply peeled off like a freshly baked Pillsbury grands biscuit. Hungry? Me neither.


At first, I was super excited to see the wood floor peak out under all those layers of wet flooring. But the closer I got to the tub and toilet stack, the worse the wood got. Until eventually, I put accidentally put my foot right through the spot where the toilet bowl would have been. It just splintered apart. And the board broken at the front edge of the tub was rotted through, it came up like ripping apart a dry sponge. And trying not to fall through the floor was the cruelest game of hop-scotch.


I debated about whether or not to remove the tub. My debate lasted all but 10 seconds. The tub drain had signs of leaking, with every connection corroded. But I have never moved a cast iron tub before. Thank goodness for friends who are willing to come over and help lift a tub. Seriously, thanks Kyle!

Next came knocking down the loose plaster. I didn’t think this step through. I figured knock down what was loose, then take out the floor. Looking back, I should have simply cut out all the plaster and lath for the entire wall behind the tub and on the toilet wall right then. For the window wall, I don’t want the insulation to fall out, and I don’t plan to run any pipes or wires through that wall, so that lath can stay.


So now the tub is sitting in my kitchen, where a normal person would have a stove and refrigerator. But I am not a normal person, so I have a tub in mine. I love the look of the enameled cast iron, and it’s really very solid. I expect it to clean up really well with a ton of elbow grease after I get it reinstalled.

Where I left it on Saturday was beginning to cut out the wood floor. Yes, cried a little at this step, knowing how nice a dark and luxurious wood floor would be beautiful in an otherwise classic black and white tile bathroom. But the amount of rotted wood was just too much, the entire half of the room closest to the window would have needed replaced. I would have found boards to match, and by cutting out the floor I gain a larger access into the crawlspace for when its time to run new plumbing and add new electrical lines to a few other rooms. So attack it I did with the Sawzall, and there’s no looking back now. Plus, many homes of this age originally had marble or hex-tile bath floors, so my finished look should pass as age appropriate.

So what is getting me through the panic attack of not having a bathroom floor at the moment? Below is my bathroom inspiration:

white bath charcoal walls

White, lots of white. Except imagine a dark wood medicine cabinet built into the wall, as well as dark wood trim and door. I’m not too much a fan of painted woodwork (yes, this house will be the real test of my paint stripping abilities), and I think a black and white bathroom with just a little bit of deeply stained wood will make the room feel very rich. But in the mean time, I have got some major crawlspace work to do!



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  1. House Tour | Up and Adam [Ries]
  2. Stripping takes Work | Up and Adam [Ries]

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