This is the post where I share my intense excitement for shower tile!
For those who don’t care about details, there are before and after pictures of our mega bathroom renovation at the end. If you’re interested in renovation nitty-gritty, we’ve got that too!
Background: Our First House
When Spartacus and I moved to Fort Wayne in July 2015 while waiting for Hubster to get army approval, we stayed with my parents. When Hubster arrived, we continued to stay with them until we decided where we were going to live. After pricing out renting vs. buying, we ended up buying a small starter home a mile up the road from my parents.
|Our first house!|
It is a 1400-square foot two-story craftsman, built in 1925 with three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms. While it was move-in ready, it also had a long list of issues that the previous owners had been unwilling to address, which resulted in the property selling for roughly the same price multiple times in the last fifteen years. We did a VA loan and put 5% down, leaving some saved cash for immediate concerns.
We addressed a few issues we felt were most pressing: a new roof, dishwasher, water heater, radon system, and some electrical upgrades (the inspector felt having the dishwasher, washing machine, garbage disposal, and basement humidifier on the same circuit was less than ideal). But our two things we really wanted to improve, once we replenished some savings, were the full bath upstairs and our kitchen.
A few months after we moved in, I decided to take a bath; when I came downstairs afterwards I discovered much of the bathtub had drained through the kitchen ceiling. We realized the bathtub drain had been leaking for years, and instead of fixing it a previous owner just put up a second layer of cheap ceiling tile to cover up the water spots. We, like probably most of the previous owners, just stopped taking full baths, sticking to the 4-5″ of water required for bathing a toddler. Over Thanksgiving a mouse walked across the plastic covering the hole and met an untimely demise when the painters tape didn’t hold…
A little later our bathroom sink stopped draining, and no amount of snaking seemed to fix it. We needed a plumber to get in there, which would require a fair amount of demo to get access; we decided it was a good time to do our bathroom renovation.
Blips and Unknowns
We planned to drywall and paint the walls, tile the shower and floor, install a new double vanity, and add lighting and electrical outlets (we did not have a functioning outlet in our bathroom). As with all renovations, especially those involving old homes, weird things can happen when you start opening up walls and there are lots of variables to work with.
|See sketchy junction box|
1. One unknown was an electrical junction box with live wiring on the wall. It served no real purpose anymore but looked pretty sketchy. The electrician said he could probably remove it, but depending on what circuit it connected and how much access he’d have, he wasn’t sure of the cost.
2. A second HUGE issue is the fact that our house is rather crooked. This is a combination of 92 years of foundation settling and a DIY kitchen renovation at some point that involved taking out a load-bearing exterior wall without correct support. It’s not so concerning we need to do something about it but it means that from one end of our bathroom to the other the floor dips nearly two inches. None of the walls are plumb either. This was the cause of some of our draining issues; the gravity drain didn’t have a steep enough angle to drain properly.
3. A third blip was when the plumber had his truck burglarized and all his tools were stolen. This was devastating for him and obviously put us behind schedule as well.
4. The fourth unknown was the fact that I was due to have a baby January 30. The original plan at the beginning was somewhere between 2-4 weeks, with the contractor leaning closer to the 4 week mark than the 2. To avoid drywall dust and living without a shower, we moved back in with my parents just after the new year.
5. The fifth unknown was how the *&$@# we were going to get our vanity up the stairs. We purchased our vanity from Menard’s when it was on sale and during an 11% rebate week, so we got a granite-topped vanity for under $800. We saved money by opting to pick it up instead of delivering it, but when my Hubster and father-in-law took his truck to get it, they discovered the countertop was already attached to the base and this monster weighed nearly 300 pounds and was five feet long. My FIL injured himself trying to get it up our porch steps, and the box sat in our living room for three weeks, with everyone tiptoeing around the question of how we were going to get this sucker upstairs.
Since it would be pointless to fix our kitchen ceiling while there was still water draining into it, we had to do the bathroom first. It is also really hard to potty train a toddler when the upstairs potty works, but he’d have to go downstairs to find a working sink to wash his hands. The first thing to go was the single sink and medicine cabinet with broken lighting.
|That 3′ box makes the shower feel like an old creepy motel.|
Next, our contractor took out the weird wooden box built over our shower, which effectively turned it into a cave. After that, he cut out all the old mismatched ivory porcelain tile that covered the walls and shower. We opted to leave the oversized blue cast iron bathtub, because there’s nothing wrong with it and in his words, “Please don’t make me try to get that thing downstairs.” He also took out bizarre shallow cabinets over the toilet.
Finally, he removed the awful painted vinyl flooring. Underneath was hardwood that was actually in decent shape, but as we needed to get under it to do plumbing, it had to go.
Materials & Costs
We had about $6000 originally saved for this project – not a lot at all for what we wanted to do. Our first cost-savings was our contractor. While it would have been much faster to work through a full-service company, we worked with an individual who did the work as he had time; our ability to move out and give him access on his schedule granted him a lot of flexibility which cut costs. He was also very good about telling us what we should and shouldn’t do for our budget and overall house costs (i.e. spending a few hundred on leveling the floor wouldn’t be worth it since it wouldn’t affect the overall crookedness of the house).
We also worked the Menard’s 11% rebate sale and watched sales ads very closely. I haven’t done all the total costs or returned any of our extra materials yet. Our current costs for materials came out roughly like this:
- Double vanity with granite top – $740
- Tile for shower (24″X12″ and mosaic) – $210
- Floor tile (2″X2″ on 12″X12″ mesh backing) – $150
- Shower faucet/head set $140
- 2 bathroom faucets – $200
- 2 wall sconces – $60
- Shower curtain and rod – $40
- Mirrors – repurposed from my parents’ bath reno
- Air vent, grout, caulk, base trim (purchased by contractor): $135
- Additional costs I don’t have in my files yet: paint, shelving
I would like to re-rope the wooden double-hung window, so we decided to repaint that ourselves later to reduce the paint labor costs. We will also use our Menard’s rebate to purchase the open shelving to replace the cabinet above the toilet.
- We paid the electrician $700 for the lights, switch and outlet installation and fixing our junction box.
- Our plumber replumbed everything, replacing the copper and cast iron piping with PVC. He also installed a new stove we had purchased for our kitchen. His labor and materials were $1550.
- Our main contractor (bless him) who did all the dirty work AND spent far more hours than he planned over at our house trudging up multiple flights of stairs (he set up a tile-cutting station in our basement); his total bill for us was $3750.
On February 17 we finally were able to move back into our home – with one additional family member. While it has been a stressful time we are THRILLED with the results!
The junction box…
And full room –