Remodel a Bathroom




Introduction: Remodel a Bathroom

About: I'm a PhD candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences living the dream with my wife, two dogs, and a basement that overfloweth with homebrew.

When it comes to selling a home they say kitchens and bathrooms are not only the big sellers, but the places where you get the most for your investment. The house I bought had a rather large (5' x 10') and very bland half bathroom on the first floor. I decided to not only remodel it, but add a half bathroom in the process. I did everything myself, with the exception of the plumbing. I did however find a plumber who was willing to take the time to show me how everything was done. The remodel included:

+Recessed lighting
+Vanity lighting
+Exhaust vent
+Shower plumbing
+Tiled shower walls
+Tiled floors
+Bifold door

**Update**  If you enjoy this instructable, checkout how to remodel another bathroom where I take on my upstairs bathroom.

Step 1: Planning the Layout

I was originally unsure about how I wanted to setup the bathroom. I knew I wanted to add a shower and that a corner shower was probably the best route to go. I originally considered moving the sink near the door and putting the shower in it's place.

The problem was that (a) the shower drain would involving cutting through a supporting joist (doable but more complex) and the a quote for the plumbing was about $800 since it involved moving two fixtures. Moving the toilet meant the shower plumbing would have to be installed on an exterior wall. Not only does this increase the risk of pipes freezing and bursting, but any repairs to problems with the plumbing would involve going through either the shower walls that I planned on tiling or the exterior walls of the house. It's best to install showers where the plumbing can be accessed though interior drywall (an interior access panel is even better). The project sat on hold until I could come up with a reasonable solution.

A few months later I had the revelation that if I changed the style of the door to either a bifold or pocket door, I would have enough room in the adjacent corner (the window extended into the shower space but I'll get to that later). Although the wall wasn't a load bearing wall, I was not super excited to tear it open enough to install a pocket door. I settled on a bifold door as a reasonable compromise. I drew up a mockup and was ready to get started.

Step 2: Converting the Door

As I mentioned installing a bifold door is much easier than a pocket door. Pocket doors require you to expose the wall to the studs one side at least one door width to the side of the doorway. It was much more work and the electrical switches would need to be moved (not that they worked anyway). By purchasing a bifold door the same size as my current door, installation required only screwing on a bracket in the lower left and a sliding tract along the top of the frame--literally a 15 minute job.

I wanted to have a small door knob on both sides of the door, but the only knobs I could find attached to the end of machined screws and thus the head of a screw would be visible on both sides. My solution was to take a hex bolt long enough to stick out both sides of the door and use a dremel tool to cut off the bolt head. This left me with threading to which I could attach a knob on each side with no extra holes.

Bifold doors also don't traditionally have lock mechanisms, something pretty much required for a bathroom. For this I got a basic slider lock and attached it to top of the door near the outside of the door. I tried a couple different placements and this seemed to workout best. In the very middle it prevents the door from opening all the way and at all the way on the outside it doesn't provide enough resistance to closing.

Step 3: Demo

Thanksfully demo in the bathroom wasn't as bad as I had encountered elsewhere in the house. The ceiling was cardboard type tiles which while intact, probably wouldn't stand up the moisture generated by a shower too well. The floor was linoleum which had only been glued on the perimeter and came up like butter. The biggest pain was breaking out the plaster where the shower would go.

Step 4: Recessed Lighting and Ceiling Drywall

Recessed lighting seems to be all the rage now and is an attractive option that is pretty reasonably priced (basic lights run about $10-15 each). It comes in two basic types: those rated IC for direct contact with insulation and those rated non-IC that should be a minimum of 12" from insulation. Since I was installing these on the first floor of a two floor home, there was no insulation in the ceiling space so I could use either type. They are also available in "new work" types that are mounted to rafters or "old work" types that are for what I'm doing here, putting them in an existing ceiling.

As far as the wiring is concerned, bathrooms need to be supplied by a dedicated GFCI (ground fault) circuit. If that circuit serves only one bathroom, you can tie other bathroom fixtures into the same circuit. If it serves multiple bathrooms than the lights and any other accessories must be on a separate circuit. Since my upstairs bathroom is on a different circuit, I was free to tie in the exhaust fan, recessed lighting, and vanity light into the same circuit that served the outlet next to the sink. As long as everything else is connected downstream from the GFCI outlet, they are all protected.

Greenboard is a type of gypsum free drywall suitable for use in moist places such as bathrooms and that's what I've used here. Pigtail lights give you a temporary source of light during the construction process. You might as well go ahead an completely finish the ceiling including paint before proceeding to the rest of the project, as mess only falls down.

Step 5: Shower Plumbing

As I mentioned before, I had a licensed plumber help me with the installation of the shower plumber. The last thing I need is a slow leak hidden inside the wall to rot my house from the inside out. I was able to just tie into the existing waste, hot, and cold pipes under the floor that were already there for the sink and toilet. Shutoff valves were added accessible from the basement directly below the shower. The costs of the valve is pretty marginal and it's much easier to be able to shut off just the shower's water supply in the case of a problem rather than having to turn off the entire house.

The particular shower base I used did not require setting in a mortar bed, others might. You should consult the instructions or dealer for your specific shower base. I kept pillows and a sheet over the base during the construction process to prevent damage from accidentally dropped tools. Insulation was added where needed because you can never have too much. I also wired an exhaust fan directly above the shower to help keep moister generated under control.

The nice thing about building your own shower is you have the freedom to customize as needed. I'm 6'8" and I mounted this high enough I can stand comfortably underneath, something I've never done before. Using a waterfall style shower head keeps it from becoming awkward for "normal" height individuals.

Step 6: Preparing the Shower for Tiling

The shower base I picked up was a bit of a unique size (I got it from craigslist). As such, getting a prefabbed surround would cost me as much if not more than a custom tile job--it was an easy choice. To prepare for tiling I mounted Hardibacker to the studs. The Hardiback can be cut using a diamond tipped score tool and joints between sheets should be sealed with silicone then spanned with fiber tape. Leave a small gap of maybe 1/4-1/2" between the tile board and the base of the shower. With that set, it's time to tile.

Step 7: Tiling the Shower

This was my first tiling job and I learned the hard way that you want to use organic mastic, not thinset on walls. When planing your pattern don't be afraid to mix things up. I didn't want a basic boring grid so by adding a row of diagonal tiles I was able to create an interesting architectural element. The outer perimeter was done using bull nose tiles. This style of tile was the "tuscan bone" porcelain tile available from Lowes. Leave enough space between the last row of tiles and the shower base for a line of caulk.

Step 8: Paint the Walls

You can really paint at pretty much any point but I chose to do it before the floor tile was down (paint drips down). I used a nice chocolate brown for the walls and a tan later for the wainscoting. There was no sense in painting all the way down what was going to be covered later.

Step 9: Tiling the Floor

It makes sense to tile the floor before you grout so all the grouting and sealing can be done at once. For the floor pattern I opted for something a little different by combining 12" and 6" tiles. You don't want to tile right up to the walls, again for heating and cooling. Plugging the water lines with scraps of rags will prevent unwanted debris from clogging things up. The curves around the shower base were actually created using a tile nipper, no tile saw needed (although it would have made things easier if I had one). The rest of the cuts were all done using a score-and-crack style cutter which did the trick just fine (and can be found for as cheap as $15).

Step 10: Grouting

I used 1/4" spacers so a sanded grout was in order. Mixing the grout with deionized or distilled water from the supermarket will prevent staining from minerals and is much cheaper than the costly additives. Leave the space between the corner of the shower walls to be caulked later. The same thing goes for the edge of the shower base. When grouting I found it best to use two buckets of water. The first bucket is for rinsing dirty sponges and the second for clean water. When the dirty bucket gets too dirty you can fill it with clean water and use the old clean water as the new dirty. It seems trivial but it helps keep the process moving along. When grouting the walls lots of grout will fall so don't be afraid to just grab handfuls and smear it in. Once the grout has cured, apply the sealer. Finally you can caulk the gaps.

Step 11: Wainscoting

Wainscoting comes in two basic forms. You can get actual wood pieces that slide together or you can go the easy/cheap route of 4'x8' sheets of MDF wainscoting, which is what I opted for. The height is somewhat up to you but by using 32" I was able to get 12' in length out of a single sheet and maximize the value. I painted it ahead of time, but that could just as easily be done after. To mount it to the wall I used a combination of liquid nails paneling adhesive spread across the back as well as crown staples from an air nailer across the very top and bottom where they will be covered by molding. Caulk was applied where the different panels joined and the paint was touched up later.

The upper molding is MDF chair rail. To save a few bucks look for pieces that are damaged on the end. Most hardware stores will readily mark these off and you can just cut them down to the good parts. This worked out well since I didn't have a single 8' continuous run in the whole bathroom. The lower molding is actually finger casing traditionally used around windows, but there was a big discount on a bulk pack so it worked just as well. I painted the molding ahead of time and attached them using an air nailer into the studs (try to mark the location of the studs before the wainscoting goes up).

Step 12: Almost Finished

The major obstacle was the shower curtain. As I mentioned earlier, the window partially extends into the shower space which rules out any sort of traditional shower doors. I was originally intending to get a custom shower rod fabricated, but came up with an alternative plan of suspending the shower curtain using pieces of chain directly from the ceiling. As long as the curtain did an "S" curve of sort around the edge of the window frame, it wouldn't be exposed to any water, nor would the shower occupants be visible from the outside (the window is translucent anyway).

Step 13: The Finishing Touches

The chains you see are powder coated so they wont rust. Most are held into the ceiling using drywall anchors but the couple that line up with studs are anchored more securely. I traced the contour of the base onto cardboard that when held against the ceiling, allowed me to properly line up the anchor points. A simply piece of ribbon used as a tie back hold the shower curtain out of the way when not in use. Due to the extra high shower head, I needed a curtain about 16" long than normal. Sewing some extra fabric to the bottom with a ribbon at the seam was an attractive way of doing this. A couple lead fishing sinkers inside the bottom seem keeps the curtain weighted and just outside the show base when not tied back. A plastic liner is also used inside the curtain.

If the pictures look a little odd it's because I had to piece together two separate images since I can't back up enough to get a proper shot. All together it cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,200 but $400 of that was dedicated to just the plumbing. New visitors are always surprised by how nice the bathroom is, but I guess that just means I need to bring the rest of the house up to par. If you're interested in other remodeling projects be sure to checkout my other instructables and remember to rate this if you enjoy it.

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    11 Discussions


    9 years ago on Step 13

    Great instructible, thanks for taking the time to post it. Just wondering if that window is going to impede the curtains ability to keep the water in? Did you do anything special around the window, like silicone caulk or waterproof paint? The chair rail moulding really breaks up the wall nicely too!


    10 years ago on Step 13

    Nice job,and really cool tile crafting, looks like it will stay forever.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Another terrific remodeling job and an equally terrific instructable! I do have a quibble with you over the bathroom lock, especially since this is a bathroom that will be used by guests. Your lock is at the top of the door frame, and is an ingenious way of keeping the door closed when the powder room is in use. However, if you have a guest who cannot possibly reach the top of the door frame, say someone who tops out at five feet even, that guest would have to whistle the entire time they were in the powder room, just to let others know it was in use. I'm not that good a whistler, so if I can suggest another lock, it would be the kind where a metal "blade" drops into a U shaped base. Mount it on the door, at the center opening at, say 4'. It will keep the door from folding, providing privacy for the short person inside the powder room. Thanks again for the terrific instructable!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I was a little torn about the lock. I was worried something in the middle might prevent the door from folding completely. If I'm getting the right idea about what you're describing, that probably would work as well. I'm 6'8" and guess I have a tendency to forget the other perspectives sometimes.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 13

    At one point I found a bunch at a garage sale and figured it was something I could find a use for eventually. Most of the home improvement stores will sell chain by the foot so you may be able to find something similar there.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Looks awesome, and I love the shower chain solution! Thanks for the walk-through on your decision making process. It was incredibly informative. A suggestion on color - putting the darker color below the chair rail (on the wainscoting) and the lighter color above generally makes the room look bigger, due to the amount of light at eye-level. I personally use the bottom color on the paint chip below the chair rail throughout our house, then use the same cream color above. (The trim is a consistent color throughout the house, too. Makes things easy.)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I think the dark colour on top makes it look classy!


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    That's a good point on the color for anyone considering this. The room the bathroom connects to was already a similar tan so I figured the brown on top would help visually separate it.

    Many paint vendors have websites that let you play with color layouts on sample rooms, which is what I did before deciding on my final colors. A few examples are can be from Valspar, Sherwin-Williams, and Behr.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome job. I really like the color scheme, and the chain idea on the shower. : D Might be cool to make some matching things (like a towel holder perhaps) out of the chains too. : )