I seriously do not even know where to begin. Andrew and I had the brilliant idea of gutting and renovating our only full bathroom with an 8 month old.
Of course people do this, but sweet mercy, it will take me months to recover from the shear stress of it all…my stomach is still queasy from watching a 350 pound clawfoot tub be taken up narrow 126-year-old stairs by Andrew, my dad, and brother. That about killed me and that was the LEAST of what we had to do, not to mention I wasn’t even the one carrying it.
Every year Andrew and I try really hard to take on a big project for our old house amongst the thousands of little projects that typically take up our time or severely depress us anytime we venture outside (so.much.to.do.) and though we probably would have waited a bit longer to renovate our bathroom, with Wallis getting too big for her portable tub and unable to fit into any of our weird sinks, we decided to bite the bullet and do it!
Also, our full bathroom was starting to fall apart and we weren’t sure if it would make it too much longer without becoming a place where mold was quickly taking up residency (behind the broken tiles, gross).
Our farmhouse didn’t have electricity or running water until the late 60s. There was an outhouse and the children did their work by gas lamps. I know this not only from the renovation, but because I also emailed with the grandson of the original owners for a period of time when we first purchased our home.
Our full bathroom is actually a 50 square foot part of the original sun porch that’s on the back of our house (which was enclosed when making these updates, not positive on when they did that)…and yes, they only used part of it. We’ve turned the other part into a closet, but man do I wish they had used the entire sun porch, or that we had the money to make that kind of change. Oh well, so it is to live in an old house.
When we decided we were going to renovate our only full bathroom we knew that we needed help. With Wallis in the picture it’s very difficult to devote the kind of attention needed for a project like this. Andrew told his dad that we were going to do this and his dad (who is retired) offered to come out and to do it with Andrew. We were thrilled!
Of course our expectation for this kind of renovation, since it was a total gut job, were so unrealistic. We thought it’s a small space, it shouldn’t take more than a week…it ended up taking 4 weeks when all was said and done due to limited vacation days, having to work nights/spare moments, and several setbacks.
When your home is 126 years old, there are going to be issues and boy did we have some. When the bathroom was created there were quite a few things done sub-par to say it nicely, and all of those things had to be repaired, and replaced before we could even get started.
You know how I mentioned above that our bathroom use to be part of our porch? Well because of that, when we took down the drywall, we discovered that the wood siding was still there and in decent condition, so of course I wanted to save that! I love discoveries like that! It posed some issues when drywalling, but we figured that out.
Andrew’s dad left about 1o days into the renovation and this what they accomplished :
- Gutted Bathroom – Andrew gutted mostly the entire bathroom before his dad arrived – there was some tiling left to remove and then to haul it all to the dump.
- Plumbing – this was their greatest hurdle. The plumbing was totally wonky up there and had gotten super corroded. Andrew’s dad did a pretty professional job, but it took several days. Then we hired a plumber to install the radiator for us, because we just didn’t have enough time to take that project on, and they had to remove all the water in the system, install, then put the water back in and bleed the line…like I said the plumbing was our biggest hurdle!
- Electrical – this is actually kind of sad and a hilarious example of how Andrew never listens to me. Andrew is the type of person that apologizes after instead of taking a second to evaluate the situation, which drives me bonkers. Andrew decided he could do all of the electrical work himself having zero pervious experience. After he had finished and was really proud of his work, he had our electrician come by to inspect it. The man had to redo most of it and told Andrew one particular spot could have caught our house on fire. Luckily, the electrical didn’t take long, but seriously Andrew…seriously? In Andrew’s defense (why am I defending him?) it wasn’t your typical electrical work in our bathroom, everything was wonky.
- Framed the space in
- Installed Medicine Cabinet – behind the drywall there was already a perfect hole cut for a medicine cabinet that had never been used we just had to clean it up a bit…kind of crazy.
- Hung Drywall
- Finished Drywall
- Install Sub-Flooring
- Tiled Walls
- Tiled Floors
That’s a lot of work and you would think there would only be a few things left to do, but you would be wrong. It is amazing how the little details can drown a project so quickly. Andrew and I spent the remaining time finishing the project and fixing some mistakes.
This is what we accomplished :
- Patchwork – we still had some more patchwork and sanding to do on the drywall and the clapboard. There was a pretty big hole in the clapboard where the original electrical had been run that we had to patch, not to mention just a lot of wear because it use to be part of the exterior of our house.
- Flushed Drywall – we had to figure out a solution so the drywall would be flush against the clapboard. We found a foam filler that worked great, we were able to smooth it and then caulk the rest to smooth it out.
- Grouted the floor
- Fixed some wall tiles – We are not professionals and found out the hard way that subway tile tends to sag and you need to be prepared for that. We called my uncle who is a professional tiler and he told us, don’t over think it and to only fix the ones that were the worst, so that’s what we did. Obviously, I have a perfectionism problem, which I don’t like to call myself, because I think, a perfectionist would never be okay with this so I must not be one, which Andrew tells me is a perfectionists way of thinking…anyways, you want everything to be perfect, but that’s hard to do with DIY and especially when it’s your first time renovating a bathroom and tiling.
- Grouted the walls – enter all the curse words here. Grouting that bathroom wall was the worst thing ever. Which is crazy because there were so many terrible moments…but they give you 90 minutes to grout it and then it won’t even stick because of gravity and you have to do ceiling to floor (brilliant idea Tiffany and Andrew) and anyways, we were up until 2 am that night and the only saving grace was that Wallis decided to not wake up once.
- Remove/Repaired Window – we have one small bathroom window. We stripped all the old paint off of it, at least the most we could get off of it. Then we took it to a local glass place and had an original frosted window pane put into it for privacy.
- Painted Moldings – we had wanted to have a carpenter match the moldings in the rest of our house for the bathroom, but we were quickly running out of money in our budget so we just purchased some. Not what we had hoped, but what we could afford.
- Installed Moldings
- Painted Base Coat
- Painted Final Coat
- Installed vintage 1930s Tub – we purchased an vintage clawfoot tub for our master and because our bathroom is so tiny, we had to hunt down a 4.5 footer. I couldn’t be particular about the age because of that, but I dig it.
- Installed vintage 1920s Sink – you know when you’ve loved something for a long time and then the moment you can finally have it or something like it, it suddenly becomes popular and you have to decide if you still love it despite its popularity or if you’ll even be able to find it because of its popularity…that’s what happened with this sink. I said forget it, I still love it and luckily, I was actually able to find one. Social media fads have a way of killing our first loves. Darn you internet!
- Installed Window
- Installed Toilet
- Installed final fixtures
- Collapsed from the fact that a 50 square foot bathroom nearly killed us
We were unable to bathe until we had the bathroom finished, so we’d run over to my parents every 2 or 3 days and when Andrew returned to work after the first week, he kept his distance from folks, ha! I worked while Wallis napped, and then we would work late into the evenings.
I had to make peace with how I thought things would go and how some things ended up. Some of the old fixtures wouldn’t fit the piping quite right and some areas of the tiling could have been better..ect, but overall, we did the best we could with the space we had and the seriously odd shape of the bathroom.
It’s very hard to renovate something that was never meant to be there in the first place, and we did our best to do everything right, and anything that we could do better, we did it again – so I am proud of us, but of course we learned a lot too!
It was nice to have Andrew’s dads help – he worked hard and we’re very appreciative of it. We’re also, very happy to nearly have this project behind us – it’s not quite finished but we’re almost there!
It should be noted that Andrew and I never did anything to fix up the bathroom when we moved in, we left it as it was…well besides cleaning it obviously…speaking of which the pictures don’t make it look so clean, but I promise it was very clean (that shower door though, hard water woes).
First, the before.