Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

15 Day Full Bathroom Renovation

15 Day Full Bathroom Renovation

15 Day Bathroom Renovation Before

15 Day Bathroom Renovation After

At some point in every homeowner’s life, there will come a time when the idea of a bathroom renovation becomes a reality. After two years of living in my home, I finally decided to move forward with my bathroom renovation project without any prior experience. Even with my knowledge as an architect, I faced many issues and moments where I thought of giving up. However, I continued moving forward and completed the entire renovation in 16 days. Here’s the full story of Andrea and my bathroom renovation project.

Deciding to renovate my bathroom

Ever since I purchased my home in the summer of 2015, I’ve been able to renovate the entire interior of the house with the exception of the bathroom, kitchen, and basement. My plan was to eventually renovate the bathroom, then the kitchen, and possibly turn the basement into a game room with a bar. Like many plans, this one never came to fruition and I found myself accepting the condition of the bathroom and simply living with it.

Every day, I would wake up, walk into the bathroom for my morning shower, and look at the sea green tiles against the burnt orange paint. Each time, I would tell myself that I would begin the bathroom renovations soon. Day after day, I continued living with my bathroom in its 1970’s appearance. It was easier to focus on other things in my life.

Until one day, I noticed water in my basement below the bathroom. I was on my way to throw my laundry into my washer and I saw a puddle of water around the floor drain, which happens to be located directly below the bathroom. As I investigated, I saw water trickling down the foundation wall and drops of water falling from the insulation between the wood floor joists.

So I ran up to the bathroom and inspected the sea green tiles, the tub faucet, and the window. Aside from a minor leak at the handle of the shower faucet, the shower setup was working fine. Looking at the window, it was evident that mold was beginning to grow on the bottom left corner of the trim. Once I spotted the discoloration, I asked my girlfriend, Andrea, to pour water in that area while I was in the basement. Immediately, I saw water pouring down into the basement!

This meant that there was a leak behind the wall for a very long time and it reached a point where wood members rotted enough to allow for water penetration. As I continued my inspection of the wall tiles, I noticed an area where the wall appeared to bulge out towards the tub. So I pushed on a tile at the second row above the tub and it moved. I continued pushing on the tile and it eventually fell into the tub…

That night, I decided that the bathroom renovation was inevitable and something had to be done soon. So I took some time to figure out new finishes for the bathroom and ordered all of the supplies that we would need for this project. This materials phase of the project has been the most important step to completing our bathroom renovation.

Pre-construction - choosing and ordering materials

As an architect, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with many manufacturers, see their products, and develop relationships that provided knowledge and trade discounts. Within a day, I came up with a color scheme and a list of materials from the manufacturers that I trust. Once this detailed list was complete, I contacted each manufacturer, asked for more information about the product, and asked if there was a trade discount for architects. In most cases, a discount was available and the representatives did a fantastic job with sending over any and all information that I would need to complete my project! In all cases, they would also give me advice on how much of each material I would need to complete my project.

Here are 5 key points on materials for your bathroom renovation project:

1.    Buy 10% more tiles than you need

a.    When you decide to move forward with your bathroom renovation project, measure the areas of your bathroom that you plan to tile. Once you have the general square footage, increase that number by 10% and buy that increased amount. This additional tile will come in handy when you’re cutting tiles to go around an existing window, recessed shelf, or if some of them break. It’ll also ensure that all of your tiles are relatively similar in color, size, and texture.

2.    Find the right substrate for your wall

a.    If you’re ripping the existing tile and wall down to the studs, you’ll have to figure out what substrate(s) to use as the underlayment for your tiles. Typically, many people choose to go with cement boards, which are very heavy and will need an applied membrane. A typical example is hardie board with a product from Schluter called Kerdi, which is a waterproofing membrane that goes over the hardie board. I decided to go with Schluter’s Kerdi Board system, which is lightweight and is installed directly onto the studs. The Kerdi Board is a rigid foam backer that already has the Kerdi membrane adhered to its surface. It’s easy to maneuver and very simple to install.

3.    Read installation instructions carefully

a.    For any product that you purchase, you should review the installation guide and follow each step. This is particularly important for installing the backer board, water proofing membrane, and mixing mortar/grout. For example, if you decide to go with Schluter’s Kerdi Board system, you will need to use their washers and screws spaced no further apart than 12 inches. If you skip this step and space them too far apart, you’ll increase the chances of the Kerdi Board ripping off of the stud when the tiles are applied or you’ll have movement in the wall, which will lead to cracks.

4.    Use the right tools for the job

a.    Many of us do it yourselfers have this belief that we could supplement specific tools for other ones and achieve the same results. Although this works in some scenarios, having the right tools for the task at hand will help you achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time. Make sure you purchase the right sized trowel for installing your specific tiles and use the proper safety equipment at all times. There were countless snipped tiles that would’ve pierced my eyes if I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

5.    Buy quality materials

a.    Most of us are used to purchasing things that are on sale, clearance, or simply costs less than others. Remember that this will be the bathroom that you use for the years to come and that it will increase the value of your house. In addition, buying quality materials like a waterproofing membrane and tiles will make your life easier in the future by protecting your walls from leaks and ensuring that every tile is the same size and quality.

Once Andrea and I had all of our materials stored in our basement, we were ready to move forward with construction!

Day 1 - Demolition

While Andrea was away at a summer program for engineers, I decided to start demolishing my bathroom’s walls. My initial plan was to carefully remove tiles from the wall and see if I would be able to reuse the drywall underneath. However, I discovered black mold and decided to completely gut the bathroom.

So I put on my safety gear, reentered the bathroom, and began pulling the drywall off of the wood studs. At first, the pieces came out in smaller chunks near the tub because the drywall was wet and crumbling apart. I took these pieces and threw them into a large black garbage bin so that I could carry out my trash in one piece.

Once the garbage bin was full, I took my Bagster garbage bag and set it up in the greenspace next to my driveway. If you’ve never heard of the Bagster garbage bag, I highly recommend that you research it and see if the service is available in your area. In essence, Bagster is a heavy duty tarp that is capable of holding tons of construction trash. The bags costs $30 to $40 and you basically fill it up with your trash like you would fill up a dumpster. When your project is complete, you call the local waste management in your area that participates in the program and they’ll come by and pick it up for $150 to $200 (depends on your area)!

After setting up Bagster, I dumped all of the garbage from the bin into the bag and went back to demolish more walls. At this point, there were large gaps in the wall and all of the wet, moldy drywall was pulled out. So I grabbed two points of each large section of tiled drywall and gave it a hard, swift tug! As I pulled, I could hear the nails squeak a little, which means that it was coming loose! After two pulls, the wall came out in a large section.

As I pulled off each large section of tiled drywall, I placed it against the wall opposite to the toilet. Once the walking area was full of large pieces, I carried each one out to the Bagster and placed them in a way that would hold the corners of the bag open. I continued this process for about 4 hours and was able to take off all of the drywall in the bathroom except for a section behind the toilet and sink. The tug and pull method to remove the drywall made this process so much easier!

Surprisingly, the ceiling was in relatively good condition except for some areas where paint was stuck and other areas where the paint ripped off. With nearly all of the drywall out of the bathroom, it was time to wash up, drive to the airport to pick up Andrea, and head to my office to shower!

Finding a place to use the bathroom and shower

If you’re planning to renovate your only bathroom like we did, you should read this section. Otherwise, continue from the next day of construction!

In our house, Andrea and I have one bathroom that includes a sink, toilet, and shower. We knew that once we started construction, we would need to find places where we could use the bathroom and shower. We decided to use our kitchen sink in place of our bathroom sink, which was an intuitive and simple switch.

Regarding a toilet for our other human needs, we decided to use the bathroom at a coffee shop, local gym, gas station, or my office. Whenever we felt the urge to go, we would get in my car and drive down a few blocks, which only took a few minutes. In the event of an emergency, we agreed that the utility sink would be a possibility.

Lastly, coming up with places to take a shower was relatively easy for us. Our gym is about .25 miles away from our house and they have several showers and toilets. So we could head over in the morning or evening, get in a quick workout, and use their shower. Another option, which we used the most, was the drive to my architecture office and shower in the bathrooms there. We used this option the most because we could go in at any time rather than stopping our work early to make it to the gym before they closed.

If you’re lucky and live next to your family, friends, or good neighbors, you could always let them know that you’re planning to renovate your bathroom and ask if you could use theirs in the meantime!

Day 2 & 3 – Plumbing, framing, & backer board

Andrea and I decided to start working on our bathroom renovations around 10am on day 2, which was a Sunday. Since the drywall was out, we had to install additional 2x4 framing members so that we could anchor the washer and screws for the Schluter Kerdi Boards. To install their boards, they require a maximum of 12 inches, which required some additional 2x4’s around the tub.

In addition, Andrea and I had to remove the rotted wood window sill and install a new 2x4 to hold the new sill in place. We went around the bathroom and assessed other areas that required additional support like the framing area behind the old medicine cabinet. Lastly, we installed additional framing beneath the window for a recessed 12x12 inch shelf.

We also decided to take out the laminate wood flooring, which was easier to remove than we both expected. I’ll admit that we probably did it incorrectly, but we were able to remove a large section using a crow bar and lots of elbow grease. As Andrea pulled the laminate flooring up, I ran the crowbar along the area that was being peeled. Eventually, we reached an area where the top layer of plywood peeled off with the laminate.

So we took turns with the crowbar and scraped the plywood floor perpendicular to the direction of the top layer of plywood. This allowed us to peel only one layer of plywood off, which also removed the adhesive that held the laminate in place. This process took about an hour to complete, but was well worth it since we saved time from having to scrape the adhesive off of the wood.

Once the framing was complete, it was time for Andrea and me to cut down the Schluter Kerdi Boards to size. After reading through the instructions, we decided to start with the board that would start at the ceiling and fit around the window. We located the window on the Kerdi Board, sketched the area to be cut, and cut the board using a utility knife and drywall square. The cuts were very easy to make and we were done cutting the first board in half an hour.

While Andrea and I worked on installing the Kerdi boards, a plumber that I met at a seminar where I gave a speech, came over to update the water pipes behind the wall. He cut out the old galvanized pipes and installed copper and PEX pipes down to the basement. He also ran new PEX pipes from the copper pipe on my hot water tank. This resolved our issue of very low flow of the hot water in our sink. Then, he cut a portion of the drain pipe for our sink, which he noticed was pitched in the wrong direction back towards the sink. He installed a new section of PVC pipe, which increased the rate of water drainage in our sink.

Most importantly, our plumber also installed the new mixing valve for our shower, extra copper for the spout connection, and a nipple for the shower head location. Once his work was complete, Andrea and I cut more Kerdi Boards and anchored them to our wood studs using Schluter’s washers and screws. Each screw went into the wood stud enough to pull the washer tight to the board and create an indentation that would eventually be filled with mortar and covered with the Kerdi membrane.

Towards the end of the day, my good friend who is also my client for a different project, came by with his truck to help me pick up green board, which is a mold resistant drywall, from Home Depot. We also purchased a new toilet, drywall compound, and some plumbing items that my plumber needed to finish his job.

Day 4 & 5 – Time capsule and green board

Our next step was to install the green board in the bathroom. We decided to cut the green board on our living room floor. So we taped a long piece of plastic on the floor and cut the green board using a utility knife and drywall square. We decided to install the green board horizontally in the bathroom, which would require two pieces per wall to reach the ceiling.

Starting with the wall on the opposite side of the room from the wet wall, we cut and anchored our drywall to the studs. After cutting the pieces and removing an area to accommodate the existing heating duct, the sun was starting to set. So we cut a few more pieces that would be installed the next day, went to my office to shower, and slept.

During our 2nd day of installing the green board, we moved quickly and installed the pieces that we cut the previous day. As I anchored the pieces to the wood studs, Andrea scored and snapped the next pieces and tested them in their locations.

Once we reached the medicine cabinet area, Andrea and I decided to fill a box with personal items, magazines, and a model of a Mercedes car and leave it in the wall as our time capsule. Although we might not keep the house for a long period of time, we thought that the next owner would appreciate the time capsule! We both left magazines from our fields that were forward thinking so that the next owner could see if the ideas became a reality!

After placing the time capsule in its place, we anchored the green board to the stud and finished installing all of the drywall by 9pm. If you look carefully at the photographs, you’ll notice that there are no wires sticking out from the area where the sink and medicine cabinet will be located. I completely forgot to cut a hole in the drywall and pull the line out for the future vanity light…

Day 6 & 7 – Mudding, taping and installing new block window

With the new green boards installed, it was time for Andrea and I to tape and mud the walls. On our way home from the office and lab, we stopped by Home Depot and picked up some additional tools. Then, we gathered all of the necessary materials and started the mudding and taping process.

After working on previous home renovations, I had some experience with mudding and taping drywall. We started by opening a new bucket of plaster, which we only needed about a third of for this project, and filled the screw holes. Using a small plaster knife, Andrea and I went around and applied a thin layer of plaster over each screw.

Then, it was time to mud and tape the small gap between two green boards. To do this, we put a thin layer of plaster at the gap and smoothed it down so that it was about 3 inches on both sides. We took pulled a long strip of paper tape and applied it over the gap. Finally, we pulled the drywall tape knife along the paper tape to flatten it down.

Next, we had to follow this process with the corners of the room. To do this, we applied the thin layer of plaster at both walls that created a corner, folded a piece of drywall tape in half, and applied it to the corner of the room. Using the tape knife, we squeezed any excess plaster out of the tape and made the tape smooth with the drywall.

For the corner that projected into the room, I used a leftover steel corner piece from my previous home renovation. Using drywall screws, we anchored the steel corner piece to the drywall. Then, we applied plaster to both sides of the steel piece using our tape knife to create a smooth surface.

Once the first layer of plaster was applied, it was time to stop working, cleanup, and head to my office to cleanup for the night.

The next day, we had our window installer at the house to install a new glass block window with an operable ventilation window in the bathroom. His wife and him pulled the old window out of the bathroom, cleaned up the area, and installed the new glass block window in its place. We directed them to install the new block window slightly into the room so that our new bathroom tiles can be flush to the inside face of the glass blocks.

Our installer did a fantastic job installing the window and he asked that we don’t use any impact tools that would rattle the wall. We continued mudding the drywall and started by applying a second coat over all of the screws. Then, we used a wider taping knife to apply plaster over the drywall tape. Once we had enough plaster over the drywall tape, we took the wide taping knife and pulled it across the entire length of the plaster tape to create a continuous and smooth surface.

We moved along at a swift pace and made our way to the chimney, which took the longest time to plaster. Due to the way that the drywall was installed, the surface was uneven and would require additional layers of plaster to be a smooth surface. Using a smaller taping knife, we applied plaster on the entire surface of the wall. Then, we used a wide taping knife to smooth the entire surface.

With the weekend ahead of us, Andrea and I called it a night and went down to my office to cleanup for the night.

Day 8 – Waterproofing and sanding

Starting day 8, which was a Saturday, off strong, we focused on covering all of the seams between the Kerdi Boards and the washer/screws that anchored the boards to the studs with the Kerdi membrane. This would create a continuous waterproof membrane around the entire tub where we were installing tiles. For this process, we cut open a bag of unmodified thin set mortar and mixed a third of a bucket.

We brought the waterproofing membrane, plastering tools, a pair of scissors, and the bucket of thin set to the tub and got to work! Using a small plaster knife, we applied the thin set over the seam between two panels, smoothed it out, and applied the Schluter Kerdi Band, which is a small 4 inch roll of their water proofing membrane. Once the membrane was on the thin set, we smoothed it out using a wide plaster knife.

Following this same process for the washer and screws, we applied the thin set mortar over the washer and spread it so that the Kerdi Band would be fully embedded. Then, we applied a small piece of Kerdi Band (enough to cover the washer and screw) and smooth it out using a plaster knife. At the corners where two Kerdi Boards came together, we followed the same process, but folded the Kerdi Band in half and applied one long piece to two boards.

Waterproofing the Kerdi Boards took about 3 hours, which brought us into the early afternoon. We decided to take a lunch break and spent time together out on our patio.

After our break, it was time to sand down the plaster using a plaster hand sander. We started by focusing on the plaster over the screws, which took about 5 minutes to smooth down. Then, we moved onto the sanding the seams between two green boards, which was simple and sook about 15 minutes. We moved onto sanding the corners, which took a half hour. Finally, we sanded the chimney enclosure, which was skim coated. This took another half hour because we had to check that the entire surface was smooth.

Once we finished sanding, we stopped for the evening and took some time to spend together. We went down to the office, cleaned up, and went out to a restaurant.

Day 9 – Priming the walls & installing tiles

On day 9, Andrea and I started the day off by priming the walls with 3 layers of Kilz paint primer. I focused on carefully painting the walls using a brush while Andrea painted larger surfaces with a paint roller. As we finished our first layer of paint, we noticed that the first wall was nearly dry. So, I decided to setup a small fan in the room to speed up the drying process. We painted the 3 layers of primer within 2 hours.

Then, we decided to take a lunch break and make our way to Sherwin Williams to decide on and purchase half a gallon of paint and to Home Depot to purchase a manual tile cutter. Once we made it to Sherwin Williams, Andrea and I looked through several paint colors and compared it to the one that we chose. I was focused on a lighter tone of grey while Andrea looked for other colors. In about 15 minutes, we decided to purchase the light grey color that we chose together. We drove down to Home Depot, picked up a tile cutter, and made our way back home where we ate lunch and got back to work!

Since the primer was dry, we decided to paint the room with the half a gallon of paint that we just picked up. I carefully painted around the outlets and the top of the walls while Andrea used the paint roller to cover a larger area of the wall. With the fan turned on, we were able to apply two layers of paint to the walls.

Our next and last step for the day was to install as many wall tiles as possible using half a bucket of unmodified thin set mortar. Before this project, I’ve never installed tiles before and I was afraid to mess up. So, we carefully mixed the mortar in a large bucket, brought it into the bathroom, and immediately got to work. We spread a wide area of thin set mortar on the longer window wall and created vertical grooves using our v-notched trowel.

Then, I took our first tile and carefully applied it to wall at the corner furthest away from the shower. Looking back at it now, I wish I started from the opposite side of the room where the first full tile would start at the wall with the shower head and the cut tiles would end up at the opposite side. So be sure to plan ahead and think about where you’d like your cut tiles to end up.

As we tiled the wall, we made sure to put two spacers at the edges of two connecting tiles so that they were all evenly spaced and supported. After an hour, we were just beginning our third row of tiles across the longest tiled wall of the room. Although it was taking us a longer time than we expected, we were picking up our pace and entering a good groove.

Once we reached the recessed shelf and the new block window, we had to spend more time cutting tiles to fit. While Andrea continued applying tiles to the wall, I focused on cutting tiles to go around the recessed shelf, window, and edge of the wall. We continued applying tiles for about 5 hours and we were able to finish tiling the long window wall and half of the wall on the opposite side of the shower wall.

The sun was just about set and we decided to call it a night.

Day 10 – Tiling the remainder of the walls

On Monday, which was Day 10, both Andrea and I were back at work in the office and lab. Once our day ended, both of us rushed home, changed into our construction clothes, and got right back to work. We mixed another half of the unmodified thin set grout in our bucket and picked up from where we left off.

This time, Andrea and I were able to finish tiling the other half of the wall in 30 minutes and we were up to the last wall, which was the shower wall. As Andrea installed tiles, we had to use the tile snipper for the first time to cut around pipes and the mixing valve. The tile snipper required a lot of gripping strength and patience because it would snap small pieces of tile and leave uneven edges. In fact, we snapped a handful of tiles in half as we tried to cut tiles to fit around pipes. I would highly recommend purchasing a different tool for drilling 1/2" inch holes through tiles to fit around pipes.

Although we moved quickly through the remainder of the wall tile installation, it took us the evening to tile the shower wall. After 3 hours of tiling, we were finally done with the shower wall and headed down to the office to cleanup and call it a night.

Day 11 – Tiling the floor

After a full day of work, Andrea and I cleaned up the floor of the bathroom and prepared it for tiling. We brought the Schluter Ditra waterproofing membrane into the bathroom and cut it down to fit from wall to wall and around the plumbing protrusions. Then, we mixed the remaining half bag of unmodified thin set mortar and brought it into the bathroom. Using the Ditra trowel, we spread the thin set across the floor and applied the Schluter Ditra membrane.

Once it was in place and pressed into the mortar, we brought the mosaic tiles into the bathroom and placed 5 pieces on the floor. We cut mosaic pieces out of the group to fit around drains and pipes. Then, we put several scoops of the thin set on the floor, spread it with a V notched trowel, and set the mosaic tiles. We used the drywall hand sander without the sandpaper to press the tiles into the thin set. This worked very well and we were able to set multiple groups of tile within a half hour.

Once we reached doorway, we realized that we were running low on thin set and that it was starting to harden. So we picked up our pace and conservatively spread thin set across the Schluter Ditra membrane. We pressed the mosaic tiles into the thin set and Andrea and I had to scrape the mixing bucket to get as much thin set as we could onto the membrane. In fact, I had to scrape some leftover thin set from the edge of tiles and around pipes where there was a little too much thin set beneath the tiles.

Fortunately, we were able to spread enough thin set on the membrane to finish installing all of the tiles! High fives were in order and we celebrated with dinner after our evening shower at the office.

Day 12 – Mistakes of a first timer with grout

On Wednesday, Andrea and I drove home after work and ate dinner before starting the next step of the project. Once we were done, we brought the bag of grout, mixing bucket filled with the correct amount of water, and the drill with the mixing bit to my backyard. As first timers using grout, we assumed that the grout would be similar to the unmodified thin set mortar and have 2 hours of workability.

So… we decided to mix the entire 25-pound bag of grout. Big mistake!

Once the grout was mixed, we brought it to the bathroom with our grout float, bucket of clean water, and big sponge. We placed the bucket of grout into the tub, took the grout float, placed some grout on the float, and ran it across the face of the tile. The grout’s texture was like a thick oatmeal that was on the verge of drying up. To make a long story short, the grout would roll up beneath the float and drop into the tub. Only a small amount would stay on the tile and go between them.

Thinking that we had time to work with the grout, I continued grouting the tiles and letting the grout fall into the tub. As I worked my way across the long window wall, I started getting the hang of grouting. The grout was going between the tiles and I finished the first large wall in about 1 hour 15 minutes. At this point, I was exhausted so Andrea stepped in to take over. She started at the top of the other wall and I wiped down the wall that I just completed with a damp sponge.

As Andrea tried to get the grout into the joints between the tiles, I stuck a finger into the bucket of grout to check its consistency. The grout was warm and quickly hardening. I told Andrea that the grout was hardening and we filled in as many gaps in the tiles that she started as we could. I took the grout and moved to the floor tiles, which was a lot easier and faster to grout.

Ultimately, we were able to grout the long window wall, half of the wall on the opposite side of the shower, and half the mosaic floor. I was on my hands and knees grouting the floor tiles when the grout hardened in the bucket.

To say the least, this moment was a breaking point for me because it was our only bag of grout that we purchased from a specific manufacturer. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get the same grout from the manufacturer in a short period of time because they ordered it with my tiles. While I was on my hands and knees sweating from working with the heavy and stiff grout, I looked over at Andrea and said I give up…

I was in a moment of defeat. I thought the project would be extended another week or two because of this beginner’s mistake. So, Andrea and I went down to my office to cleanup for the night. Afterwards, I felt a lot better and I decided that I would call the manufacturer and another local tiling company to see if they had another 25-pound bag in stock.

Day 13 – Grouting done right

After Andrea and I finished our morning routine, we headed out to work and I decided to call the manufacturer at 7:00am. I asked the representative if they had the specific grout that I had ordered before and I was in luck! Fortunately, they had a few bags in their storeroom!

So I sped down to their facility before heading to my office and picked up a bag of grout. I went into my office and happily worked as hard as I could with so much excitement to work on my bathroom! Once I made it home, I changed into my construction clothes and prepared for a solo work night. Andrea was out at an event and she deserved the time off!

Getting started, I mixed half the bag of grout with a little extra water than the previous day and brought the mixture to the bathroom. This time, the grout’s consistency was similar to a milkshake. I put a good amount on my grout float and rubbed it diagonally along the tiles of the half-finished wall. This time, the grout came off of the float, stuck to the tiles, and entered the joints between them. Everything was going the way that I imagined it would on the first day!

So, I continued moving at a comfortable and fast pace. The remainder of the wall was complete in about 10 minutes. Moving onto the shower wall, the grouting was complete in about 15 minutes. Then the remainder of the floor was complete in 10 minutes. The entire grouting process went smoothly and much faster than I anticipated!

Then, I went around with the damp sponge and bucket of water to wipe all of the tiles. As I went from wall to wall, I saw how beautiful the finished room was going to be and I was ecstatic! That night, I finished my tasks early, went down to my office to shower, and met Andrea at a restaurant after her event.

Taking two days off

After working hard for the past two weeks, Andrea and I decided to take two days off of working on the bathroom. We resumed our regular lives and went to an awards gala for an organization that Andrea supports. That night, I was exhausted and ready to fall asleep at the dinner table. However, I enjoyed all of the speaker’s presentations and the amazing food. Best of all, Andrea and I won several raffle prizes.

On Saturday, Andrea and I went to her friend’s wedding in the afternoon. The wedding was an intimate size and it was beautiful! Then, we went over to her professor’s house where new graduates were gathering for an end of the year party. Needless to say, I ate so much food that day and I was ready to go to bed.

We made it back home and went to sleep.

Day 14 – A bathroom renovation nightmare, applying sealant, and installing finishes

During the early morning of Sunday on day 14, I woke up at 2am feeling like I needed to vomit and use the bathroom. Since the feeling was minor, I didn’t think much of the situation and I tried going back to sleep. Minute after minute, the feeling worsened and I now felt like I needed to use the toilet…

The bathroom renovation nightmare began!

I woke Andrea up and let her know how I was feeling. Half asleep, she responded by telling me to go back to sleep and deal with it in the morning. However, this wasn’t going to work. I got out of bed, paced around the house, and decided to get in my car and drive to my office.

As soon as I reached the first red light down the road, I knew that I wouldn’t make it to the office. So I sped down the street, spotted the nearest gas station two blocks away, and made it there as fast as possible. Then, I got out of my car, ran into the gas station, and made it to the toilet in time!

Without getting into too much detail, I had food poisoning and stayed up through most of the night. I couldn’t get back to sleep until 5am…

Although the situation was unfortunate, I started feeling much better by noon and had a small lunch with my good friend. Once I made it back home, Andrea and I changed into our construction clothes and started sealing the grout and installing finishes at 3pm.

To split up the tasks, Andrea took the sealant and started applying it on all of the grout starting with the walls. We purchased two bottles of sealant from Home Depot that had a brush top. It was very simple to use and only required a light pinch to get the liquid to flow through the brush. Andrea’s strategy was to apply the sealant vertically from the top to the bottom of a wall and then horizontally.

As she worked hard on sealing the grout, I measured the base of the walls for the new wood molding that would match the remainder of the house. I purchased a new 6-foot piece from Home Depot and used old pieces from my previous renovation project on the house. After measuring the walls, I used a miter saw to cut down the pieces and cut the edges at the appropriate angle for corners.

Once I was done cutting down the trim, I brought the old wood trim around the doors to my work area and hammered the nails out of the trim. This process was simple and I brought all of my wood trim to the bathroom. Then, I plugged in the air compressor and nail gun that we borrowed from a local organization and installed the wood trim and base molding. This process didn’t take long and Andrea was finished at about the same time.

When the sealant was relatively dry, we brought all of the accessories to the bathroom and installed them one by one. We started by installing the new vanity and sink, which was very simple. However, we forgot that our friend who is a plumber told us not to install the sink until he ran the new drain line to it…

Then, we decided to drill a hole in the wall where the vanity light would go and I was able to stick two fingers into the wall to grab the wires that we forgot to pull out after installing the drywall. To do this, I turned off the electric to the bathroom, drilled a 1 inch hole, stuck my index and middle finger inside, and felt around for the wires. Once I got my fingers around the wires, I looped my fingers around the wires and pulled them out of the wall. This process took a few minutes and we were ready to install the vanity light.

Originally, we planned to install the vanity lights with the deflectors facing downwards, but we wouldn’t have enough space to install the medicine cabinet at an appropriate height. So we decided to install the vanity light with the deflectors facing up at the ceiling, which would spread more light around the space. Then, we installed the medicine cabinet with its top nearly flush to the bottom of the vanity lights.

This worked out beautifully and the bathroom is filled with light when it’s turned on. We’re happy that we encountered this issue and figured out this solution! Once these major pieces were installed, Andrea and I installed the remaining aluminum pieces such as the towel bar, hand towel holder, and shower curtain rod.

All that was left was to install the plumbing fixtures, which our friend was scheduled to do the next day!

Day 15 – Finishing the renovation

Once our plumber started installing the sink fixtures, he realized that he needed to purchase a pipe extender for the drain pipe. So he installed the faucet and drain, ran out to our local Home Depot, and came back with the pipe extender to attach the sink drain to the house drain.

When he finished his work, tested everything, and left, Andrea and I were excited to see how everything came out!

We’re so happy with the outcome of this bathroom renovation project! The wall and floor tiles are beautiful and being flush with the new block window makes us feel at ease about maintenance and future water protection. Our sink finally has hot water because we cut out the old galvanized pipe and installed new PEX pipes. Our toilet is tall enough for me to feel comfortable and it saves us water with the dual flush feature.

Best of all, we can sleep well at night knowing that all of the black mold has been removed. This thought has been at the back of our minds before the renovation because we saw black spots on the grout between the old tiles.

Whenever we walk into the bathroom, we feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that we were able to complete a full bathroom renovation at a very affordable rate! Although we will never pursue another bathroom renovation in a single bathroom house again, we’re confident that we would be able to do this project faster than before!

Conclusion

15 Day Bathroom Renovation Before

15 Day Bathroom Renovation After

At the beginning of this bathroom renovation project, Andrea and I did a lot of planning from selecting materials to developing a timeline and process for completing each task. We watched lots of videos on YouTube and read countless installation guides so that we would be prepared to speed through this renovation project. Without planning ahead as much as we could, this project would’ve taken at least twice as long and we would’ve made so many more errors along the way.

Before we officially started the project, I decided to do some investigating of the wall where the old tile fell out. By investigate, I mean I took a hammer and broke a hole in the tiles. I realized that the project would be more difficult than I had anticipated. So, I decided to wait for Andrea to come back home from her time at a lab in New Mexico. That happened a month before we actually started this renovation project and I lived without a shower for that time.

Finally, when we started the renovation project, we started off strong and we both knew how much time and effort would be involved. We worked as hard as we could and were able to accomplish so much in a short amount of time. However, there were so many days when we were just physically and mentally exhausted from working on the renovation. Every night, we went through countless brainstorming sessions to fix minor problems that came up and we were always drilling, hammering, or lifting something.

Throughout the project, we continuously said that we would never pursue a renovation project like this again and we almost gave up. However, when we finally saw the project coming together and neared the end of the project, we were happy and excited! Everything was finally in place and the vision that I had in mind was a reality.

Most of all, we know where all of the minor errors are; paint drops on the wall, extra grout on the ceiling, the medicine cabinet being slightly low for my height, and on and on. We accepted these errors and we’re able to live with them because the imperfections make the bathroom ours! At the end of the project, we finally got back to our normal lives and we’re so happy to walk into the bathroom and see the fruits of our labor!

So, if you’re starting your own bathroom renovation, good luck, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or to share your story with me in the comments section below!

Communicating Architecture through Sketches

Communicating Architecture through Sketches

054 - My 5 Favorite Booths at the AIA 2017 Expo

054 - My 5 Favorite Booths at the AIA 2017 Expo