Tag Archives: bathroom remodel

The Converted Vanity

On Saturday, we picked up our shower pan and shower doors, FINALLY. The biscuit color made the cut and matches pretty perfectly with the tub, so that’s what we went with. The biscuit was about $25 more than the white pan, for some reason, but when the guy did the return of the white one (we bought both colors so we could compare, planning to return the unwanted one), he accidentally returned the biscuit one and refunded me the higher amount. I pointed out his mistake, but clearly he was having that kind of day, so he said don’t worry about it. Not that I’m ever worried about not giving Lowe’s enough of my money.

We got the pan home, and it fits about 95% into the shower spot. The drain is shifted a tad too far over, but we think Lowe’s carries an offset drain that will fix that issue. The rest fits well, and I’m impressed with how sturdy it feels for $200. Despite the sturdiness, the instructions say to “lay the pan in a bed of mortar.” We can’t figure out why this is necessary, but perhaps it is because our pan doesn’t actually get screwed into the studs so the mortar kind of supports it and holds it in place? The amount of mortar to use is vague, so I contacted the company and they recommended going with a ~3/4″ bed towards the edges of the pan, and about 3/8″ bed towards where the drain is. The pan slopes towards the drain, so this makes sense, but that is still a THICK bed of mortar that will be heavy. I pity the next person who tries to renovate this bathroom, because it would take a jackhammer to remove such a thick block of mortar that is hidden under a fiberglass pan, no less. I’ll just say I am eternally thankful the people who installed our previous shower insert didn’t put mortar underneath it.

Laying the mortar will be simple enough, but getting the 40 pound, 36″x48″ pan laid on top of it and kept level, into a space with 3 walls surrounding it will be tricky. We’ll have to tackle this soon, though, hopefully on Saturday. My 30th birthday is also on Saturday (and Nik’s is on Tuesday!) and while installing a shower pan for a milestone birthday activity sounds depressing at best, when I think about the difficult but rewarding renovations I have the privilege of doing beside my mostly-tolerant husband in the house that we are thankful to be building a life in together, there are minimal complaints here!

I’m sure we’ll have pics from the shower pan process, so I’ll save those for once the pan is in. The rest of this post, I’ll show pictures of our converted vanity. I already showed how we removed the bottom of the vanity and mounted it on plywood for a new base:

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Before

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After

The vanity was then measuring about 26 and 3/4″ tall, and our goal height was 34″ (so-called ‘adult’ vanity height). The vanity top is about an inch thick, so we were looking for 6″ legs. We found some we liked a little more than what we went with, but they were only 4.5″, so we would’ve had to find a way to extend them and then cover that extension with trim. Then we found the 6″ ones that we went with. They seemed a little unsubstantial so I had the idea to actually do 4 across the front, one around each set of doors. Here are the feet, and the piece of trim we used to hide the transition:

Nik attached the feet with straight brackets, then installed the trim with wood glue and finishing nails:

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So here’s what the corners looked like finished:

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Next we flipped it and applied a bead of caulk at the trim seam:

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And finally gave it a coat of primer that night, in addition to the drawers and doors:

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I think it looks great, and once there is real paint on it it will look like we bought a new vanity! We puzzled over colors with the new vanity top for some while, and settled on a just-off-white color called Silent White (Clark and Kensington) for the vanity, and a slightly darker, blue-grey tinged color called Paper White (Benjamin Moore) for the walls. We got a sample for the walls before we’ll make the final decision, and we also bought a sample for the vanity paint that should be able to cover the whole thing without buying a larger portion of paint.

For a price breakdown of the vanity upgrade, we used half a sheet of plywood for the base ($11), 7 feet cost $21, the feet brackets were about $16, the trim was $12, and the sample paint was $5. So far the total is $65, but we still need hardware which will probably be about $35. So a “new vanity” base for $100. Not too bad, considering poorly built ones on Wayfair sell for over $900.

This week we’re working on getting the vanity painted and sealed, and like I said, hopefully getting the shower pan in Saturday and finishing up that last bit of tile next to the pan. So maybe we can finally grout the floor on Sunday.

The Hump of All Hump Days

Our demo was completed last weekend, and the shower is currently sitting on our back lawn in 3 jagged fiberglass pieces. We also removed that patch in the floor, so there is a 4′ wide hole in the bathroom floor – large enough, in fact, that our whole shop vac actually fell into it when dragged across the room by an unobservant user (me) and nearly damaged our dining room ceiling, which is what is at the bottom of the hole. But it didn’t, so crisis averted.

I promise I will add pictures of our demolition, but right now it’s my time to vent about the stress of renovations. This whole day has been one bad piece of news after another, and I’m about ready for a drink. I assure you this will be entirely uninteresting to everyone reading, but I have to vent for a bit.

First, I called Lowe’s this morning to find out why the heck they haven’t called to say our shower pans are in. Directly on my online receipt, it says both colors of the shower pans we ordered (since we aren’t sure what would match our tub) would be in by 5/29. Two days ago. The lady at the store said the order now says arriving 6/21. 6/21!!!!! Nearly a month after the promised delivery date! We ordered the shower door in the same order, and when we ordered that item it did say 6/21 for the door, which is fine because it won’t be needed until much further into our renovation. But the pans? We need them NOW. The pan is what will start everything – it will go in first, followed by cement board around the shower. Then we can start tiling the floor – which we can’t do until we know where the shower will sit on the floor. And we can’t put in the vanity until the tile floor is done. Turns out the way we have planned this, the pan is the crux of this renovation.

So, I talked to the Lowe’s manager to find out what was going on, to see if maybe they were just trying to lump the order together and deliver the pans with the door at that later date, but he said that’s not the case. Apparently the manufacturer has the pans on back order. Upon looking into it further, he said the pans should be into the manufacturer on 6/6, then they won’t ship out until 6/9, with an estimated actual delivery date of 6/14. So not as bad as the original 6/21 estimation, but still 3 weeks later than promised. He said when they ‘promise’ a date, that date doesn’t take into account for the possibility of being back ordered. It’s not his fault, but I told him I was annoyed that no one called to tell me this after the order was placed. Lowe’s says it isn’t their policy to follow up on an order until the customer calls to ask about it. Really great customer service (I hope my sarcasm is palpable).

This will really hold us up, but we’ll have to deal with it. So then I started looking into the Schluter DITRA floor substrate I purchased, since we may just start on the floor tile and start from the other side of the room and leave a row out as we approach where the shower pan will go. The DITRA is a lightweight product that can be used in place of cement board, and we were planning to use it under our floor tile. When we pulled up the floor patch, we found out we have 24″ joist spacing and one layer of 3/4″ plywood subfloor. Apparently you can’t use regular DITRA on this – you can if it is only 16″ joist spacing, or if it is 24″ spacing you have to add an additional layer of subfloor (aka the underlayment under the linoleum I just spent an ENTIRE day ripping out and pulling nails out of). You can use a product called DITRA-XL in the subfloor situation we have, but it’s $300 a roll, it wouldn’t be here for a couple weeks because no one local carries it, and it’s much thicker for added stability, so our tile would be towering over the carpet height in the bedroom, which is not ideal.

I even emailed Schluter to ask what the worst case scenerio would be if I just used the regular DITRA with our single layer subfloor and 24″ joist spacing, and she highly recommended against that, unless we add back 3/8″ underlayment. We could do this…but it would be a pain, and most likely not very level since we are not experienced with installing underlayment. Also, in case I haven’t ranted about Lowe’s enough yet, NOWHERE on their product information for the DITRA does it mention joist spacing and how critical it is for this product. I had to download the DITRA installation pamphlet and read it, and that’s when I discovered the conundrum we are in. I’m lucky I can return the rolls I bought to the store.

So what to do? Well, we may just go with the heavy cement board like what we did in the downstairs bathroom and forgo the DITRA. The tile seems to be holding up well down there, and I believe we can use the 1/4″ thick cement board which is thinner and lighter than the 3/8″ thick cement board we used downstairs (we used the thicker board downstairs on purpose to increase the tile height to more closely match the thicker engineered wood floors we installed). The thought of returning to the store and lugging 6 more pieces of cement board upstairs that then needs to be cut to size and installed is not particularly appealing. But, we want to do things right and if the DITRA isn’t right, we have to find something that will work and last.

We did end up buying the pre-fab vanity I wrote about in the last post, since the Cary Lowe’s had several actually in stock so I got to compare a few and pick one out that looked decent. I looked it over pretty thoroughly in the store before purchasing, but haven’t removed the full packaging yet. I’m thinking I won’t do that in the next few days, because with the luck I’ve had today, there’s surely a cracked edge or something hiding in that packaging that I couldn’t see in the store. Nope, I’m going to wait until things start going right again before I dive into that box.

On top of this, and on a completely unrelated note, I found out that the car rental prices for our trip out west later this summer have skyrocketed from $550 to about $1300. And of course I didn’t book when they were low (the rental lady actually thinks the $550 was a system glitch, which I wouldn’t be surprised at, since every other company I searched was about $1300 when I was first looking, and that $550 sounded too good to be true…but we didn’t have our trip figured out at that time so I didn’t book it. Grr.). So that’s more fantastic news to top off this day.

Well, if you’ve read this far, I hope you’re not commiserating with me because you’re also having a bad day. Sometimes I wonder if renovations are worth the stress. I’d like to say they are, but right now I’m too far from the end of that tunnel to see the light. It will come.

Ok, one fun picture to leave you with that reminds us of the joy of renovation – Nik happily ripping out the piece of the shower with the awful bench (and finding absolutely no mold behind any of it!):

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The Master Bath Renovation: The Starting Point

Nik’s parents were supposed to be visiting for the next two weekends, but their plans got pushed off until early July, so we no longer have an excuse for not starting our master bathroom renovation! I’ve been itching to start this project (is it normal to feel antsy if I haven’t demo-ed something ugly in our house within the last 6 months?), so I’m ready to go! Plus, this time around we have a whole week’s notice (since the change of visit plans) before deciding to rip a bathroom down to the sub floor….last time this happened, it was approximately 10 minutes from decision to demo!

We haven’t actually started anything yet…in fact we haven’t even gone to the store to look at color schemes and tile options, but I have some vague ideas in mind. Here is a picture of our bathroom layout:

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We wanted to move things around (move shower to tub area, relocate toilet to shower area) but we decided it wasn’t worth the investment for the price range of our home. So this project will hopefully be all cosmetic, unless we find issues when things are removed.

Overall, we’ll be refurbishing our current vanity and adding a new top, sinks, and faucets in addition to raising it off the ground on feet to make it adult height (these are old pictures, but you get the idea).

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We’ll be tiling the floor, and painting the walls. And finally we’ll be ripping out our full shower insert and replacing it with a shower pan, tiled walls, a new glass door, and new hardware.

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Do you notice everything is so blah and neutral its hard to even tell the floor from the wall from the tub from the shower in that picture? Our awful garden tub will stay since removing and replacing that will be an expensive pain, but to dress it up, we may built an encasement around it (something like this) and update the faucet and tile above it. It is currently off white, meaning our new shower pan might also have to be off white to match, which I think I’m ok with. Stark white in a bathroom means more need to clean all the time!

So here is the actual planned order of events. We wanted to get this down on paper so we could make a very rough timeline and budget, so I’ll add those details to each bullet point.

Demo (planning to do this over the next couple weekends; cost: free!)

  • Remove toilet, vanity, mirror, and quarter round floor trim
  • Remove linoleum and underlayment, shower doors, and shower insert

Installing the “underparts” of the shower: we assume we will replace whatever is under the shower insert with cement backer board, followed by some sort of waterproofing application (there are actual membranes like Schluter membrane or paint-on options). Then the shower base pan will be added and fitted to the drain. Hopefully no replacement of subfloor will be required, but if there is any water leakage or moldy spots we may need to do some replacing. We’d like to have this done by the first weekend in June.

  • Cut and install cement board ($60 for boards and cement screws)
  • Install shower pan and fit to base plumbing (~$200 for pan)
  • Seal all seams and waterproof the walls/seams (not sure what product we’re using yet, I’ll assume it won’t be cheap! $150)

Next up will be tiling the floor. We’ll be using Schluter Ditra underlayment which is pricey, but it’s a lightweight foam alternative to using heavy cement board. Since our bathroom previously had lightweight linoleum, we don’t want to stress our floors out too much by adding a new, heavy, weight to the second floor. Then tile, then grout. We’re thinking some sort of gray tile, since we generate a lot of dust and hair, which I never clean in a timely manner. We’d love to have this done by mid June.

  • Coat floor with thin-set mortar and lay out underlayment ($200)
  • Apply mortar and lay tiles ($300)
  • Grout tiles ($30)
  • Reattach quarter round trim around floor ($30)

Install toilet and vanity. The installation is easy, but we need to find time to refurbish the vanity as well. Hopefully on weekday evenings we’ll be making progress on the vanity, which will include sanding/painting, and adding a new base with legs. We’ll need to identify a company to install a new counter and sinks, and after that Nik will probably attempt the faucet install himself.  If we could get this done by early July, that would be awesome, but you know how things go…

  • Sand, prime, paint vanity
  • Mount on a new base ($15)
  • Attach legs ($40)
  • Relocate to bathroom; counter/sink/faucet installation ($500)
  • Vanity backsplash ($100)
  • Vanity mirror and light (eventually, we’ll estimate a cost of $200)
  • Reinstall old toilet (free!)

And the final major project is finishing the shower. This will include applying mortar, tiling, grouting, installing hardware, and installing new glass doors. We’re thinking some sort of light gray/cream tone tile for the shower – something that matches the gray floor, but lighter. Our goal is to have this done by the end of July (plus anything else that’s not done yet – I’m sure we’ll be behind schedule!).

  • Apply mortar then tiles to waterproofed cement board ($200)
  • Grout tiles
  • Add new hardware ($120)
  • Install glass door ($500 – turns out these are really expensive!!) We’re still deciding between a pivot glass door or a sliding one. I was thinking pivot, but they all have pretty abysmal reviews and are slightly more expensive, but the sliding doors like this one and this one have fantastic reviews…so this may sway my decision.
  • Paint walls ($30)
  • Someday install crown molding? We have extra left over in the garage…(free!)

If we do the tub, a very rough cost for tiles, a new faucet, and if we build a encasement would be about $250.

So that brings our very rough total, if we include the tub to a little under $3000. Then there will be expenses like new towel racks, rugs, etc. to make the space look nice. I was generous on some of the amounts since we have no idea what tiles, counters, fixtures or anything that we’re picking yet, but I feel like that is a reasonable budget. If we can find ways to save money along the way, even better!

This was a long post, and not many pictures. But once this project is underway there will be plenty of progress pictures to share!