Bathroom reno

When we moved into our house in 2009, a bathroom renovation was on the “someday” list. The sole, tiny bathroom in the house had the original 1930s tub.

before window

The window above the tub faced my neighbor’s front door, so when you showered, you had to stand between two shower curtains. The plastic surround was broken in a few places, and some of the grout was irredeemably stained.

Before and after photos:

Project timeline:

April 2010 – February 2011: add a second bathroom in the basement. I was not willing to live completely without a bathroom while the renovation took place!

new bathroom

Clawfoot soaker tub!!! The story behind the tub adventure here.

Intervening years: think about possibilities, save money, try to get on the wait list for Holzworth Construction. (I value my marriage and my sanity too much to try a full-out bathroom renovation as a DIY project.)

October 2016: started gathering ideas in earnest. I wanted the bathroom to have a vintage 1930s feel, in simple black and white. I wanted to remove the tub completely, since we had one downstairs now, and replace it with a tile-floor shower.

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 6.28.59 PM

November 2016: distracted myself from terrible, terrible national news by playing with tiles to create a design for the bathroom floor. I wanted both the shower and the floor to have the same tile, to help make the room seem bigger.

feline assistance

Vito the cat “helped”

tile floor plan

I made a pattern for the final design. This helped on the install. The pattern was a pain in the butt to install.

April 2017: decided on a plan for tile walls, made a sketch to show the contractor, started piling up materials.

tile wall concept

boxes in living room

My living room filled up with boxes!

April 26, 2017: the project begins! First item was replacing the window with something smaller. I wanted to keep natural light, but having a smaller window would cause less of a problem in the shower area.

2017 April 26 window replacement

I came home for lunch, and the window was already in!

2017 April 26 siding complete

Exterior completed by the end of the day. Couldn’t even tell anything had been done, except that some parts of the siding were cleaner.

2017 april 26 cat inspection

In order to keep using the shower until the demolition phase could begin, the window opening was sealed up with heavy-duty plastic. The cats had to inspect the area. Something major and noisy had happened!

May 15, 2017: demolition day!

2017 May 15 before demo

Bye bye, old bathroom!

sink and cabinet

The vanity and medicine cabinet were still perfectly functional. I posted them for free on a Facebook group. A guy came and got them almost immediately. I saw later that he had posted them for sale. Whatevs. As long as they went on to a second life instead of the landfill.

2017 May 15 demo 1

Whoa! No turning back now!

arteriosclerosis of the tub drain

Definitely a good thing to do a complete plumbing tear-out. The 80-year-old tub drain was suffering from arteriosclerosis!

May 17, 2017: The border of original plaster and lathe up towards the ceiling was left intact. Had an inspection of the sewer vent stack, and it was structurally sound, so no need to replace it. Roughed in the shower pan location.

2017 May 17 shower rough in

2017 May 17 knob and tube

Egads! The bathroom lights and vent fan were still hooked to knob-and-tube wiring, and the fan connection was “creative.” (That might have explained some weird things we had happen with the overhead bathroom light.) The electrician inspected the attic area, and he believed the bathroom wiring to be the last remaining knob-and-tube wiring in the house.

May 19, 2017: the plumbing was roughed in.

May 24, 2017: the vent fan got replaced – yay! The old one was held together with wire and was not in very good shape, as it’d had condensation dripping down through it in winter because the pipe in the attic hadn’t been insulated. The shower pan also got poured, and cement board went up on the walls in the shower area.

2017 may 24 replace vent fan2017 may 24 pour shower pan

May 26, 2017: the blue board went up, with a little creative cutting and filling to deal with the bells on the sewer vent pipe, which stuck out past the wall surface and had been sealed into the original plaster. (Reference the photo from May 15, and you can see how the lathe had been placed around it.)

May 30, 2017: red waterproofing stuff went on in the shower area.

2017 may 30 red waterproofing

May 31, 2017: The walls and ceiling were primed, and the tiling began!

2017 may 31 prime

2017 may 31 tile

Work stopped for a little bit while we were out of town. Too much hassle with the cats and all. But the cats were sure enjoying the emptying boxes.

2017 may 26 cat interlude

June 11, 2017: tile progress! The frame for the corner seat/shelf was also installed.

2017 june 11 tile

June 13-20, 2017: tile work. Somewhere in here some realizations/changes resulted in the need to order some more tile mid-project.

2017 june 16 tile shelf

I love this tile shelf! The integrated hook underneath comes in handy.

2017 june 16 tile alcove

I like the hooks and the soap shelf. Don’t like the shampoo alcove. It’s too small to fit most shampoo bottles.

2017 june 16 tile tp holder

Toilet paper holder behind the door. I wish it had been installed one tile closer to the toilet. It wound up directly over the air vent, so the draft sometimes causes the toilet paper to unroll a little.

June 20, 2017: the window surround got tiled, with a larger tile size that doesn’t quite match the white of the rest of the tile, but you can’t tell with the angle. It made a lot more sense to use larger tiles because the width of the window surround was only slightly wider than the field tile, which would have meant a lot of persnickety cutting to make things look right. It turned out the window installer had chosen the wrong type of frame for the window, too – with a groove that would have caught water instead of a solid piece. That got replaced.

2017 june 20 tile window

June 22, 2017: the shower floor going in!

2017 june 22 shower floor

June 23, 2017: the rest of the bathroom floor got roughed out.

2017 june 23 main floor

June 28, 2017: the design got installed on the rest of the floor. I helped to cut out the pieces of tile from the sheets to form the pattern. Pushing the pattern all the way to the wall resulted in a whole lot of persnickety cuts, so we made the decision to stop the pattern short of the wall. I think it looks better, and wish the same had been done in the shower. Oh well. The black wall border at the bottom also went in.

2017 june 28 main floor

July 6, 2017: the sink is installed! The toilet was still on order, so a heavy basket full of magazines kept the cats away from the plugged toilet sewer hole.

2017 july 6 sink installed

I love the towel bar integrated into the sink. It opened up the room a little by not needing to have a hand towel bar on the wall.

July 1-17, 2017: painting. We painted the bathroom ourselves to save a little money. Not sure that was the best idea. I either peeled the blue tape away from the tile too soon or too late, as a bit of paint came up with the tape. The edge of the paint where it had peeled was bubbled up, away from the wall. I tried to smooth the edge, but the paint just kept coming up off the wall, taking the primer with it! I wound up removing the paint from a sizeable section of wall, spackling and smoothing out the edges, coating with BIN primer (so stinky!), and repainting. Such a pain in the butt!

Somewhere in there, the toilet, shower door, medicine cabinet and light fixture were installed.

2017 july 10 toilet and shower door installed

July 17, 2017: I used the shower for the first time, and realized that the shower head was not going to work for me. From where it was installed, it would spray me right in the face if I was standing against the far wall. The angle of the shower head could only be adjusted *up* from there. Noooooooo! After a bunch of back-and-forth with our locally hardware store from which we had ordered the shower parts, a “hand shower elbow” was determined to be the solution. It was backordered.

September 2017: the part came in, and I could finally use the shower comfortably!

tweaked shower head

It’s been a year since the contractors left our house, but we still have one more thing that’s been hanging around on the to-do list: paint the trim and the back of the bathroom door, and replace the existing el cheapo square chrome-colored towel bars on the back of the door a couple of vintage glass towel bars.


Materials sources:

Carr-Trumbull Lumber Co:

  • Floor tile: Dal tile 1” Hexagon tile Arctic White-Matte and 1” Hexagon tile Black-Matte.
  • Wall tile: Dal tile 3×6- Arctic White-Gloss ( field tile), 3×6-Arctic White-Gloss Bullnose tile, 3×6-Arctic White-Gloss Cove Base tile, 3×6-Black Gloss Bullnose tile, 3×6-Black Gloss Cove Base tile, 3×6-Black Gloss Cove Base tile, 1×6-Black Gloss-Liner tile.
  • Delta fixtures, Cassidy series faucets and handles in chrome finish. H2O Kinetic showerhead, with elbow.


  • Carleton (now called “Rose City”?) double wall sconce light in chrome with deep projection and white glass 5″ bell shades with black
  • Holbrook medicine cabinet, surface mount with mirror and black glass hexagonal knob


  • white jumbo corner shelf with HOOK, FLAT-BACK mount
  • white recessed shampoo and soap holder
  • white surface mount TP holder, FLAT-BACK mount
  • white robe hook, FLAT BACK mount
  • white vanity soap dish, CLIP-ON mount
  • white toothbrush-tumbler holder, CLIP-ON mount

Kyle Switch Plates

  • white 3 Toggle 1 Rocker Switch Plate

Independent Plumbing

  • Kohler Wellworth toilet

Home Depot

  • Kohler Levity 59 in. x 74 in. Frameless Sliding Shower Door in Silver with Handle


  • Mansfield Essence pedestal sink (they don’t carry it anymore)