We recently did a bathroom renovation on our spare bathroom. It was a lengthy process and we hit a lot of hiccups along the way. But I’m really happy with how it turned out.

When we first moved into our home 5 years ago it was in really great shape but in need of some updating. It was built in the ’50s and owned by only one couple who raised 5 kids here. They took such good care of the house that all the major things like roof, water heater, furnace, etc. were running amazingly! But the style inside the house didn’t really fit my vision. So I was excited when quarantine gave me the perfect amount of time and excuse to tackle this bathroom renovation. Just for reference, here’s a little before and after.

Before and after comparison of bathroom renovation.
If this is your first project, check out my 5 things you need to know before starting!

Step 1: Vanity removal

I started the bathroom renovation by myself with some demolition. I thought it would be easiest to start with the vanity, it was something we didn’t need in there since we have a sink in the kitchen around the corner to wash our hands. I left the toilet in for as long as possible so we didn’t have to keep running upstairs to use the other toilet. I quickly learned that, much like the rest of the house, this vanity had its quirks (my nice way of saying challenges). It was built into the wall. I really wanted to be able to get it out in one piece to put by the road so someone could potentially reuse it.

In the photos below you can see I was able to get the top off in one piece after disconnecting the water and drain pipes and cutting along the caulk seal with a utility knife. But getting the rest out was a bit trickier.

When I discovered the vanity was mostly built in I started researching how to get it all out in one piece. Most advice said to unscrew the boards from the wall and it should all come out. The only problem was it wasn’t screwed in, mine was nailed in. Which left me with no option. I had to pretty much smash out all the pieces. I’m not going to lie, this was so much fun but my eco-friendly heart broke a little.

Step 2: Wall Demolition

Next step in my bathroom renovation was the messiest, but also most fun part! I got to take the sledge hammer to the walls. If you’re wondering whether I did actually do all the work myself you can consult my mom’s videos here and here.

This part was actually pretty easy but If you are tackling this for the first time I’d definitely suggest wearing some type of goggles, mouth & nose covering, and gloves. Drywall dust is some of the nastiest stuff to breathe in and it gets everywhere. My other piece of advice is to clean as you go. You will thank yourself for it, trust me.

My mom bought this little saw so we could get a straight edge on the drywall to make it easier to match up the new sheets. It was really effective but it did make a lot of drywall dust.

Step 3: Removing the tub and surround

This was the first step I did not do myself. I got help from my step dad [Greg] and husband [Seth] to take out the tub. It was an old cast iron tub and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I tried to argue that I could help because I am pretty strong, but in the end this was a task left to the men. The surround was easy to remove, we alternated between smashing it out with the claw part of a hammer and ripping down the panels that were held up by adhesive.

The tub, however, was another story. As I mentioned, it was a heavy guy. Of course the first step is to remove the drain. You can buy a specific tool for this or just improvise with the tools you have, which is what we did. So after the caulk at the bottom was cut out, we used a pry bar to get some lift to put shims under it. It took some finagling but they got it up and on a hand truck and out to the road where it mysteriously disappeared less than an hour later.

Then we did even more drywall demolition. The only reason we tore out all the drywall was because there were these plastic tiles around the bottom half of the whole room. I tried to remove the tiles (you can see that a little up above) but the glue wouldn’t come off so we figured it would be easier to just start fresh with new drywall.

Step 4: CLEAN

Cleaning was and still is my least favorite part of any home DIY project. This bathroom renovation was no exception. Between cleaning up big debris like chunks of drywall to sweeping up all the dust and nails. I like to toss things in the trash as I’m working to avoid the big clean up later, but that wasn’t the same for everyone working in the room. So arm yourself with a broom and a good working shop vac and prepare to spend far longer than you think you should cleaning the room you just demolished.

Step 5: Breathe

We finally had a clean slate to work with. This is where things start to get real. The original plan was to put in a different tub and surround, both white, and a new shower curtain. I knew I wanted an accent wall. I had already picked out and bought my flooring when we got the tub and surround, and all the hardware. So we put the shower curtain and flooring down and picked a bunch of paint chips. Initially I wanted something dark like a charcoal grey or dark green. My mom was pulling for red. When we put out everything I ended up actually really liking a red color. So we had everything set. The drywall would go up, then the floor, then the tub and surround, more drywall, paint, toilet, vanity. Perfect. We would be finished with this bathroom renovation in no time.

Step 6: Put in the new tub and surround then reevaluate

Our first red flag should have been when the tub was a very tight fit. But we shoved it in the space regardless. Then we tried to put the surround on and it didn’t fit right. Despite the fact that I bought the surround that said it went with the tub I bought. Returning it to Lowe’s was a total nightmare. But that’s an entirely different story.

So we had to come up with a new plan. Adapt and overcome as my Marine husband would say. At this point I’ve been trying to figure a way to get first floor laundry since we moved in. My genius plan is to consult Facebook and take a poll. What’s better? First floor laundry and half bath or a full bath? Then I combined these ideas and came up with a tiny shower beside a stacked washer and dryer. We measured a lot and came to the conclusion this wasn’t possible. So half bath/ laundry room it was. Commence the bathroom renovation.

Step 7: Hang drywall and mud

Remember when I said cleaning was my least favorite part? Yeah, then I had to mud and sand and mud and sand and… you get it. If that wasn’t bad enough there is also more clean up after this. We also drywalled the ceiling because there was a drop down that I didn’t love. I was excited to find drywall underneath the drop ceiling but it was in pretty rough shape. So we put thin drywall up instead of trying to fix what was there.

Step 8: Flooring

So we had some pretty old sheet linoleum down. My mom bought a floor scraper for us to try but in the end it was easier to just use a pry bar and hammer to get it up. (This was part of demolition, but I figured I’d touch on it all together.) This stuff was really gross and hard to get up and we did end up needing the floor scraper to get some of the adhesive off. The floor underneath was in pretty rough shape so we installed sub floor before the pergo.

At this time we still had some drywalling to do and more subfloor to put in because we initially left space for the drain as we thought we were putting in a small stand up shower.

Step 9: Molding and painting

I know I said I hate cleaning and mudding, but painting is for sure the worst. That’s why I asked my mom to do it. She said she would but quit on me after the first coat of primer. But before painting we added some crown molding along the ceiling. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it at first but after it was up and caulked and painted it looked so good. It wasn’t too hard to paint for the most part because everything was white except the accent wall. I have to give credit to my mom who did end up painting the accent wall as she promised.

Here’s a hot tip about caulking: If you are planning on caulking anywhere you want to paint with water based paint make sure you know what you’re using. We accidentally used Flexseal silicone caulk that we thought was paintable. It turned out that we needed to use a latex based paint over the silicone caulk. While it was super easy to apply and went on smooth, overall it wasn’t worth the extra hassle. Plus latex paints aren’t great for the environment and many places are stopping production on them.

Step 10: Shopping for washer and dryer

Again, for our particular space we had to measure a lot, mostly for depth. Then another fun part, shopping for the washer and dryer! We ended up going with an Amana set that was on sale at Lowe’s. I really love it so far, but honestly I think I would have even been happy with my own set on the first floor instead of the basement. We got the washer and dryer delivered to us (and again, there’s story about them delivering a broken dryer, but for another day).

Step 11: Finishing touches

It starts to get really exciting when you are putting on the finishing touches. Putting up the light (thanks again to my step dad), installing the floor molding, the vanity, putting the doors back on and the toilet in. My mom even made me a curtain out of the shower curtain I bought because I was really sad I wouldn’t get to use it. Add in a laundry cart and litter box and it looks more like a livable space. There are still a few things I want to add like a corner shelf with some plants and a few cute signs on our empty wall, but all things in time. Plus after doing all this over the span of several months I was ready for a break.

*I am in no way affiliated with Lowe’s but my husband and I buy everything from there because a.) it’s the closest hardware store and b.) Seth works there and get’s a 10% discount (although as a veteran he would still get 10%)

So there you have it, it only took from March to June to complete but I’m so glad we did it. I’m really thankful to everyone who helped me get it done whether it was helping me with the serious stuff like electrical, or the more fun things like picking out molding, and even voting on which option would be best for resale. This bathroom renovation gave the space the face lift it so desperately needed.

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