Emily Winters: Bathroom Shopping Bonanza

While everyone else has been frantically gathering the last of their holiday gifts, over here in bathroom renovation land, I’ve been clamoring over shower tile samples, crunching numbers, guessing what may be beneath the bath tub, and ordering floor tiles. If you missed the whole video reveal of my big wintertime undertaking (and first-ever bathroom renovation), check it out here.

My ambitious goal is to begin demo next week (pretty much as soon as our Christmas leftovers are packed away). We’re stepping around pry bars in the bathroom this week because I’m just that excited.

Tools in the bathroom.

While I’m not sure what we’re going to find when the shower and floor are removed, I do want to keep things moving along (this is my only full bathroom, after all, and even though there’s an extra toilet in the basement that will be usable, the shower install will need to happen quickly so that I don’t have to borrow other people’s showers all winter long. I’ve already done some shopping to make sure the key materials for the project are at my fingertips – see some of the products I’ve been considering and buying!

1. Shower tile:

For a long time leading up to this bathroom reno, I planned to replace the current plastic enclosure with a nice new plastic enclosure. “Shower kits are fast and economical,” the store displays informed me. And white, glossy, and easy-to-clean were absolutely desirable attributets. Although, when I started price shopping (know that my bathtub/shower budget is around $700-800) I realized that I could likely do the shower less expensively or for a similar cost if I chose a modest tile for the walls, so that’s what I’ve been shopping for this past week. I’m trying to keep the tile budget itself at a very low $3.00/sq. ft. so that I could also squeeze the necessary cement board, mortar, grout, spouts, and sealants from my original budget. To fill in the surround all the way to the ceiling amounts to 75 sq.ft. of space, but to fill in one foot short (to the same height of the current shower) is only 60 sq.ft. Decisions, decisions.

Tile shopping is where Pete and I have found ourselves butting heads a little bit (he has to have a say in the bathroom, considering he shares the space with me).

There are a few types of tile I’m considering for this project:

Subway tiles are always nice, and priced at 26-cents/each (or $2.08/sq. ft.), it’s easy to jump for joy at the idea of your shower tile (all 75 sq. ft. of it) only costing $156. (Of course that doesn’t include the costs for cement board, mortar, and grout, but it’s still less than $300, which is about the average price that I found for a good-quality plastic surround insert), and in the long run, will be a better investment.

Shower tile option. Subway tiles, amazing at 26-cents each!

Alternatively, I also picked out a pretty glazed porcelain tile that’s a special order item at Lowe’s. Big misconception debunked in the process: I hadn’t ever looked at the special order tile, always assuming incorrectly that the “special orders” would be out of my price range. On the contrary, I found at over a dozen affordable, beautiful tile options that could be available at my beck and call. Big win, here. The tile I’m swooning over in this next photo is actually a 20″x20″ wall tile, but according to the pros at my local store, it’s totally fine to use it on the bathroom shower walls if a sealant is used to coat the tile and grout. Priced at $2.48/sq. ft, it’s oh-so-affordable and different than what I’m used to seeing, but is it too big for a small bathroom? I’m wavering.

Possible shower tile? A glazed porcelain option.

There’s a third option on the table too, a gray textured AVILA tile (another special order at Lowe’s). I haven’t considered it much more than really enjoying the detail of the tile in the store, but available in 12″x24″ pieces at $4.98/sq.ft., it’s still a viable option, albeit a little above my budget. Maybe in conjunction with subway tiles I could make it work. Pete’s on the fence.

Possible shower tile? Pretty with a texture.

2. The bathtub:

It’s not actually in my possession yet, but for both cost efficiencies and accessibility, I’m picking an off-the-highest-shelf model from one of the local big box stores. Priced between $200-300, I’m planning to select one that’s at least 16″ deep, which seems just deep enough for a nice bath, but not too hard to step into. White. Preferably cast iron or porcelain on steel, not plastic this time around.

Before I purchase and lug one home in the Jeep, I need make sure I understand the correct dimensions to get a tub that fits the space, and to make sure I’m measuring correctly, I’d rather wait until the space is gutted before I go buy it up (measure twice, carry a bathtub upstairs once).


3. The floors:

I really can’t stand the vinyl in the bathroom. With that said, would you believe it if I told you that I’m replacing it… with more vinyl? Yeah.

Bathroom vinyl tile.

The floor tile, special ordered from Home Depot, arrived earlier this week. The 12″x24″ vinyl tiles are a higher quality than what’s still in the bathroom today, and best of all, they’re groutable thanks to slightly beveled edges. Based on the store displays I’ve seen, I can tell you that they really do trick the eye into thinking that what’s laid is ceramic grouted tile, and I’m really excited to add this to my own home. The style, Cement, is warm and neutral, and at a cost of $1.69/sq. ft., it definitely didn’t break the bank to buy 3 boxes, or 90 sq. ft of tile (I rounded up to have a little extra on hand as cushion). In fact, with a 10% competitors discount I had on hand, the total order (with taxes) only amounted to $147.81.

Bonus factor, some light shades of brown in the tile nicely pull in the color of the hardwoods that flow throughout the rest of the second floor. It’s a little bit over-exposed in that first picture, just like my very pasty December skin, but darker and richer like this in real life:

Bathroom vinyl tile.
In the next few weeks, I’ll have to be focused on repairing the currently bowed floor and installing a new subfloor, but I’m really excited to see how groutable tile performs.

4. The vanity:

If you followed my blog as far back as last April, you’ll actually remember that I bought a sink and vanity at IKEA on a whim. Priced to move, the frame and porcelain sink top were so affordable, that I also splurged on a three-drawer cabinet to sit beside it. The display model looked like this (although it was doubled up with a second sink here):

I like me some Ikea bathroom vanities.

It still lives in boxes unassembled in my attic, but I’m looking forward to bringing it down one of these days and piecing it together. To accessorize it, I also bought a faucet at the same time.

Ikea faucet!

The total cost of the vanity, the sink, and the drawer unit was $366. Of course, it’ll all be among the last pieces to be installed, but I’m looking forward to the day.

Of course, there are lots of other costs I’ll be incurring too.

I’m leaving quite the cushion in my budget to account for necessities including (but not limited to, and in no particular order):

  • Hardiboard for the shower surround
  • Screws
  • Mortar
  • Grout
  • Primer for the floor tile application
  • Tub faucet, spout, and drain
  • Baseboard and window trim
  • Wall insulation (dealing with a few exterior-facing and attic-facing walls) and vapor barrier

Be sure to check back, because I’ll be sharing updates on my progress regularly.

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

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    Great sharing Emily! I have to admit I personally find that DIY projects are not a breeze to follow through and complete if not with full dedication and commitment. Previously when we were moving south, I have thought of refurbishing the new place on our own so that we could customize the place to have more storage areas. However, it was deemed as impossible and too time-consuming so we decided to engage a reliable contractor. Look forward to your upcoming progress!

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  8. [...] An overview of the materials I’ve been purchasing! Because what DIY-crazed girl wouldn’t love tile shopping? [...]

  9. [...] out my latest post on DIY Network to see how I’m preparing, and what I’ve already [...]

  10. [...] it here. And if you missed seeing some of the materials I selected for the new bathroom, catch up right here. Enjoy! If you like it, share [...]

  11. [...] An overview of the materials I’ve been purchasing! Because what DIY-crazed girl wouldn’t love tile shopping? [...]


About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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