Emily Winters: Bathroom Renovation, Day 1

Demo day! The first stage of our bathroom renovation project reared it’s eager head this past Monday (let’s put it this way, there were still wrapped presents beneath the Christmas tree). I had already started shopping for bathroom accessories (like I mentioned last week, the new Ikea vanity and the concrete floor tiles were in my possession), but before I went crazy buying all of the nuts and bolts of what needed to be replaced, like the bathtub and underlayment, it was really important to me (and my DIY-planner-boyfriend Pete) that we knew exactly what we were dealing with. Like any previous demolition adventure either of us had partaken in, there were bound to be snags in the plan.

Lookin' happy in the bathroom.

Snags, yes. Abundant snags (that we’re still working to find solutions to). Keep on a-readin’ to see what we found.

To remind you what the bathroom looked like before we got to tearing it apart, here are some photos:

Taupe fiberglass tub and enclosure:

Tub enclosure.

Economy-style vanity and sink. With an awkward storage unit that tilted to the left. And amazingly inexpensive and poorly constructed baseboard and window trim:

Economy vanity and tilty shelf.

Worn-out vinyl tiles:

Vinyl tiles.

It goes without saying, I was eager to start smashing things with a hammer… after I took my last-ever home fiberglass shower, of course. The goal was to work on this renovation at a good steady clip so that we didn’t have to borrow other people’s showers for too long. Fortunately, there’s a spare toilet in the basement (even did some demo work down there last winter if you want to read about it here). Clearing the belongings out of the bathroom made it look more like it did when I moved in originally, very stark and bare, except gray and not teal.

Cleaned out space. Demo, next.

Pete had left the house for awhile to run errands, and I got busy removing the baseboards and shower enclosure. My apologies for the iPhone quality photos on a dark morning.

First hole.

Yay, bathroom demo.

Not surprisingly (based on the other questionable construction decisions made in the bathroom), the tub was attached to the studs with 2 nails on the right end and 5 screws in the other, so it came apart quite easily. I spared nothing at the opportunity to tear it to shreds while I blasted music and let the dog watch on. (If it was remotely salvageable, I probably would have been careful and donated it to a Habitat For Humanity ReStore, but that thing was g-u-n-k-y and j-u-n-k-y.)

Shower! Coming out!

A few surprising finds from the tub demo:

  1. The old lath and plaster walls that were used in the old tub surround were never removed when the room was last gutted; the contractors simply built a new framework for the tub to sit within and not disturb the messy stuff. In the blue of this photo, you can sort ofsee how they mocked tiles into the plaster for decoration.Remaining lath and plaster.
  2. The undisturbed original house walls were still full of insulation (1 wall is an outside wall, 1 wall faces a cold attic space). No need to install new insulation (the room has held it’s temperature nicely during the demo to-date).
  3. There was NO MOLD. I would have lost big if I were a gamblin’ girl. A little bit of water damage, yes, but nothing severe, and considering there were cracks like this next one I photographed, I’m quite surprised.

Cracks in the shower walls, but no mold to be found!

The vanity came out easily once the plumbing was disconnected, and hopefully I’ll be able to Craigslist it (if not, donate it) because it’s in shockingly nice condition. The wall behind the vanity however, not nice. But it’s OK. Still happy to be starting fresh.


The vanity actually looks nicer sitting in my living room than it did in the bathroom. Is it weird that the sink top wasn’t glued to the vanity at all, or is it weird that after living with it for 2.5 years that I never noticed or bumped into it the wrong way with my hip bone? (And hopefully it’s not weird that there’s a load of HardiBacker against the coffee table and tile lined up along the TV stand.)

The vanity looks better outside of the bathroom environment.

As I mentioned in the video introducing this undertaking, the floors in the bathroom always seemed a little wonky (hence that black leaning tower of towels towards the top of this post). As we began to pull up the tiles, first the vinyl squares, and then the underlayment, we began to see why it was like that; seems to us that the sink vanity used to be hooked up in a different location, and when it was moved, the floor wasn’t correctly evened back out (and according to our level, it was a 7/8″ dip over 4′ in length, wowza). That’s fixable though, and saves us a lot of time because we won’t need to reveal each and every floor joist to see what’s going on beneath. I’m knocking on wood here that my alleged plan is a solid one, we may still be too early on in the process to tell.

Floor tile demo!

I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to leave the floor closed up, because perhaps the most exciting find of the demo happened while we were busily prying up underlayment beneath the vinyl tiles: The original floor was hardwood, continuing on from the hallway.

The hardwood floors continue on!

The hardwoods were nice when the house was new, I suspect (back in the 1940′s), but over the decades, it had been pretty badly effected by layers of tile, adhesives, and hack jobs. This made us change our plans a little bit – instead of trying to find the original joists beneath the bathroom and level the floor out from there, we stopped at the hardwoods and left them as in-tact as we could.

Me, sad face, wish I could have a hardwood floor bathroom too (even though it doesn’t really sound practical).

Clean-up entailed a lot of staple-pulling, but we managed to get the floor in good shape on Day 1. It’s ready for a new layer of underlayment and new tile. (Sorry for this seriously bad iPhone photo, but that area I’m squatting in is where the vanity used to be a long time ago, and the area that makes the whole floor seem unbalanced.)

Exposed and cleared floor.

Side note: I was aware where electrical lines and plumbing ran in the walls, and because we didn’t end up pulling up the floor entirely, there was little concern about accidentally breaking a pipe. Be careful when you demo.

The only totally unexpected event of Demo Day was that we removed the toilet. This puts a little ratchet in our plans (meaning, we have to use the cold basement toilet even during the middle of the night until the reinstall). I hadn’t planned on replacing it (saving myself between $200-$500+), but the marble block that the toilet was well-caulked to really has seen its day (painted, peeling, never really looks clean), so we decided on the fly that’d we try to cover the marble with underlayment and tile right up to the base.

Toilet, blech.

So, this is what we’re left with right now: A gutted, barren bathroom (the only full-bath in the house).




Wish us luck as we continue on in our first bathroom renovation journey. There’ll be more to see if you follow me on twitter and facebook over the coming weeks!

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.

48 Responses

  1. [...] 18 of this bathroom renovation felt wildly different than Day 1; the demo is done, there’s no sign of construction. As I’ve said all along, I expected [...]

  2. [...] I was looking for something <20″ deep and up to 60″ wide (the old vanity, shown in this post, was about 28″ deep and 32″ wide, a weird proportion for the space). Shown here as a [...]

  3. [...] And getting down and dirty with demolition! [...]

  4. [...] after all, what if it there were original hardwoods beneath it? We did find them in the bathroom when we gutted it a few weeks ago, albeit in it rough, rough shape, but after that, I was hopeful to find some in the [...]

  5. [...] wrong way to label these Bathroom Renovation posts, because after our very active and aggressive Day 1 demo and Day 2 bathtub install, we hit scheduling [...]

  6. [...] everything that was hidden in the vanity or on the shelves in the bathroom before we decided to tear it all out. Until this week, everything has been stored in cardboard boxes scattered through the office and [...]

  7. Janet R says:

    I want to tear apart the bathroom and start again but I'm not sure which walls are load bearing! How can I find out?

    • emilywinters says:

      Janet – there are definitely ways to tell, but browse around DIYNetwork.com to find the right ways of checking before you tear any of the structure out. This link doesn't have the exact answer, but it does have a bunch of stories surrounding designing/construction around load bearing walls:

      Good luck!

  8. Saldilia says:

    My parents had my brother in law refinish their wood floors, I never thought their floors that look similar to yours… would turn out good. They had stains from the 50's before they purchased and previous attempts at repairs that looked worse so I was shocked to see them turn out so beautiful! I hope you are able to get them refinished to see how beautiful they could be.. Best of wishes on this project!

    • emilywinters says:

      I wish I could get the original hardwoods refinished in the bathroom! I don't think I'll be able to, some of the boards are heavily coated with adhesives from previous layers of laminent, sad face. although I was able to refinish the hardwoods in the rest of the house myself and they ended up looking lovely!

  9. [...] we completely gutted our only bathroom (removing the bathtub, floors, and vanity), it was a high priority to get a working bathtub in [...]

  10. amy says:

    I watch DIY all the time to get ideas on how to do things

  11. PDB says:

    Wish I had your confidence… I watch DIY to learn and love what I see, keep it up.

  12. fuzzy says:

    what a room!!! costs?

  13. B. Hill says:

    I am so glad to see this since my bathroom needs a makeover! Thanks!!!

  14. Maria Cartwright says:

    You rock, Emily! Wishing you the best luck from flood ravaged Schoharie County NY!

  15. fredbganita says:

    What a way to start the new year and saving you so much money$

  16. Robin Neal says:

    I am starting a bathroom too….will watch and learn from you!

  17. Kathy Findlay says:

    Nice start! How big is your bathroom? I am looking at mine (4 x 8 ft) and wondering what I can do with it. It includes a fiberglass tub/shower as well, and an ~ 4 x 4 floor to ceiling linen closet….handy but full of things that don't really belong there!

    • emilywinters says:

      It's about 7×12, but set up kind of inefficiently. 4×8 is definitely smaller than what I'm working with, but how nice that you have that kind of storage! I'm totally lacking in the linen storage department.

  18. Marty says:

    The fun begins! What else did you find during the demo? In my bathroom redo, I found an empty bottle of gin from 1956 (year home was built), behind the built-in cabinet next to the plumbing rough-in that serves the tub and the kitchen. Seems like the crew had a little topping off party. We actually made it a time capsule, writing about us, what we are doing to the home, put in some pictures and sealed it up for the next person to find.

    • emilywinters says:

      I was totally going to jam some treasures back behind the tub before it gets enclosed. All we found was a flashlight, a q-tip, and 13-cents. Better than nothing?

  19. emilywinters says:

    Thanks everyone!

  20. Cait says:

    Looking good so far! Excited to see how it all turns out! :)

  21. New reader here – getting ready to do our bathroom. Will be following along :)

  22. Plumbers Rochester says:

    It looks like you have done good so far! Good Luck!

    Plumbers Rochester NY

  23. grubarazzi says:

    Can't wait to see how it turns out!

  24. [...] my Demo Day progress right here, and check back often, because over the next few weeks, the whole project will be documented DIY [...]


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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