In the past, I have taken on the bigger remodeling/home improvement jobs myself: finishing the basement, installing wood floors, rebuilding closets, landscaping, etc., but when Julie and I decided it was time to deal with our upstairs bath, I balked. We have been having issues with the upstairs bathroom for several years now. These issues culminated with water pouring through the living room ceiling below a few years ago which required pretty extensive drywall and moulding work.
Plumbing is not a craft that I have any extensive experience with. Framing, drywall, electrical, heck… even some masonry and I am good to go, but water is a whole different matter. This, combined with the desire to have some rather extensive tile work done which is something else I have zero experience with, and it was a no brainer. Time to hire a professional!
The problem of what to do with the layout of the upstairs bathroom and how to improve it was not easily addressed. We had several plumbers and friends share their thoughts, but it wasn’t until the last contractor came in that we settled on a plan that finally made sense to us. Coincidentally, we also ended up hiring the contractor to do the work. The main premise of the design was to keep the vanity, toilet, and bathtub where they were at but to rework the shower and all the framing around it. When I write that, it doesn’t sound like it should have taken that long to come up with the plan… but it did.
The old shower was a neo-corner unit that was very cheap and had leaks in both corners where it met the drywall. I had to recaulk annually and had cut a nice piece of large baseboard to hid the growing hole in the corner. There was also a pocket door that came out into the bathroom and provided an enclosed section to keep the shower separate from the room. Kind of nice for privacy, but not a great use of the space. The plan was to rip out the pocket door and the wall that hid it and replace that with a standard door. The neo-corner unit would be pulled out and replaced by a 34″x42″ swanstone shower pan with a bench.
Julie fell in love with slate (shocking!) and found inspiration for what she wanted on the web. You can checkout her pinterest album here: http://pinterest.com/denalidreamer/for-the-home/
Julie also found project details for refinishing our old vanity on pinterest, which we were going to attempt and salvage from the old bathroom. New plumbing fixtures were a must and we decided to replace the old lights with 4″ cans that had a glass, water resistant enclosure while we were at it.
Our contractor started the first week in March and it took 3 weeks to finish it. We had a few touch up things in week 4, but they held pretty true to the original estimate I was provided. I learned a lot from this experience. Several things I thought were settled, turned out to require more effort and planning, like replacing Kohler fixtures with Delta (protip: if you are remodeling a bathroom try and just keep all the base plumbing fixtures and just swap out trim if possible). We also had a bad experience with builddirect.com where we ordered the slate tile from. The reviews were good and the tile looked great, but the tiles were not square and the thickness varied wildly (some variation is expected in natural tile). I thought we could save a few bucks and still get a great tile but it ended up slowing things down and we returned a bunch of tile.
Thoughts about the project:
- Having someone else do this was the way to go. It was stressful enough with having someone else do it. I wouldn’t have been able to manage work plus this.
- We made a lot of right calls on things like plumbing fixtures, lights, etc. One area I would do differently next time is with the slate floor. I would have pushed for something that was smooth and consistent (thickness and size). The floor looks cool, but the uneven aspects and bumpiness will mean it will be difficult to clean and it’s not the most comfortable to walk on.
- Instead of a heated tile floor, which I did extensive research into, we went with a kickspace heater. This worked out great and we have it on a timer mounted next to the light switch. I am really happy with this!
- We got several quotes on different countertops and we were not excited about paying $1000+ for a granite one (I am looking at YOU Home Depot and Lowes!). I did a little searching and found this place: graniteselection.com. This place gets my top recommendation. We got our granite counter top + backsplash and undermount sink for $370. We lucked out because this place is only 15 minutes from my work. Nailed it! It also makes you feel like a bad ass when two huge Russian guys carry your countertop out to your car in the middle of winter at an unmarked building.
- The vanity turned out awesome and saved us a bundle. If you look at the pics, you’ll see it turned from the golden oak color to a dark espresso color. Big points for Julie on that one.
- If you are running electric and need to end a job short of completing it, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS CAP ANY WIRES. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t connected to anything. Always do it. Never leave a bare end of a wire without a wire nut. No need to ask why I am dropping this piece of advice here…
- Our two-flush toilet rocks (1 button for liquids, 1 for solids)
- Slate tile is a pain in the ass to get grout off of.
- My wife has some great ideas and is a great match for me.
- I am awesome at picking out paint colors. Show me 30 chips and I can tell which exact one we need to get. Haven’t had a bad pick yet in 13 years!
- Mark Ripley was the contractor and he and his crew did a great job. I don’t want to post his email directly, but if you’d like to contact him about a job, just send me a message and I’ll get you the contact info. Highly recommended… that guy knows his stuff.
Only thing left is for the glass shower door to get installed. We have gotten two quotes and will be deciding that this week. I’ll post a few more pictures when it’s totally done and the window casing + shower doors are in. A pretty exciting, yet exhausting experience. It’s nice to have the bathroom functioning again upstairs!