Basement Bathroom: Behind the Scenes

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Last week I shared with you the Before {and} After of the Basement Bathroom. Now let’s take a look at what it really took to get there. I love how before {and} afters have such a magical quality to them. They are filled with inspiration and excitement on what can be achieved and transformed, but when you look behind the curtain the reality is revealed and you get to witness all the work and struggle it took to get from B(efore) to A(fter). So buckle your work belts and hang on, because we’re about to dive into the nasty world of bathroom renovation.

Ok, so let's begin. I woke up one morning and was in a bust things up with a hammer sort of mood. I turned on the Nerdist podcast, headed down to the basement with goggles, gloves, and a mask and began chiseling away at the shower tiles. I quickly realized that this was going to be much harder than the kitchen tiles I did earlier. There was such a ridiculous amount of mortar used to install these light little tiles that it made it not only impossible to get them off, but it was taking chunks of the wall away with it. After two hours of getting only three rows done I knew that a demo hammer was needed to finish this puppy up. Between the amount of dust that would be created and the strength you need to hold up that hammer for hours on end, I was going to have to turn the rest of the tile demo over to Matt. Two days later with shaky, sore arms and faux gray hair Matt defeated the tiles.

During this tile demo Matt created massive holes in the walls and got a peak at what was really holding this bathroom together. His discovery was not what I was expecting or wanting to hear. In disbelief I listened as he told me that the studs were crooked, just haphazardly thrown together, and even worse: rotten with water damage. The more he inspected, the more he was convinced that the whole bathroom would need to be reconstructed from the ground up. With my jaw in my hands and my mind still refusing to believe, I was realizing that my sprucing up project that I thought would take me a week or two was turning into a long-term nightmare. Visions of disaster DIY home improvement show episodes were flooding my mind, and I tried to figure out ways to get by without tearing everything down. But alas, Matt was pretty sure that due to the water damage, very little of the underlying structure could be salvaged. This is when I just took off my construction hat and gave it over to him to figure out. Even though he’d never done any of this before, he was determined to start from scratch with his trusty partner Google at his side.

In the meantime I hit the computer and started mocking up the design in Photoshop. I knew the exact look and feel I wanted to go with so that made everything flow without much struggle. Then I began the hunt for paint color, tiles, fixtures, shelving, accessories, the sink, the ceiling, the mirror, and the countertop material. Since the room is rather small I wanted to preserve as much space as possible and decided to only work with open shelving, light colors, and forgo a vanity for a minimal counter and a table top sink.

Back to the mess. As Matt tore down the walls of the old and put in all new studs, lots of fun obstacles kept arising. Number one being that nothing was square, even, or straight (a fun fact that comes with a century old house). This made everything infinitely harder. But, with a lot of patience and math skills it all got worked out. We learned pretty early on that the house was built wacky and that we would have to embrace and emphasize its flaws and character in order to not go totally insane (something this perfectionist still has a hard time with.)

While Matt was tearing down the ceiling he came across what had caused all the water damage. A steady but slow leak had been coming from the upstairs bathtub for who knows how long. The crazy part was that the last person who had torn apart the ceiling knew about the leak, but their solution for fixing it was tying a plastic grocery bag around the pipe to catch the water. Yeah, that was our reaction too. So everything was put on hold as we got the problem fixed which ended up being a good thing for we updated the original Drum Trap with a modern P-Trap.

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After all that drama subsided and the new walls went up, I came in and tiled the shower and the floor and got all patchwork and painting done. We were on our way to something that resembled a bathroom again; the last step was to build the sink counter. I was looking for a beautiful, warm hardwood which we found at my favorite lumber yard, Compton Lumber. We ended up scoring a gorgeous piece of African Mahogany that just need to be sanded and varnished (look for upcoming post on How To on building your own counter in the near future.)  After the sink was installed all that was left was the finishing touches.

Now this project probably would have gone a bit quicker if I hadn't started two other major ones in the middle, but that's just the way I roll. Patience problem? I think so. Now that it's done and will one day be a fleeting memory, I would encourage other people to take a shot at it. When I think about the tens of thousands of dollars we saved doing it ourselves it makes me as happy as a little girl who just built her first giant sandcastle. 

Check out the full Before {and} After of this basement bathroom.

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Before {and} After: a Basement Bathroom Reveal

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When we first looked at the house and I saw the bathroom in the basement it icked me out so bad that I never stepped foot in it again for the next 6 months. This bathroom renovation was one of those massive diy projects that was always in the back of my mind, but I was just dreading it. Then the time finally had come when Matt's company shipped Halo 4, that they had been furiously working on for years, and he was gonna get some time off. I figured that would be a good time to begin this nightmare. And so began the bathroom renovation. 

My dream for this bathroom was for it to be modern, serene and spa-like. To achieve this feel I went with clean lines, and a minimal palette with natural elements. Preserving as much space as possible was also a major concern since it's such a small space.  Since we ended up having to tear the walls down near the ancient and filthy cast-iron tub we decided to replace it with a new modern one instead; we knew that it would be our only chance to do it before the walls were tiled back up for years to come. So even though it wasn't planned for, it ended up being the best decision we have made.  

This project began with modest intentions, like most projects do, and then quickly turned into a whirlwind of stumbling blocks. We ended up having to completely rip down the walls of the bathroom. For all the frightening details stay tuned for the 'bathroom-in progress' post shortly to see what it took to get us from Point Nast to Point Pleasure.

 

Now Matt had never built a room before, nevermind a bathroom, so with google at his fingertips he persevered through and did a great job. Then I was ready to begin tiling. This was my second go at tiling, and the subway tile in the kitchen was a breeze compared to this. I had my heart set on hex tiles on the tub walls which is very untraditional. You always see them on bathroom floors for a retro look. I love the shape but didn't want the retro vibe and having them vertical created a modern pattern. Well, as I quickly found out there is a reason they don't go on the walls, when the mesh gets wet the tiles start falling off. But I was determined and worked all night to make it happen. There were many points of the process that looked like a three stooges episode, but I eventually conquered those hexes.
 
Luckily the floor tiling was a cinch. We then moved on to some other projects like patching up an inset vanity, building the counter and installing the sink (all how-to's to come).

In conclusion, although this project took much longer than expected and was a major headache, I can't tell you how happy I am that we pushed through. Now it is one of my favorite places in the house. All the stress that went into that room just melts away when I light my candles, prep my bath with salts and lavender, and sink into my new tub. I wouldn't change it for the world.

Click here to catch the Behind the Scenes of this Bathroom Renovation.

 

Before {and} After: Empty Room Turned Walk-In Closet

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We had an empty room attached to our master bedroom in the attic that needed a purpose. I had heard it had been used for an office and a sitting area in the past, but in my eyes it was begging to be the walk-in closet I had always wanted. I mean that would sure beat my prior closet situations where I was on a strict one thing in, one thing out system.

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Once I had enough of getting dressed out of giant moving boxes (about one month), I was more than ready to begin tackling the impending closet project. Because it was in the attic of an old house with a steeply angled ceiling, we were not dealing with a quick throw up some rods and hang up your clothes situation but had to devise a system based on the ceiling angle. Since we were starting from scratch I had the opportunity to customize it, and I did. I decided to create separate sections based on clothing type (dresses, skirts, pants, etc). Getting the most out of the space was top priority.

It only took a couple of hours to get the closet built. Matt's clothes are on the other side of the closet and we still have to make that a bit more efficient. Besides that, I just need to add a dresser, a ceiling light, a nice curtain rod, a proper mirror, and some touch up paint; then it'll be fully finished. However, it's quite lovely in the state it's in so the final touches have moved way down on my priority list. I'll keep you posted on the final Before {and} After once it's complete.

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Before {and} After: an Unused Corner Becomes a Vanity

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The bathrooms in the Farmhouse are quite small and are not very user-friendly for anything other than the essentials. So, they left me nowhere to get ready in front of a mirror. To solve this dilemma instead of waiting till we redo the bathrooms (who knows when) I decided to create my own little vanity haven in an unused corner of the bedroom. (sorry that the before {and} after images are not of the same vantage point, but I think you get the idea).

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Since the chosen corner is not a large amount of space, I wanted to make sure it would be functional and have enough storage for all of my things without getting cluttered.

I was lucky that I already had 90% of the components to create this area, so it cost me very little money to execute. The main thing I needed to find was a vanity type wall cabinet to hang and store my hair and facial goodies. I lucked out and found exactly what I was looking for on sale at Goodwill for a mere $4. I was sure it was too good to be true, so I scooped it up, paid, and busted out of there before they realized they made a mistake on the price or something. Once I got home I fixed it up a bit, lined the inside with paper, and added a perfect little knob pull that I found at Anthropology (also on sale) and my vanity was well on its way.

Next I bought the side table that houses my make-up. It matches the decor in the rest of the room which creates a lovely little balance in all the vignettes. Each room of the house showcases a different type or stain of wood and the bedroom is all about Walnut.

I was going for a warm, minimal, calming feel for this corner. I still have to get an outlet put in, and I may stencil the wall using a gold leaf pen that I'm itching to bust out. Until then I've been more than satisfied every morning when I get up and have a delightful little place all my own to put myself together before I head out into the world.