Bathroom Reno 101: Let’s start at the very beginning

February 13, 2017

We believe we should all love where we live.

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Good news! We have officially broke ground on our next project–the girls’ bathroom downstairs!–and to be honest, I’ve never been more intimidated for the start of a project. We’ve never really done a full bathroom gut job including moving plumbing and reconfiguring a layout. And before we dove in, I knew hardly anything about what it takes to do those things, or did you know that often times you have to buy the back end of a shower faucet (the part in the wall) separately than the part you see? There’s a lot of things we’ve researched and will figure out as we go. So I thought, for this renovation, we could do a more in-depth documentation of what goes into a full bathroom renovation of anyone that’s in our position, doing a full bathroom renovation for the first time.

Months ago, the planning began just by starting a Pinterest board dedicated to your project. I started out by pinning any bathroom that inspired me. Maybe it was the color choices or the tile or the hardware. But eventually, it’s a good idea to look for bathrooms that look like yours. Pinning a palatial sized bathroom, when yours is more closet-sized isn’t going to help you in the long run. This bathroom has no windows and so, no natural light, which is easy to get caught up on when looking at pretty pictures. Fortunately, I was able to find many outstanding bathrooms with no windows as well. I also started pinning spaces that could inspire solutions to problems that we were facing. Which brings me to our next before-the-reno-starts point.

Measure the room and graph it out on paper (or an online program like if you don’t want to lose that piece of paper over and over and over #everytime). We were surprised at how much room we would have once the weird corner shower, back to back vanities and divider wall was out. But our biggest obstacle was definitely going to be the soffit (filled with duct work). It had to stay, but luckily, a 60″ bathtub/shower combination could fit to the right of it on the back wall, which naturally placed a double vanity under the soffit. But what about the dead space where the vanity and tub would meet? I started pinning shelving and cabinet inspiration to fill that corner, which puts the toilet opposite the vanity.

Here’s the current layout:

The left side of the room has a large vanity, with only one sink (even though it could have definitely fit two!) with a toilet in the corner and barely any distance for legs and knees between it and the shower wall.

Then there was a corner shower and opposite the sink vanity, there was a counter vanity tucked behind the door. My friends always joked it was our home’s changing table (haha), in reality, it has held our wireless printer for the past 3 years. No idea how that happened.

With our new layout nailed down and a few big finishes ordered (we’ll get into the mood board next time!), we felt confident getting started on the demo. Last Thursday, we brought in our handyman, Francisco, to help us demo it down to the studs (in some places) and remove the outdated tile floors (that used to cover our entire first floor!) so we were left with just concrete. Thanks to an extra set of hands, we were able to knock it out in about 6 hours–admittedly, I did nothing but take some photos. We realized, for us, it’s worth it to bring in someone to help get us to a blank slate so we’re not burnt out before the renovation really begins. We know a lot of people that feel just the opposite, and would rather do the demo themselves and then hire out tiling or some finish work. To each their own, truly! For me, seeing a room come back together is so motivating and rewarding, I could stay up all night tiling. :)

Over the next month, we plan to completely reconfigure and transform the room and come out on the other side and are excited to share with you how we do it along the way–especially those first time projects like heated flooring. If you have any specific questions or something you’d like us to include in the series, let us know in the comments below.

What do you think?

  1. Ashley says:

    I’m not sure if you guys investigated the bulk head. We did a basement bathroom renovation and when we opened up the bulkhead we discovered it was ridiculously oversized for the ducting. We couldn’t remove the bulkhead completely but we were able to gain a significant amount of headspace making the room feel more open.

  2. Meredith says:

    i couldn’t help but notice that you said there was only one sink in there even though there was room for two. maybe it’s too late for this, but have you considered just keeping the ONE sink? we have three girls (just like you are going to have! yay!) and when we had their bathroom redone a year ago, we had the space to put in two sinks just like you do, but we purposely decided to leave the one sink because i really feel that girls (and specifically tween/teen girls) will appreciate countertop space and storage much more than they would having two sinks. my girls have already started into the curling and straightening and a little makeup and then there are the manicures. . . and all that to say that we never have wished we had two sinks and are SO grateful for the extra countertop space when they are all in there! and then of course you can have more storage underneath when you only have one set of plumbing instead of two and extra storage is always welcome with girls! we have two big banks of drawers on each side of the sink. washing your face and brushing your teeth is such a small percentage of time compared to all the time you are doing things where you need more counter space. Just something for you to think about! your inspiration pictures are fab and your bathroom is gonna be amazing just like everything you have done in your house!

  3. We are just wrapping up a bathroom remodel and after turning on our beautiful new shower for the first time, we realized American Standard has a surprising feature in some of their showerheads. There are three spray settings on the showerhead. One of the spray settings is optimal for our kids because it doesn’t spray them in the face. After you turn on the shower, we turn it to the spray setting they like – but the bad part is, when you turn off the water, it automatically defaults to a low flow spray setting! So every single time the kids take a shower, I have to turn on the shower, adjust the spray setting for them (hello wet sleeves!!). The shower head is too tall for the kids to reach, so they essentially can never shower without our help. Really frustrating and even after talking to American Standard there is no way around this feature. It was not advertised anywhere that this feature existed on the showerhead. So maybe check for this when purchasing your bath/shower fixtures!

  4. Emily says:

    Random Question – where do you plan to hang towels? Back of the door?

  5. I’m sitting over here on pins and needles, I can’t wait to see the finished result. It’s going to look so amazing! Thanks for sharing your whole process.

  6. Claire says:

    Is it possible to access the dead corner from the back? If so, could you figure out a way to create a laundry drop space, that would fall into a basket on the other side? I had hoped to do this with an awkward corner in our bathroom, but it wasn’t feasible (the space was too narrow).

    Instead we divided the space and used half for shelves from outside the tub, and half for shelves inside the tub. From the vanity side, you would have shelves all the way across about a foot deep. From inside the tub, you would have a foot of tile, then shelves all the way back to the wall. We used marble subway tile for the bathroom walls, and marble 12×24 tiles cut to fit for the shelves, so it all looks pretty seamless (all from Home Depot).

  7. Christy says:

    So excited!!! Just this weekend I was searching your site to see if you’d done a full bathroom remodel. We are planning ours….but it is the only full bath in the house so that might be interesting for us. We have carpet in the bathroom and two young boys, so basically a disaster. I’m interested in information on sourcing, love the idea above to have a finished pinterest board. Also would be interested in any of the behind the scenes decisions on functional items like paint/drywall etc that hold up well in a moist environment like a bathroom. Good luck and thanks for taking us along for the ride.

  8. Lesley says:

    Do you have to remove the concrete? We had this in three bathrooms that we remodeled last year and our contractor said they had to take out the concrete before putting in the new tile…

  9. Nicole says:

    I was laughing when I heard you guys talk about the individual hot and cold taps as a trend. We had an original to the house sink like that in our last place (the 100-year-old bungalow), and now we have THREE sinks like that here in the Victorian! So we have 10 years of experience in living with them. They aren’t *that* bad, but I sure wouldn’t choose them if I were starting from scratch. (If you use a stopper and just turn on the hot water, the initial cold water comes out and as it heats up, the water in the sink bowl gets to a comfortable temperature. It’s actually less wasteful than letting the faucet run, so that’s a plus?)

  10. Liz says:

    I’d love to see the tiling action!

  11. Kelly says:

    Really excited for this! I’m one month into being a homeowner and I’m terrified to try my first project which will be tiling the guest bathroom tub area. Thanks for making this available!

  12. Rosemary says:

    Just ordered the fixtures today and will begin the rough in this week! Baths are the hardest room as there is no central place you can go for help (plumbing supply, tile, cabinet shop) and no one will take responsibility for the measurements (except me)! So wanted a tub and shower (separate) in the 8×8’8″ bath we’re doing but we couldn’t squeeze it. I still feel a good designer could do it, but we were not able to find one!

    Can’t wait to see what you do!

  13. Liz D says:

    My only 2 cents worth, after having gutted/renovated 2 bathrooms in our last home–bring in a plumber for the tub/shower/sink reconnect and the big stuff. We had a minor flub up with our first Reno, and although it wasn’t catastrophic, it could’ve been. Plus it caused a lot of extra headache (the drain for our shower didn’t thread correctly, and leaked a little–fortunately it was second story but jutted out over our back patio. We just had to pull down the patio ceiling and access the drain from underneath). The plumbers have the correct tools for these jobs, and a couple hours’ worth of work is worth avoiding the headache, we decided!

    I’m excited to follow along!

  14. Sarah says:

    So excited for a heated fooor tutorial! Winters in SoDak have made that a must have on our list. We also want to do a natural wood plank ceiling for our bath remodel. Any chance that’s on your list?

  15. Marysr says:

    Not only you sometimes buy the wall piece of the faucet. We have those awesome black Dornbracht faucets and actually had to buy the knob for the shower thermostat seperately. You know, the thing you need to turn your shower on!! Argh. Which we found out when installing it. After waiting for the thermostat for months. Oh and yes heated floors. We didn’t do them and it’s the only thing I’m regretting in our entire house reno.

  16. Misty says:

    Will you be sharing what you anticipate to spend on the entire project and how that compares to what you’ll save doing the project yourself? Our bathroom needs WORK! I want to take the plunge and I can come up with somewhat of a budget of materials, but I never proceed because I’m so afraid of the unforeseen expenses!!!

    • Julia says:

      We were planning on doing a detailed budget breakdown at the end.

    • pt says:

      I think I have this problem, too-what on Earth do I budget for this kind of stuff?!?! …That and figuring out how everyone will get ready for work and school with parts of our home torn apart!! eek. Bathroom and kitchen are on our list this year!

  17. Kate says:

    Amazing! We have two bathrooms that will be total gut jobs and we are planning to do all the work ourselves…but we are feeling SO daunted! Can’t wait to see your detailed posts as we do our research!

  18. Karen says:

    Yay! So glad this is going down. Can’t wait to follow along and get motivated/inspired for our own bathroom reno. Thank you so much for sharing your adventure :)

  19. Emelia says:

    Heated floors are so nice! Especially in the basement bathroom. You will love them! We noticed that having them in the basement helped with the heating issues that plague our run-of-the-mill split entry. One layout question: Does that say closed or closet at the top left? (The corner between the tub and vanity.) And if it’s a closet, how are you going to access it? Cheers to kicking off another project!

    • Julia says:

      It says closet, but it’s really more of shelves (still deciding whether they will be closed or not). They’ll be kind of on top of the counter I guess you could say.

  20. tiara says:

    Have you thought about a barn door instead?

    • Julia says:

      A pocket door is on the table, but we are hoping to work with the door we have.

      • Brynn says:

        Barn doors and pocket doors don’t offer nearly as much (sound) privacy as a hinged door does for a bathroom. I say stick w/ the existing door…just my 2 cents.

      • Peggy says:

        I’m changing a swinging door to a pocket door in our bathroom. There are some things you can do to decrease the sound transfer. Use a solid door, not hollow core. If there’s room in the wall, use a slightly wider door, so that when it’s closed, there’s still an inch or two inside the pocket. You can also set the head rail a little higher, so there’s no gap for sound to travel through the top. On the door jamb, use stop on both sides of the door.
        I found these tips online (of course!), bit haven’t actually used them yet, so I can’t attest to the success or failure of any of them. But they sound like good ideas!

  21. Janet says:

    So excited to see this! Wondering why you wouldn’t move the tub/shower combo along the long wall and leave the toilet where it was? Wouldn’t that minimize movement of plumbing and prevent anyone sitting on the toilet from having to stare at themselves in the vanity mirror?

    I have such a hard time with bathroom layouts because often what seems to work is actually much more expensive and difficult than I thought it would be!

    • Julia says:

      That could have been an option, but we would have had to go with a very, very slim tub that’s not standard size and more expensive. Since that side of the bathroom is only 28″ to the door. In the end, it just felt too tight to us. But you’re right! Bathroom layouts are kind of interesting!

  22. Emma says:

    We are about 50-75% through our current reno (aka the end is in sight!!) — 2.5 baths, kitchen, & entry/laundry room, there’s been so much learned (like the rough in valve I quickly ordered last week!). A few things that I would have used throughout the project that you may consider covering:

    -Glossary of terms: what is mastic vs. thin set? What are the different tile types and things to keep in mind (ie smaller tile in the shower floor, etc.)? Between contractor and store speak, a lot of this is a foreign language to me and I have trouble tracking what they need/what its for, etc.
    -I’ve found it hard to walk through the ENTIRE project with all the moving parts and pieces (plumbing, electric, tiling, etc.) and understand what is needed from the beginning. So I’ve just become BFF with impromptu trips to lowes and amazon prime. It’s a good reminder that I didn’t get it wrong, just be ready for a lot of unexpected things to pop up.
    -We also did a heated floor, which all our vendors had heard bad things about, but friends highly recommend, so we’ll see how it works, will be interested to know your experience.
    -Consider a “final” pinterest board for everything you purchase — I did this especially for the kitchen, to easily be able to pull up the manuals, dimensions, etc. separate from my inspiration boards

    Look forward to your posts!

  23. Justynn says:

    We are literally doing this now. Master bath is torn out, and we are re-supporting some joists before redoing subfloor, in-floor heating, plumbing, electrical, tiling….

    yep. I’m going to be GLUED to your renovation.

  24. Diana says:

    Looking forward to following along! Our master bath is on deck hopefully within the next year or so. It’s teeny tiny and very outdated. I’m excited to see what you’re going to do with the shower since that’s the one thing I’m ready to rip out of our house as well.

    I agree with you on the tiling. I stayed up until 2 or 3 am finishing up tiling our kitchen just to see a finished project. I just posted a subway tile backsplash tutorial today!

  25. Allison says:

    Very much looking forward to following along!

    Under the “changing table” there are two fixtures (rectangular and circle) on the wall, what are they for??

    • Julia says:

      One is an old heater that they used to use to heat this room–no longer works. We actually didn’t even know it existed! And the other is roughed in plumbing.

  26. Zoë says:

    So exciting, I’ll be looking at the heated flooring as we’re doing up our kitchen and wanting it in there. Can’t wait to see your finished look x

  27. Jane says:

    Thanks for including room measurements, always so helpful!

  28. Tiffany E. says:

    I’m very interested in how you’re going to move the plumbing! We have an unfinished bathroom in our basement and the plumbing was roughed in, so nothing is where it needs to be.

    • Christina says:

      Me too on the plumbing move! We just built and moved in 16 months ago. I told our contractor I wanted the unfinished, walkout basement plumbed in for a bathroom…Until six months ago, I never noticed he plumbed the sink, toilet and tub all lined up with zero extra inches. Nothing like the excitement of finishing the basement next fall going straight down the drain! Wanna do a makeover/finish a walkout basement with terribly laid out bathroom plumbing in west/central Ohio for a crazy big family??? :-)

  29. Kimberly says:

    I’m really looking forward to this. We were planning on redoing our bathroom after New Year’s until I broke my foot. It’s actually good we had to postpone it because I don’t think we were actually prepared for all the work ahead. I am so intimidated by any large project so I’m eager to learn what I can from you two. There’s so many dang choices and obstacles to overcome. One thing for sure is to install dedicated individual faucets for hot and cold water (kidding!!).

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