Quick Note About Permitting: Permit laws vary from state to state, and sometimes town to town. Before starting any renovation, always check with your local permitting office to discuss your plans and they can give you guidance on whether or not your plans require a permit, what you need to do to obtain one, and how the inspection process will work. Permits may seem like a pain, but they help protect you and the future owners of your home from well-meaning but potentially damaging and dangerous reconfigurations. We’re big proponents of responsible DIY, and encourage every homeowner to look at their local permitting office as a resource for information, not an obstacle in the way of their progress.
One of the most freeing things, when it comes to renovating your home, is realizing that your home doesn’t have to stay the way it was built – even the things that seem to be “permanent,” like a toilet that sits on top of cement.
Now, I’ve heard tales of new homeowners who inherit the original plans for their home when they purchase it. Or others who are able to obtain a copy from city records. This can really help out when planning a renovation, because you can see where water, electrical, ventilation and other lines run, and you can plan around them. This sounds wonderful, but we’ve never had such luck. Our renovations are mostly blind, in that we don’t always know exactly what’s in the walls, floors and ceilings when we start. So we plan for what we want, rip open the walls and understand that we may have to make changes to the plan along the way. With renovation, a certain degree of flexibility is often required.
That said, so far so good for us, on this bathroom anyway. We planned for where we want the water lines, drains, toilets, lights and electrical, and the only issue we’ve run into is where we wanted to add the new vent/light. We wanted to put it directly in the middle of where the tub would go, but a drain pipe from upstairs was in the way, so we had to move the vent over one joist.
Some kind of ventilation is required by code in most, if not all bathrooms. Since we’re dealing with a basement bathroom (read: no windows), the fan is especially important and needs to vented outside to be of any value. Where this was a bathroom before, it was only a matter of replacing the vent as opposed to adding it. If you’re adding a bathroom, planning for ventilation can be tricky, especially in relation to other pipes, vents and lines that may be in the way. Take the time to plan, and consult your contractor for recommendations.
Our old vent was exactly what you picture when you hear the words “bathroom vent.” A faded, almond-colored plastic box stuck to the ceiling that starts up with a raucous thud and runs continuously with all the serenity of an EF2 tornado.
With that juxtaposition, this new vent (a recessed light and vent in one!) is a treasure. First, it serves the purposes of both ventilation and additional lighting, which this room was in desperate need of. The vent itself is incredibly quiet, and will only get quieter once we put the sheetrock back in place. It can be wired so the vent and light are on different switches (boo to vents that are always on when the light is on, amiright?), and the vent itself will take up no visual real estate in the finished bathroom. So many wins I struggle imagining using any other vent for the rest of my days.
You can see in this picture we also added another recessed can to the room for balance and additional light. And, you can see the destruction of the concrete.
Moving Shower, Tub and Toilet Drains
Our bathroom is in a basement, so we’re dealing with cement and the lines below it. One benefit is there tends to be fewer obstacles below a cement slab, whereas bathrooms on a second floor may run into ductwork, electrical, and other plumbing that can add complexity. If you find yourself in this situation, prepare yourself to be flexible and understand that having a drain that works in your less-preferred location is better than one that doesn’t in your preferred location. Drains need to slope gently downward to prevent backup, and if an obstacle will prevent this, your plan will need to be adjusted.
Once we knew where we would be moving our toilet and shower drain, we scored the concrete with a concrete saw and broke the rest out with a jackhammer and sledgehammer. That said, I do not suggest using a concrete saw. Perhaps a handheld angle grinder with a 7 inch masonry blade on it to score, but gas-powered concrete saws are not meant to be used indoors. The contractor we hired to help us with parts of this bathroom had to leave after about 20 minutes of using the saw because he started feeling nauseated. A little check on our carbon monoxide detector and our CO levels were through the roof. We opened all the windows and doors, set fans in place and evacuated the house for an hour as it aired out. Learn from our mistake.
Back the the picture above – even though the tub drain was going to generally be in the same area as the old shower drain, they didn’t line up perfectly. So we broke up a square around that drain to allow some flexibility there, and then set the tub in place to determine the exact location where the new drain needed to be.
For the toilet, we measured how far away from the walls the old toilet drain was, and duplicated this spacing at the new location. We plumbed the new drains, vented the toilet into a toilet vent for the upstairs bathroom (VERY important to have your toilet vented, otherwise it will always have trouble flushing), mixed about 9 bags of concrete to fill in the holes, and smoothed it all out.
Progress in this bathroom is a bit at a stand still now until the concrete cures. Curing time varies depending on the concrete used, but make sure to follow the recommendations on the bag to achieve maximum strength and durability.
Bathroom Reno 101 Posts:
• Let’s Start At The Very Beginning