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Bathroom Remodel

This blog page will be converted into a blog post once the remodel (phase 1) is complete.  Between now and then, it will be intermittently updated as things progress

DIY vs General Contractor – we chose DIY

We received a handful of quotes from general contractors and the prices ranged from $25k (excluding shower fixtures) to $40k.  These prices didn’t seem to be a reasonable amount to spend given the size of our bathroom, so we decided to take on the demolition, carpentry, and project management ourselves. The scope of the project was to replace nearly all of the studs in the shower, raise the ceiling height and widen the entry, install new plumbing fixtures, tile the whole thing, and add a frameless glass shower door.  We also decided to tile the bathroom floor, which was a neutral linoleum.

DIY vs Contractors – we hired pros for tiling, plumbing, and glass, but T did the carpentry

T determined we should install an old-style mud set shower, which are the highest quality and durability.   We weren’t planning on doing the tiling ourselves anyway, but a mud set shower is beyond DIY capabilities. Building and tiling the shower makes up the bulk of the budget. Plumbing is also beyond our skill set, so we hired that out. The frameless shower door has a significant price, and we decided to pay the pros for install.   T did all of the demolition, framing/carpentry, drywall (including mudding/taping), and painting.  He’s very precise and a perfectionist, so while these tasks took quite some time, they were done very well. The other reason that he did this was because it wasn’t obvious who to hire.  It seems like this is work that general contractors typically have a crew for. Aside from contractors being booked for months out, a good general contractor in this heated labor market won’t get out of bed consider any job for less than $10k.  It just isn’t worth their time.  Professional carpenters seem to focus on more complex carpentry jobs – we basically needed to replace framing that was already there with a non-rotted version.  And who do you hire for demo? Maybe a general handyman could have completed this work, but T’s rate was much lower.

Project Plan – Phase 1

  • Remove old shower tile
  • Repair shower framing by replacing any studs with water damage
  • Complete any other carpentry (blocking, build shower niche, shower curb, plywood backing) 
  • Get quotes and select tiler
  • Get quotes and select plumber
  • Select new tile
  • Select new shower fixtures
  • Have plumber do plumbing & remove toilet
  • Remove old flooring
  • Repair subfloor, if needed
  • Have tiler do tiling (shower & foor) – in progress
  • Put toilet back in place
  • Select shower glass company / installer
  • Have glass company install frameless glass door, or buy a door and DIY install
  • Repair drywall – in progress.  The adjacent room (aka our bedroom) needs some work…
  • Paint entire bathroom
  • Fix paint in adjacent rooms where drywall repair was needed
  • Hang new towel drying bar/hooks/whatever
  • Add trim to the floor

Project Plan – Phase 2

  • Purchase new sink
  • Purchase hardwood for sink cabinet / vanity
  • Build Vanity
  • Purchase new medicine cabinet / mirror
  • Install sink, vanity, and medicine cabinet
  • Update bathroom accessories if needed
  • Purchase and install new light fixture



This is the staged photo from the realtor, but this is actually our house. This is probably the first time I’ve shared a picture on the blog. The medicine cabinet, sink, window, and shower are from the 1950s.  The previous owners made cosmetic updates, covering up the original flooring and painting the green walls white.  The tile border on the right of the photo is the entrance to the stall shower, which you can’t see behind the door.  (A green shower is not a selling point, so not pictured in photos!) It is nothing special or modern, but we would have likely left it alone.  It was a small but cute little bathroom!

IMG_1270 copy

… but with water-damaged framing in the shower, behind the green tile.  SAD!


Demolition and Framing:

I didn’t get many pictures of the demolition portion, which took quite some time and resulted in LOTS of tiles backed with mortar.

Demo - tiles

Framing repairs complete, ceiling height raised. Shower subfloor was still in good shape, thankfully!


We uncovered the original linoleum flooring – awesomely horrible!  A nice puke green with flecks and a neat black border. (This makes me really curious what is under the current floor in the other bathroom!) Being that this is an older home, we did some research and determined it was unlikely the original flooring contained asbestos, but we still treated it carefully.  Please do your research if you are messing around in a bathroom with old flooring, especially floor tiles.  Same goes for paint – assume it has lead and don’t create a lot of dust.


The plumbing is done!!!  And also the rest of the framing, including the shampoo niche I insisted on.  The plywood provides a stiff material for the build of the shower.  Of course that fixture doesn’t go there yet (kind of need the tile!), but we wanted to admire it.  Also, please note how T lined up the stamps/markings on the plywood seams as if it were an expensive clothing item – unnecessary perfectionism!


Shower Build & Tile:  

Pre-sloped concrete subpan


Shower pan membrane installed and filled with water for an overnight waterproofing demonstration.


Grade B paper (tar paper) and lath partially installed.  This serves as backing to the mortar.


The mortar bed is on the walls!


Tiling has begun!  First the walls, then the shower pan, then the bathroom floor.  Estimated completion time is December 14th, but it may go slightly over.


Budget / Spending

Tools & Supplies – $554.25:  Many of these things will be used in future projects, but I’m “billing” them to this project.

  • Contractors bags, plastic sheeting , etc.: $20
  • Chisel, more buckets: $20
  • Sawzall: $151.63
  • Ladder: $184.23
  • Circular Saw: $148.30
  • Another chisel, shims: $30

Labor – $9,600:

  • Demolition & Reframing:  DIY by T! Contractor quote was $2,700 for these steps, + overhead/fees for a total of about $3,500.
  • Plumber:  $1,300
  • Tiler (new shower pan, mud set shower & bathroom floor):  $8,300 excluding tile.

Material / Supplies – $5,010+:

  • Lumber for framing repairs and plywood: $94.70
  • Drywall and more wood:  $130
  • More wood, screws, primer:  $104.62
  • Tile (floor and shower):  $1400
  • Shower plumbing & fixtures (rain shower head & hand shower): $1,277.41
    • We got this one (Graff Terra Full Pressure Balancing System With Handshower).  Neither of us really wanted to spend this much, but I insisted on a hand shower in addition to the rain shower head and T insisted on very high quality.  I wanted the kind that left the temperature set between showers, but that was another several hundred.
    • We also got a new drain on Amazon ($50)
  • Frameless glass shower door & panel:  $2000 (estimate) for custom including install OR $600 for semi-frameless kit and DIY install.
  • Paint/Primer: ~$35 for primer for drywall repairs (previous owners left paint and we did not change the color)

Cosmetic upgrades (phase 2) – $1200

  • Sink:  Duravit  2336630000, $270
  • Sink Faucet (planned):  Graff Terra Lavatory, $259, hoping for a better price or to convince T to pick something less expensive.
  • Vanity:  T is going to build the vanity.  The cost for wood and supplies is TBD, $200?
  • Medicine cabinet:  $209, Robern R3 16×26
  • Toilet:  ~$373 w/tax and seat, Toto Aquia II
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