This full bath reno was in the neat old Tarrytown hood west of downtown — just up the road from the Deep Eddy pool, the original Magnolia Cafe diner, and on a street full of repeatedly renovated 1930s homes with more character than an oscar-winning supporting actor. A three bed two bath split-level stone bungalow, its last makeover was sometime in the 1990s when bought by a kinda famous regional musician (who apparently liked to sleep really late what with the blackout blinds that the new owners described inheriting in the deal).
The new owners were definitely not dark folks. The entire shower enclosure had to be replaced anyway due to leaky waterproofing because of a failed vinyl PVC liner:
So, the new homeowners opted to demo and redo the whole bathroom to open the entire space up visually. Dark tile with a raised dais and lots of chrome is apparently a genius way to make an actually large bathroom seem small and cramped.
- Demo all the fixtures and walls and tile down to the studs and wooden subfloor.
- Repair any structural issues and re-do plumbing for new shower, double vanity, and moved toilet.
- Re-tile with large format faux marble ceramic tile.
- Install new baseboard and door trim, paint and finish with new fixtures.
Since this was a vintage house, there were sure to be some surprises and wrinkles revealed by the demo. There always are for old home remodel projects. But were any of these terminal? Read on to find out!
STEP ONE: Demo to the “studs”
Being that this was an old build bungalow in old west Austin, surprises were guaranteed. Building codes didn’t really exist when it was built, and the craft style of particular homebuilders in the 1930s could be pretty idiosyncratic. That’s why ripping into just about anything in a vintage home like this is like diving into an old-timey chocolate box with a lost lid. You never know what you’re gonna get.
In this case, the demo revealed rough shiplap 1×8-in siding underneath the surface drywall:
This would usually indicate that the room was originally an exterior porch or entryway foyer, but the layout of the rest of the original home footprint wouldn’t make any sense for this. The original framing and building crew were therefore probably literally just wanting to use up excess 1×8 solid wood siding boards for interior walls.
STEP TWO: Reframing and Replumbing
While the shiplap siding underlay made relocating the shower plumbing a bit of a pain, it did eventually help with installing the new drywall and concrete backerboard overlay. This was definitely a “drive screws anywhere” situation once all the re-plumbing was done and everything was shimmed back up to flush with the vintage underlay using cobbled plywood scraps:
The demo also involved demolishing an unusual bathroom floor. A previous renovation had added a wide 6-in high tiled concrete dais running through the middle of the room. Making that go away required quite a few sledgehammer blows.
Replumbing to move the toilet location slightly and install a Kerdi drain for the new shower also required access to the pier and beam foundation crawlspace. Since the floor needed some added joist framing anyway to ensure that the new bathroom floor tile would be completely crack-free, it was easiest to simply cut open a big-ol subfloor hatch to re-patch using a thick slab of OSB:
The clients chose to keep the dual-head shower layout, but this time with bigger and more conveniently located niche spaces. This is what the shower space looked like when almost ready for the base and tile install:
With a nice thick layer of RedGard on the concrete backerboard walls and Kerdi waterproofing fabric for the shower base and curb, the new shower install would be guaranteed leak-proof for practically forever.
The bathroom floor also got a layer of Kerdi fabric for tile crack prevention. This substituted for a conventional 1/4-in layer of concrete backerboard underlayment for the bathroom floor tile, and therefore kept the height gain minimal.
Here are pics of the Kerdi polymer fabric used for waterproofing (in the shower) and also used for crack prevention (under the bathroom floor tile):
STEP THREE: Tile tile tile!
The clients chose a large-format 12×24-in imitation marble ceramic tile for both the shower and the bathroom floor. Using this tile throughout the whole room made the space feel larger than the actual room dimensions. It also highlighted the skylight sunlight:
Remember that the whole project was necessitated by a leaky failed shower base from a sloppily done flexible PVC liner install. Redoing the whole shower ensured this would never be a problem again. But, taking the opportunity to redo the entire bathroom also created an entirely new space that was lighter, larger seeming, and much more peaceful than the original.
STEP FOUR: Installing the Vanity with Trim and Paint
The clients chose a freestanding double-sink vanity with a marble top and backsplash drip. Although the freestanding cabinet made the install pretty easy, it was a chore to get the heavy cabinet and marble counter actually into the room.
Pro tip: be sure to actually measure your doorways before just assuming that a large and heavy piece of furniture will actually fit through ’em!
Making the vanity cabinet fit the supply and drain plumbing was also a bit of a chore. Since the cabinet had many drawers and pull-outs and whatnot, the plumbing space was a bit constrained.
Another pro tip: an oscillating multitool is usually absolutely required when installing a freestanding vanity cabinet. Most of the time, you’ll have to carve into it a bit to make the plumbing connections work.
Big FINISH: A Lighter, Brighter Result!
The clients chose to install frameless glass for the shower partition. Although expensive, it was a great final design choice. The entire bathroom was now completely transformed from a dark dated ‘before’ to a bright contemporary ‘after’:
And most importantly, the clients now had a shower guaranteed to be leak-proof for decades. Yay happy client results!