Home ProjectsInterior Demo Day!! Master Bathroom Remodel: Part 1

Demo Day!! Master Bathroom Remodel: Part 1

by Haylie

This project was one that we had to jump on. We bought the house in April. Noticed the floor tile was cracked and the grout lines were cracked in both bathrooms. We asked the seller to address the problems and they counter offered with a $500 credit for us to repair the problem ourselves. We took the deal. The tile by our stand-in shower in the master bath was so bad that it was no longer waterproof and the shower doors were leaking. It was just a mater of time before we had an even bigger problem on our hands. We bought our house in April, got married in Italy in October, had a state-side wedding reception in November and had a completely gutted master bathroom by December. Merry Christmas to us!!!

This being our first house, we didn’t have the foggiest clue about cost or process or anything about how to remodel our home. We sought out 4 different quotes from 4 different contractors and the lowest estimate was $9,000; the highest was $18,000.  Having just bought a house and having consulted our real estate agent on weather or not we would even get this kind of return on our investment, this was not an option. We did a bunch of research and decided we would do it ourselves.

My husband, is the most wonderful and helpful person. He is so sweet and loving but fore-thought and patience is not his strong suit. So whilst we were still in the midst of discussing the project and trying to make a plan for it, I came home to a mess of a bathroom with the floor ripped up and tile and dust everywhere. I just remember getting home from work and thinking… “well… there no turning back now!” From that point on we dove into the project. Here are just a few before photos before we get started.

This was a big job and it just so happened to be one of the first that we did. It was a good thing too… wait till you see all the photos of the mold that had started to grow in some areas. EWWWWW! Being that it was such a big job, we had to break it up into phases not only for our mental sanity but also because its easier to manage the finances of a project when you can tackle items on a smaller to-do list vs. building Rome in a day. We decided to start with the problem area, and the area that was the largest cause for concern. The grout had begun to crack and the tiles were no longer adhered to the subfloor. Cracked tile and cracked grout means that it is no longer waterproof. Thats kind of a big problem in a bathroom. It’s like politely inviting mold into your home and asking it to stay for as long as it likes. Not being such a huge fan of that idea, we decided to start on the floor first. So here is what we completed in the first phase:

  • We removed the awful skink that looked like it belonged in a public restroom.
  • We removed the vanity and set it aside to be refinished.
  • Removed the toilet.
  • Cole chiseled up the tile by hand. As first time home buyers our tools were limited.
  • Used an angle grinder with a masonry bit to sand down all of the left over thin-set mortar.
  • Start stripping the epoxy off the vanity, primed and painted. We got lucky. This is the only real wood cabinet in the whole house.
  • Clean up.
  • Lay tile.
  • Grout
  • Remove old shower doors.
  • Clean again.


First things first. DEMO DAY!!!!!

Cole actually got started with the tile before we removed anything, while I was at work one day… See what I mean about the patience. Love him…. but…. deep breathes. I do not recommend doing it this way. Remove all the parts before you tear up the place.  Before we could remove any more tile we used an xacto-knife to score the seams of where the vanity and the wall met and used a screw driver to loosen the few screws that secured it to the wall. We also scored the calk on the baseboards before using a crowbar to pry them out. By using a knife to score the caulked seams, you can seriously cut down on your time and energy later on when it comes to wall repair. Ripping the molding and baseboards off the wall can cause damage to the drywall which will then have to be repaired prior to painting. We shut off the water to the sink and disconnected the drain pipes. Then removed the vanity and set it outside for a good cleaning and prep to be repainted. We started to pull out the toilet by shutting off the water supply first.  With the water supply off if you press down and hold the flush lever, it will drain your tank for the most part. We used a wrench and loosened the bolts at the base of the toilet,  then got a large trash bag and made sure that when we lifted the toilet we put it in the trash bag to avoid gross water all over the house.  We made sure to stuff a rag into the hole in the floor so that sewer gasses would not make their way into the house.

Next, Cole finished the demo to the tile. He used a chisel and a hammer to pry up the old tile. Once we got all of the tile out we discovered that there was not water damage so we were able to reuse the existing backer-board. We did a little happy dance with this small victory because that meant less work and less money! He used an angle grinder and a masonry bit to grind down the previous mortar to prepare the surface for the new tile.  This kicks up a lot of really fine dust so we got a plastic drop cloth and sealed up the doorway and the vent. You’d be surprised how fast that dust will cover your whole house.

Here is a short anecdotal and moderately funny video to attest to how dusty it got.

After creating such a mess we couldn’t do anything else until we got all of the dust out of there. So we grabbed the shop-vac and got to work but since the dust was so fine every slight movement we made sent the dust back into the air again. So we cleaned the floor once,  would leave the room, let the dust settle and then start up with the shop vac again. We did this probably about three times.



I knew I wanted a dark floor like slate but I didn’t want to spend quite that much money on this project so I found a porcelain tile that kind of mimicked slate which was only $3.44/ sq ft. We ordered it from Home Depot and it was delivered straight to our door. The good thing about ordering from Home Depot is that if you order a product online and it’s not available in stores, you can still return the product to a physical location if you need to.  I knew that I wanted to do the same tile in both of our bathrooms so I went ahead and ordered enough tile for both, and a little extra for mistakes. One of the issues I ran into when shopping for tile is that a lot of tile companies, Home Depot included, have a minimum order. Our bathrooms are rather small… like the rest of our house, and the tile for both bathrooms barely met the minimum requirement for my order at Home Depot. It was a challenge but at the same time when you buy in bulk ends up saving you money in the end.

Tools we used for the Tile:

  • Tile
  • Thin-set mortar or tile glue. We got ours from Home Depot
  • 5-gal bucket
  • Trowel;  a larger one was easiest to use for these larger tiles
  • Rubber float for applying grout
  • Grout
  • Level
  • Spacers
  • Damp sponge
  • Spare towel or rag
  • Thin-set and grout mixer paddle. Highly necessary; otherwise you would have to mix the mortar by hand
  • Tile cutter; we rented one from Home Depot
  • Tape measure
  • Patience and lenience

Once everything was removed and cleaned, we started laying the tile.  Before I start sharing that account with you I wanted to share the best piece of advice I have ever gotten about home renovations; especially pertaining to tile.

“Be patient with yourself. You will not do it perfectly. It doesn’t matter if this is your first, fiftieth, or one hundredth time, you will make mistakes. So if you think that you cannot live with those mistakes, you should hire this job out and do not attempt to do it yourself.”

We looked at how-to videos and tutorials any piece of information that we could possibly find on the internet before jumping into this project.  I wish I could remember all the youtube videos we watched so that I could share them with you and give them credit.

We started on the far side of the bathroom around the toilet and planned to make our way to the door. After laying the tile you can’t walk on it for 24 hrs to ensure proper adhesion so we had to be sure that we didn’t work ourselves into a corner. We decided what orientation we wanted the tiles before getting started. This step was actually a lot harder than we expected. Since our tiles were 12×24 we did the math and chose the orientation that would offer us less cut tiles. We also learned that in a bathroom you want the least amount of grout lines in front of the shower or tub just to ensure that its waterproof.

When laying the tile a lot of people suggest doing it differently. I found it easiest to apply a minimal amount of mortar to the floor, score it and then apply a medium amount of thin-set to the tile and gently press and wiggle it into place to affirm proper adhesion. As I laid each tile I would use rubber spacer to keep the grout lines consistent, check that each tile was level to the one above it and the one next to it and then I would use the damp sponge and rag to gently wipe of the excess mortar.

Things to make note of:

  • Make sure your tiles are level to the row above and to the side each time you lay a new tile.
  • Triple measure before you cut.
  • When measuring account for your grout line.
  • Clean grout as you go.

The thin-set is essentially concrete of sorts. So if you do not clean it up while it is wet, there is no cleaning it up.

Prior to applying the grout we went ahead and removed the old shower doors. The grout was significantly easier to apply but equally as annoying to clean up. We chose thick grout lines because our tiles were so big. In retrospect I wish we had done slightly smaller lines. Keeping the grout lines consistent in terms of depth was a little challenging and grouting required a bit more time and patience. We decided to go with a dark grout to accompany our dark tile. Nothing grosses me out more than nasty grout lines. Our way of saving ourselves the trouble of keeping them clean in the future was to go dark. Well… medium gray… It’s a good bit lighter when its dry but we still don’t have to worry about the grout darkening with grossness.

After the grout dried (about 24 hrs) we started to clean the tiles. A common problem with laying tile is grout haze; which is the result of residual residue from the grout. We found that this is easiest to avoid if you clean as you go when applying the grout using a damp sponge and a dry rag. We noticed that it helped a lot to rinse your sponge often and keep your dry rag as clean as possible. If your rag or sponge get too gross switch them out. By using this method, once the grout dried we only had to clean the tiles one additional time with a little bit of tile cleaner and some elbow grease.



Here is a sneak peak of what you have to look forward to in part 2 of this project. After removing the vanity we took it outside, removed the drawers and the door, and sanded off the parts that had grown mold.  We then wiped down every square inch from top to bottom. I was actually really excited about this cabinet because it was wood. Keeping and repurposing this baby saved us about $200. We did replace the top for $90 from Home Depot and I bought really good furniture enamel paint from Benjamin Moore so all in all we spent $120 on this repurpose. All together we painted, added a new counter top, added new hardware and added a little character by installing beadboard on the side of the vanity. Check back later for a tutorial.

What we used:

  • Sand paper
  • Rustoleum Self etching spray primer
  • Screw driver
  • Paint brush

After a good cleaning I started to use a de-glosser to remove the epoxy on the finish of the wood but after applying it as directed and it didn’t really do what I wanted it to, I switched to sand paper. I lightly sanded all of the surfaces but didn’t put a whole lot of pressure into it. Ultimately it was the self etching primer in combination with the enamel paint that was my saving grace. Having the epoxy still on the cabinet actually worked in my favor. The epoxy made for a very smooth, finished surface. My paint job in the end was perfection. I am so in love with Benjamin Moore’s enamel furniture paint. It has a long cure process (over 24 hrs) and it continues to harden over time, ultimately offering great protection for your furniture. The long cure process also helps smooth out any brush strokes, which to me is just plain magical. I was so impressed by this paint I ended up using it for two more projects down the road. The name of the paint color that I chose was Ben Moore Timberwolf. Our tile had a subtle hint of blue in it and this medium tone gray worked perfectly with it. We decided to keep the original faucet because it was still in working condition and was another area where we could save money.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this remodel, where we will; repair and paint the walls, reinstall the toilet and the vanity, demo, clean and prep the shower, tile and grout the shower, replace the vent fan, and install the shower doors. I can’t wait for you to see the whole transformation!

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