Adam completed a remodel of his bathroom after discovering that the drywall behind his shower wall was moldy and ruined.
What I Learned From Doing My Own Bathroom Remodel
people found Adam's experience helpful.
According to Plato, necessity is the mother of all invention — it is also the mother of many home-remodeling projects. Shortly after my wife and I bought our first home, the tiled soap dish fell off of the wall of the shower. I did what any first-time homeowner might do. I reset the yellow ceramic soap dish with some Liquid Nails. About two weeks later, I noticed that some of the tiles around the near side were loose, and I popped them off with a putty knife to reset them like I had the soap dish. Unfortunately, I found the tiles were secured directly to what may have once been drywall, but now resembled Brie cheese — soft on the inside and wrapped in a thin layer of mold. As I pulled more tiles off, I quickly discovered that the whole wall had leaked for years, and the drywall was ruined and moldy.
Clean-Up & Research
The drywall and the tiles all had to come down. I put on old clothes, a face mask, and goggles and spent a few hours taking everything down with a hammer and pry bar. I found wet insulation, but thankfully the problem was that the grout had failed, not the pipes. I used fans and bleach to clean up the mess and began researching how to rebuild my bathroom by using online resources and talking with people at work and at the local hardware store.
A major hurdle for us was that the house had one and a half bathrooms, and I had taken the only shower and bathtub out of commission for our family of five. Working around the loss of the bathroom and grabbing showers at my in-laws' house was challenging, but at least it was an option. In hindsight, it would have been wise to hold off on the demolition until a Thursday afternoon and send everyone to grandma’s for a long weekend.
My wife and I like the look and durability of ceramic tile, and I had my heart set on tiling the shower. I had never installed tile before, and I read up on using backer board as a surface to attach the tiles to. After wrestling the heavy sheets home, I found out that the backer board was too thick to match the surrounding walls reasonably, even with a bullnose curved tile on the edges. I returned the boards and found Hardiebacker — a similar, but lighter weight and more workable product — which screwed directly onto the studs with special waterproof fasteners.
By this time, we had been without a shower for a few days, and my family and I were getting frustrated. I knew the tiling was going to take time both for me to learn and for it to cure. I started looking at compromise solutions and found a fiberglass tub shower surround unit that was textured and designed to look like tile. It wasn’t going to fool anyone for more than a minute or two, but the unit looked clean and nice, and I could install it in a day.
Putting It All Back Together
The tub unit went in pretty easily after test-fitting and trimming the pieces to fit the shower. I ruined a speed saw bit designed for drywall on the fiberglass shower walls cutting out the openings for the faucet and handles, but it was an easy and fast way to get clean openings, and was worth the loss of a $4 bit. There is a specific caulk tube style of adhesive for shower panels that works really well. I found out very quickly that you need strong ventilation when using the adhesive; it will make you nauseous without adequate fresh air. Once the glue had set, I caulked the whole tub with high quality silicone made for bathrooms, and thankfully we had our bathroom back the next night for the children’s baths.
The next time I take on a bathroom project, I will have a better plan and the materials I need on hand from the beginning. I wasted a lot of time running back and forth to try things and return them later. The biggest lessons I learned were: find a time when the remodel will impact the family less, and now I know that a bathroom remodel is something I can handle. Ultimately, we put in a new vanity with a granite counter-top, light fixtures, wainscot, and floor — which totally improved the character of the bathroom. We wound up with a lovely bathroom that any homeowner could put together if you’re not re-plumbing things. This type of remodel is like working with blocks: take a piece out and put a new piece in. With care and patience and perhaps a bit of necessity, a bathroom remodel is pretty accessible.