Project Skip to the Loo

When we bought our house we knew that the Master Bath was most likely a full gut job. At some point a small toilet leak had grown into a larger mess and the previous occupants just left it. How thoughtful. The scary part to any remodel is that you don’t know what you don’t know until you start tearing stuff out. With having just had our third child via emergency c-section, having two other kids to care for, and my husband back at work, we decided we needed to hire a contractor (since neither of us were in a position where we could do it) to get this job moving so we could start using our bathroom.

For some reason, we never took really good photos of the bathroom before, so I’m just going to try and give you detailed description and I’ll include a couple of photos I found of our house when it was on the market. Our bathroom is roughly 750 sq ft with Travertine tile floors that had little green marble spacers. When you walk into the restroom, immediately in front of you is an L-shaped double vanity with counter to ceiling mirrors. There is green and black marble, dark wood cabinets. Gold fixtures and wood trim molding on the mirrors. To the left you find double french doors, a low 7′ ceiling  that is being framed by these doors, once through the doors: to the left is a 3’x3′ dark Travertine tiled shower, completely dark. And to the right is a small toilet room. About 2 feet past the showers and toilet room room, the ceiling opens up to an arched ceiling with a tub embedded in the green marble and built in cabinets on either side of the tub. The tub is under 5 windows. This was definitely a bathroom built in the 1990s.

 

Since the shower was scary to use, picture a small coffin to shower in that’s pitch black, we knew right away that had to go. Same with the marble embedded tub and the cabinets that flanked it. The mirrors screamed of a time of curled and hair sprayed bangs and it just really aged the bathroom. All of the dark wood and marble really darkened the entire room. The new floor plan would be open, with a frameless glass shower, claw foot cast iron tub, white Carrara Marble, and lighter cabinets.

So the first order of business before demo could start was to get the mirrors off the wall. It was horrible because they put so much liquid nails on the wall, we were worried about the mirrors falling apart when we took it down. The biggest concern was slicing ourselves open. We duct taped around the outer edge and also multiple times across the surface of the mirrors, in case they did break. Our though was if it broke at least the duct tape should hold most of the pieces so we don’t have loose shards falling off. We managed to get it down after 40 minutes of prying, but paying careful attention not to break the mirrors.

When demo started, I was in charge of the planning. I had our Contractor removed the French doors, remove and relocate the support beams so that we could raise the ceiling of the section in between the shower and the toilet room and create an open space instead of a small dark walkway that it was. Multiple supports were moved from the right to the left and we had to add additional load bearing beams so we could move the ceiling up two feet. The shower was expanded to 5’x7′ and once the tub/marble and the cabinets were removed at the end of the bathroom, it really opened up the space.

The job was not without hiccups. When the 600+lb claw foot tub arrived, the semi didn’t have a lift, though I had paid for one. Our Contractor helped us unload it. But word to the wise, double check that they are able to unload your cast iron tub when you order it. We also had an issue with the Cararra Marble tiles I had ordered. Originally, the tiles in the shower were supposed to be the same as the floor (4″ x 12″) but the girl working at The Tile Shop didn’t put in half of my order and only ordered enough for the shower, and the tile was on back order for 3 months. So I spent 2 days calling around, trying to buy more tile and no one had it in stock. I finally had to change the floor to Cararra hexagon tiles that were 3″x 3″ and double the price. We also had issues with our Contractor trying to charge us an extra $14k for stuff that he shouldn’t have been charging. I had to sit down with him and go over each line, to the penny. It seemed to me, and my Husband, that he was surprised to be questioned and to have to explain each charge. In the end, the changes that he should have charged us for was $1300. That’s a huge difference between what he tried to bill us for and what we paid. ALWAYS check your invoice, line by line with the previous estimates. It’s worth it.

In the end, we love our bathroom. I refinished the bathroom cabinets to a grey with a white wash, which goes well with our white and black granite that I sourced. We ended right around budget, but that means having to find and get my own granite–also getting it cut, sourcing the marble, ordering tub and sinks, ordering the shower and having it installed by another vendor, ordering all the faucets for the sinks, shower, and the tub and having those installed by the Contractor. If we had left all of that up to the Contractor to purchase we would have definitely blown the budget. And also if I had not caught all those unnecessary fees and upcharges he was trying to get us to pay for. Most of us hire contractors because we don’t have the time or the skill set, or both to do the job. But that doesn’t mean we should just take their requests for payment and not question what things are for. At one point he was trying to charge us $255 for a toilet….but all he was doing was installing it back in after he replaced the floors. Or when he tried to charge us $1400 for the frame-less shower, which I was getting installed by a glass company for $700. Most of us don’t have time to go through estimates line by line, especially those that are broken out in a confusing way. But the lesson I’ve learned is an hour of your time combing through an invoice could save you big.

Now, the final results:

 

If you look at the photo of the walkway leading to the tub, you can see the door for the toilet room to the right, the original ceiling was 2 feet lower and the French doors doorway was the same height as that door frame, so you can get an idea of how low it was. Overall, not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

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