Planning the new bathroom, part one

After pulling the trigger on a decision to completely gut and remodel our bathroom, we had the better part of two and a half months to figure out the plan, fixtures and finishes.

Though I would have loved to do the entire project myself, with only one bathroom, it really wasn’t an option to slowly knock it out on weekends and evenings for a month. So we had to hire out the job to someone we believed could crank it out fast to get us back into the house as quick as possible. We ended up going back to the same guy who did all the work on our house before we moved in back in 2010.

He’s apparently done so many of these rowhouse bathrooms in DC that he knows them inside and out. For example, I knew that at least the tub or the drain was set in concrete — I figured that out when we had the kitchen ceiling open.

Day 2: Kitchen through dining south
Bathroom drain pipes directly below

Before I could explain it to him, he said, “oh yeah, the whole floor in the bathroom is likely concrete poured in between the joists to help support the weight. I’ve seen that before. We’ll break all that up when we do the demo and get rid of it. Your joists will be thankful!”

We knew we had our guy pretty quick. He has a flat rate for bathroom remodels and, as we prefer, does labor only bids and lets us pick and buy all the materials — but still includes all the drywall and durock and screws and stuff like that in his labor bid.

So we had the contractor on board, and a date set (first week of February), but for some silly reason, we put off measuring the room, drafting the floor plan and picking out all the materials through November. Which then bit us on the butt as most of December was quickly consumed with the arrival of a new baby boy in our family on Dec. 7. Though I was off of work for about a month and had time on my hands, we didn’t really get going on the planning and shopping until after Christmas — leaving just a month to pick out and order and assemble all the materials.

We were rushing through every spare moment on weekends and at nights picking everything out in January. More on that in the next post.

The floorplan stayed essentially the same, though we did everything we could to save space and make everything more efficient. With such a small room, there are really limited options for where things can ultimately go, and while we toyed with moving things around more, we also knew it would increase the cost to dramatically relocate plumbing.

When the cast iron bathtub was installed in place of the clawfoot, a wall was furred out from the plaster/tile wall along the long edge of the tub, wasting about three inches of floor space. You can see it at the top edge of this photo. And then the end wall was extended out past the edge far enough to fit a bullnose tile — wasting another inch.

bathroom wide before 2

The vanity was nearly 23 inches deep, leaving a squeeze so tight between the two that I almost had to get in the tub to open the cabinet doors to look inside. And because they tiled the wall behind it on top of the old tile, that’s a solid 3/4″ behind the vanity before you get to the plaster wall.

bathroom overall before

And then there was that box overhead killing visual space. Instead of putting a vanity light in the wall, for some reason, someone built a giant box so they could have lovely can lights installed. I guess they loved can lights. Go figure.

We decided to push the tub all the way against that wall inside the door, creating 12-14 inches of new useable space next to the toilet.

space behind the tub bathroom

Though we didn’t move the tub ALL the way to that wall. We realized we could save a ton of space by installing a pocket door behind that wall. The door that opens into the bathroom and reaches 3/4 of the way to the vanity was the worst space killer. If Rachel was bathing a kid in the tub, opening the door would smack her on the butt. So we picked up another set of terrific Johnson door hardware — the absolute best, most reliable pocket door sets you can find. We used three in the basement, including the triple bypass set for the mechanical closet.

The set we’re using in this case is actually a wall mount set, not a true pocket that mounts straight up onto a header, but the final effect will be the same.

We looked for vanities that were much shallower — a tougher task than we thought it would be. We basically tried to save every inch possible in every spot we could.

We briefly thought about bringing the clawfoot back in — it would certainly make the bathroom feel much larger, but as folk that shower 99% of the time, we’ve always found showering in a clawfoot an awkward experience. We had a clawfoot in our last apartment. Twice the amount of shower curtain to get moldy, the pipes running around to hold the curtain up, etc.

We like the feel of the cast iron tub that we had, but it was pretty gross, and with all the concrete being taken out of the floor, we felt like it was smart to get a new tub, and a light acrylic one instead.

The floorplan for the room was best summarized as the same…but better.

More on all the finishes up next.

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