Remember last fall when we started work on the downstairs bathroom? You know, the one with the floral wallpaper, floral border, floral curtains, and shiny brass fixtures? Allow me jog your memory. 

Here's a look into the bathroom from the office the day we bought the house:

And here was the stunning view looking forward from the toilet:

We spent a couple months, a fair amount of elbow grease, and not a lot of money ripping out all traces of the flowers, installing new lights, skim coating and painting the walls, adding accessories, and generally completing a quick and easy makeover that transformed it into a space we could live with for quite some time.

Here was the same view as you enter the bathroom, but after we did our quick updates:

While it wasn't perfect, it was workable and we liked it.

I was thrilled. It wasn't a full on renovation, but it was cute, it was more "us", and I was happy to have it as our main floor bathroom. But then there was the whole house freeze and plumbing disaster of February 2015, and cosmetic improvements have taken a backseat to the important but completely non-sexy work of installing a brand new HVAC system as well as re-plumbing the entire house.

As Alex detailed last week, we're nearing the end of this major undertaking and know the house will be better for it on the flip side. But what we haven't shown you yet is all how every single room in the house is now torn up for one reason or another. Whether it was for the removal of the old baseboard radiators, new holes for HVAC ducts, or torn open cavities for new plumbing lines (or the removal of the old), every single room has something for us to address. We'll give you a full look in the near future, but I wanted to start by showing you how the work has impacted our briefly cute first floor bathroom.

Where we once had newly skimmed walls and a fresh coat of paint, now we have gaping holes where the baseboard radiators have been torn out, missing sections of drywall, a missing wall where there once was tile, and no sink anywhere in sight. 

 Well, I guess you could find it if you open up the shed that is now containing a lot of our construction debris.

The bright side of the current state of the bathroom is that we now have a flushing toilet, and a new one to boot. Having been through the events of the last six months at the house, we now have a newfound appreciation for indoor plumbing. (And I don't even want to talk about what our short term solution was in the months that we didn't have a functional throne. Let's just say strategically timed visits and purposeful dehydration were my strategy, and made my days at Girl Scout camp seem glamorous.)

As strange as it may sound, now that the room is a total wreck and we'll have to turn our attention to improving it once again, I can't stop thinking about how much I want to rip up the floor tile. While in photos the small 2"x2" white tiles don't seem so bad, in person they're cracked, stained, and the grout is flaking and peeling in many places. When we first did our quick makeover, as tempted as we were to address the tile too, we showed some restraint and opted to leave it as is. But now that we're going to be adding drywall, making custom baseboards, building a vanity, and spending a substantial amount of effort to get it back in shape we, or at least I, couldn't help but start talking about it on our drive to the house this weekend. 

"So...what do you think about maybe ripping up the tile in the bathroom?" I asked Alex tentatively.

This simple question kicked off a 30 minute discussion of how we both hate the tile, that it was installed poorly on a sub floor that flexes and cracks the grout, and that the room is so small it wouldn't be that time consuming or expensive to address. He mentioned that while in the crawl space below, he noticed the original hardwood floors are still there under the subfloor, and it might be worthwhile to use it as the bathroom floor. We also talked about how we have some leftover tile from our master bathroom project, and maybe if the original floor is in bad shape, just maybe, we'd have enough leftover to complete this project.

I know, I know. The entire house is torn up, we're in way over our heads, and we're both on the brink of a full fledged nervous breakdown. But, and a big but here, maybe it'd just be worth doing a little exploratory surgery in the area that will be under the new vanity? I mean, if the tile proved to be too much of a pain to pull up, the original floors are a total mess, or we realize that we're insane for wanting to add to the project list, we could just cover it up and address it later when we do a full fledged renovation? 

So guess what I did this weekend? Here's a hint: 

While Alex was putting up furring strips for some drywall work we're doing in the living room, I decided to go on a manic cleaning frenzy and, well, do a little bathroom demo. Armed with a hammer, pry bar, and proper protective eyewear, I started chiseling the tile.

The poorly adhered tiles were held down with a sort of glue rather than grout and came up without too much of a struggle. About 20 minutes later here's what I was left with.

Fearing I might damage the new plumbing supply lines with my chronic impatience, I called in Alex to back me up in pulling out the subfloor. Unlike the tile, the subfloor put up more of a fight, and soon turned into a splintery mess. 

But with careful persistence, he soon had that section out. After a quick cleanup, we were left with this:

While I wouldn't exactly say we were jumping with joy, we're encouraged. The original floor may have some life left in it. At the very least, we've decided we're going to continue with demo and try to refinish the floors. And as tempting as it is to keep on ripping it out now, this is currently our only flushable bathroom. (I won't say functional as it doesn't have a sink.) So until the pros are out of the way, and until we have another bathroom option, this is where we'll pause.

The plan, when we resume in a few weeks, is to try to use the original wood floor, and if that doesn't work, we'll put down new subfloor and lay new tile. If we go the tile route, we'll try to use the marble hex we have left over from our master bathroom, or some other low cost alternative if we don't have enough.

One other thing that's sort of exciting is that you can see horizontal boards used as the wall cladding. I felt a little like Joanna and Chip discovering ship lap under layers of drywall. Who knows, we may even be inspired enough to expose it during our efforts. 

I can't wait to update you as work progresses. I'm hoping this is a weekend or two of effort total, but you know how that can easily get out of control.

Comments 21

Comments

Jana
8/4/2015 at 10:00 AM

Love, love, LOVE the new mirror and lighting above it. Do you mind sharing the name of that blue paint that you used?

Karin K
8/4/2015 at 10:55 AM

From their post about the temporary make-over:

"I ultimately decided on Benjamin Moore's Silver Crest, my go-to ceiling paint hue that we already had on hand, along with Benjamin Moore's Wales Gray just a couple shades down on the same paint strip for the walls."

Wendy
8/4/2015

Thanks, Jana! The ceiling paint is Benjamin Moore's Silver Crest, and the walls are BM's Whales Gray. (The mirror is from Home Goods and the lighting from Restoration Hardware Outlet.)

Karin K
8/4/2015 at 10:53 AM

You guys are far more adventurous than I am, but I'm always encouraged that when I decide to start tearing something up, I MIGHT be able to put it back together. Really I'm just waiting for a good "Enter to win a visit from Alex and Wendy" contest.

Wendy
8/5/2015

:) Thanks, Karin!

Jean-Christian Pitre
8/4/2015 at 11:59 AM
The floor (from just the ONE photo) doesn't look much worse than mine, and I'm sure mine can be refinished. The only problem you might find is if there's water damage elsewhere, or other holes from fixtures being moved around. That's the main problem with old bathrooms. In mine, about half the original floor had been cut out in places, and the remaining half was in horrible shape. It doesn't help that they were just pine with no subfloor, though. Your bathroom looks like it's on the main floor, so if it's hardwood there's a better chance of it being in better condition.
Wendy
8/5/2015

We're definitely prepared to find additional holes or damage and are keeping our fingers crossed. Honestly, I don't think we'll be lucky enough for it to be in great shape, so we're prepared to have to re-tile. But either way, I'm really looking forward to saying goodbye to the cracked white tile!

Franki Parde
8/4/2015 at 1:27 PM

Brave souls indeed!! Luv Joanna n Chip, too. franki

Wendy
8/5/2015

Thanks, Franki! Brave, or maybe crazy.Alt smile

Margaret Schleicher Bjorklund
8/4/2015 at 2:09 PM
Progress
Wendy
8/5/2015

:) I hope so! And am really hoping this is a project we can knock out rather quickly!

Em
8/5/2015 at 1:53 PM

I totally get why you guys are adding to the project list - if the bathroom is already ripped apart, it really is the perfect time to replace the floor. But more than that, your project list is so big right now that it might make you feel better to tackle a project that you can make quick progress on.

Wendy
8/5/2015

Thanks, Em! Great point, and it makes me feel much better for starting another project.Alt smile

Kathy S
8/5/2015 at 8:35 PM

I don't get it -- why did you remove the subfloor?

Wendy
8/6/2015

Hi Kathy - We removed the subfloor in order to expose the original hardwood floors beneath. We're trying to expose the original floors (if they're able to be brought back to life) and refinish them. If we can't save them, we'll lay new subfloor and new tile.

8/6/2015 at 1:59 AM

I feel for you. It will totally be worth the effort in the end.

My husband and I are about to start excavating our thick vinyl covered bathroom floor. I shudder to guess what we'll find under it.

James Taylor
8/11/2015 at 8:40 PM
I'm excited I came across your blog! My partner and I bought our first home last year in Baltimore, a row house built in 1903. So far we have been doing a ton of paint stripping and repainting and staining to bring the house back to as much of its former glory as we can. Recently we started ripping about the crap job a previous owner did on the vestibule and we plan in installing a new floor and tile around the base. I would love it if you checked out our pictures. When I read the post on your blog about your vestibule renovation, It seemed like I was reading something out of my own mind, and the pictures, it's amazing how almost all these rowhouses from Philly to DC pretty much all look exactly the same! :) When we moved in: https://www.facebook.com/happyjme/media_set?set=a.10152430608746696.1073741827.589591695&type=3 Renovating: https://www.facebook.com/happyjme/media_set?set=a.10152448663811696.589591695&type=3
Harry
8/11/2015 at 9:00 PM

"We spent a couple months, a fair amount of elbow grease, and not a lot of money"

That doesn't sound like "quick and easy," even by your crazy standards. But I agree that, other projects notwithstanding, this is the logical time to address that bathroom floor.

Wendy
8/14/2015

Haha! Point well made.Alt smile

James Taylor
8/12/2015 at 3:00 PM
I'm excited I came across your blog! My partner and I bought our first home last year in Baltimore, a row house built in 1903. So far we have been doing a ton of paint stripping and repainting and staining to bring the house back to as much of its former glory as we can. Recently we started ripping about the crap job a previous owner did on the vestibule and we plan in installing a new floor and tile around the base. I would love it if you checked out our pictures. When I read the post on your blog about your vestibule renovation, It seemed like I was reading something out of my own mind, and the pictures, it's amazing how almost all these rowhouses from Philly to DC pretty much all look exactly the same! :) When we moved in: https://www.facebook.com/happyjme/media_set?set=a.10152430608746696.1073741827.589591695&type=3 Renovating: https://www.facebook.com/happyjme/media_set?set=a.10152448663811696.589591695&type=3
Wendy
8/14/2015

Wow! That staircase! The inlaid floors! What a gorgeous home with great bones. Good luck with the project!

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