Have you ever wondered what it is actually like to do your own major home renovations? We all watch the shows on HGTV but we also all know that they are a bit unrealistic, to say the least.
Well, I'm about to let you in on the reality of DIY home renovations.
It started 11 months ago as I was having some tile installed in the basement, when we hit a major problem that continued to snowball until we had a bathroom/laundry room that was nothing more that an empty hole with a dirt bottom.
Today, that bathroom is my favorite room in the house, and we did every inch of work ourselves with the help of some very kind friends. I designed the space and my gracious husband let me turn his bathroom into a traditional, yet modern and maybe slightly bohemian, retreat!
The tile guy was here to install tile in a bare area of the basement and I wanted it to continue into the basement bathroom. While he was tearing out the old linoleum tiles in the bathroom he found some dampness and told me that he thought there was a leak and if he had to guess the shower pan was likely leaking. I told him to tile everywhere but the bathroom and we would figure it out.
When my husband got home we started to do some tear out to see what was going on. Just as the installer said, the shower was leaking. As we dug deeper and deeper it got wetter and wetter until we discovered that the shower, installed by the previous owner, didn't have a shower pan at all. Meaning that for 7 years the shower has been leaking into the floor.
Obviously we had to tear out the shower to get to the root of the problem. During tear out, water from the old wood was squirting up into our faces. So gross.
Now, this bathroom is my husband’s bathroom (so we don’t have to share) it is also our laundry room and it is right next to the "guest quarters" so it is the guest bath as well. Needless to say this was a pretty big bummer.
We tore out the shower and tore up the floor down to a wood subfloor and we were overwhelmed with where to go next so we just left it. It sat like that for 9 months. We did pop the washer and dryer back in, of course.
Fast forward to 2 months ago…
My wonderful mom was coming to visit and she cannot live without her own bathroom. I was tired of the bathroom hanging over my head so we decided it was time to tackle it. After a lot of contemplating how to get the flooring done we decided to do self-leveling concrete. I don't want to get into the specifics, but basically, if we tiled it would have created a giant, awkward step up into the bathroom that would have been a definite tripping spot.
We wanted to pour the leveler over the existing floor but we couldn’t for a number of reasons. We decided we needed to pull up the subfloor and lay new subfloor that was level and didn’t move under foot. When we pulled up the subfloor we didn’t find and kind of proper joisting, we found this….
It is crazy that this unsecured mess held up the weight of all that was previously happening. Luckily, we have a friend who knows framing, he helped us frame out the space and fill in the gaps with concrete. And we got this....
The new shower base drain fell in a different spot than where the old drain was so we had to move that as well. That was pretty stressful since it requires some precision. The drain has to continue at a slope of 1/4" per foot so it got higher above the floor than it was before.
That, and the fact that the toilet (unfortunately not pictured) sat on cement slab that was considerably higher than everything else, posed another annoying dilema. We had to build up the floor higher. Of course, we needed to protect the pipe while still having a sturdy base to pour concrete over.
Next, we laid cement board and poured our concrete! We had to pour it very thick in some places and very thin in others so we did it in steps. It took a few days.
There were many things we could have done differently but we learned A LOT from this process and we moved forward.
I want to tell you that once we installed the shower base things moved quickly, but that would be a lie. It seemed that everything that could go wrong in that bathroom did. I'm talking big things, little things, all the things. To give you all the details would require pages and, let's face it, we just don't have an attention span for that anymore.
It was a very frustrating experience. We were angry, we fought, I cried at least a few times, we felt completely defeated certain days and had to come back the next day. We felt very accomplished and excited some days. Others, we wanted to burn the house down. We did tons of research and we weren't afraid to ask for help from our circle of friends. We learned about plumbing, self-lever, framing, and so much more.
Without a precise plan I chose finishes and, well, everything. We made our own vent cover and shelf that encased the washer dryer. Put in some plants to soften up the space, a large rug and boom!! The bathroom was ready, just in time for my mom to visit. Now that she is back home I finally had the chance, just yesterday, to photograph the space. I am so happy with how it turned out. Doing it ourselves saved us 10’s of thousands of dollars. It took years off our lives but we did it! And here she is!!
You may notice some dark areas in the floor and this is because, as we poured the leveler, I dripped in a bit of concrete dye and smeared it around. It was an experiment and we love the way it came out.
I hope this gave you a little dose of reality. It wasn't as glamourous to do as it is on TV but it sure was rewarding when it was all said and done!