How to go from replacing a few tiles to major bathroom reno in 10 easy steps

I just love it when the homeowner gods decide to have a little fun with us mortals.

Actually, I don’t.

Within a day of posting our easy-does-it, one-wall-at-a-time, no big leaps approach to home renovation, we went from replacing a few tiles to a major bathroom overhaul in, oh, about ten freakin’ minutes.  (OK, it wasn’t really 10 minutes.  It was 10 minutes to get from steps 1-5, though.)  Here’s the play-by-play:

1.  Cane realizes that an earlier caulking fix in the master bath shower isn’t really working and decides to tear it out and start over.

2.  Cane realizes that there’s likely some moisture getting in behind the tiles, which means removing not only the grout but the tiles themselves to check it out.  Rita says something like:  “Oh yeah.  I think I remember something from the home inspection report that said we might want to check out those tiles.”


3.  Cane says:  “If we’re going to have to take tiles out, we might as well replace the shower pan.”  The shower pan is gross.  We’ve tried and tried to clean it, but it just won’t clean.

dirty shower pan

As you can see, it's cracked and permanently stained. We think this is original to the house. (Please ignore the caulk remnants.)

4.  Rita says:  “Well, if we’re going to replace the pan, we should re-do the floors while we’re at it.”

stained vinyl flooring

There's nothing to love about this floor even if it were in perfect condition--which it's obviously not. We've been covering this up with a bath mat.

5.  Rita says:  “And if we’re doing the floors, we really need to take out the cabinet.  It’s too big and you can’t open the drawers right.”

vanity with sink

The drawers on the left hit the half-wall when you pull them out, and the drawers on the right (not pictured) hit the door if it's open (and it usually is). And, we pretty much hate the color of the sink and all the brass that fills this room.

6.  Cane says:  “Hey, hold on… Let’s remove some tiles and see what we’re dealing with.”

cane cutting tile out with power tool

Here's Cane carefully cutting out the tiles. We decided to do the first two rows. Got him to wear the safety goggles. Think he looks kinda cute in them.

7.  Cane removes some tiles.  Although he tries to get them out without breaking them, it doesn’t happen.  And, yes–water had been getting in behind the wall.  This, oddly, is comforting:  It means this is something that needed to happen, so we haven’t fallen down this rabbit hole for no good reason.

water damage behind wall

This is what was lurking behind the tile.

8.  Rita and Cane start pricing shower pans.  Rita starts pricing bathtubs, too, since what we’d really love is a deep tub.  The one we have in another bathroom is shallow and not great for taking a long soak.  Rita and Cane begin discussing the pros and cons of getting way more dirty/serious about this whole project.

9.  Rita and Cane visit the orange and blue bohemeths to see about replacement tiles.  They realize that it will not be easy to find replacement tiles for the ones that got broken. They are likely original to the house, which was built in 1978.

This means replacing all the tile, which tips us to the bathtub side of our bathing options seesaw.  Tubs are not that much more expensive than pans, and we realize we’re going to be re-tiling no matter which option we choose. Since we have to take down the tiles anyway, it won’t be as big a deal to do the re-plumbing for a tub.

10.  Cane begins removing the shower pan and Rita starts to quietly freak out/meltdown as she realizes the enormity of the project we’ve stumbled into.

shower pan partly removed

Cane had to get the shower pan out in parts.

Not in our plans

A master bath reno was something in our long-range plans, not our short-term ones.  Yeah, it’s ugly and not super-fantastic functional, but it was working well enough and there are other projects that were higher on our priority list.

However, having been scarred from a water experience in previous house (that involved mold, moving out for several weeks, and living with major reconstruction for 6 months), I’m feeling thankful that Cane took the initiative to get to the bottom of the shower tile situation.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, though, and more than a little frustrated.  We were so happy with the approach we’ve been coming to with all of this house renovation business:  Taking our time, waiting to find just the right things, doing things in small pieces.  This project is turning much of that upside down.

Because the pieces of the room are so interconnected, we feel we have to have a big-picture vision for what we want to do here.  And, because this is a room we were using every day (and now can’t shower in), we feel more urgency than we’ve felt about anything else.

Taking a deep breath

However, we’re trying to resist those things.  Although we miss the shower, we are very fortunate:  We have two other full baths.  Our mornings when both Will and Grace are here will have to be tweaked a bit, but we’ve got enough bathroom that we really don’t have an emergency here.

So, plan to see more than a few posts about all things bathroom in the coming month or two.  We’re sure we’re going to learn lots and end up with a room that we love.  Eventually.

shower with pan removed

Shower pan out? Check.