Saturday, November 14, 2015

DIY Project: Half-Bath Renovation

So, do you like DIY home improvement posts?

I mean, do you live for the latest episode of HGTV's "Fixer Upper," and like to imagine that you are Joanna Gaines and your husband is Chip?  Because that's us lately, that's my guy and me.

We have been working on a bathroom renovation project: one that we thought would take about a week at most, but ended up taking many weeks, due to unforeseen setbacks along with many hiatuses--hiati?--to travel hither and yon, because we love our kids and grandkids (and going to Notre Dame football games) so much more than we love working on our house.

But it's finally done!  And I'm so excited to show it off.

Are you ready?  Okay then!  (Yes, it's another bathroom post!  But this is not becoming a bathroom blog, I promise you!)

Our downstairs half-bath, which doubles as our laundry room, has seen very little change in the 25 years we've lived in this house.  Aside from painting the walls and adding wallpaper borders (and painting a cute little trompe l'oeil squirrel sitting shyly on the heat register), we haven't really changed it much.

When we bought the house, there were nice solid-wood folding doors that hid the washer and dryer in their alcove; but they never really worked, because they really didn't provide enough room for those appliances.  Early on, we did remove them, and I hung a shower curtain rod on the wood molding, so that I could hide all the mess and clutter behind a curtain and give the illusion that there was a shower stall back there.  As in, you know, something that actually belonged in a bathroom...unlike, for instance, a washer and dryer!
So here are some "Before" shots.  (Note the mismatched vanity there on the right, with the laminate countertop and doors, and the oak drawer fronts that my husband fashioned himself when the laminate ones got water-damaged).
Here's the old vanity, kicked to the curb, waiting for the garbage truck to haul it away.  She served us very well for many years; but I have to admit, we won't miss her
Taking everything out gave me the opportunity to remove not one, but TWO layers of wallpaper border (I can't believe I was so lazy that I didn't remove one before I put up the other!), and to give the entire room (even the washer and dryer alcove, which had  never been painted) a fresh coat of paint to match the rest of the bathroom.
I remember now that I repainted the bathroom's original antique white walls after the wallpaper border was already up (pasted on over an older border!); so I had Home Depot custom tint a can of paint for me, so that I could match the newer border perfectly.  I was really into borders back in the day. I was the wallpaper border queen.  I was not about to take down those country-cute heart thingys up there when I repainted the room.  Better to get matching paint than to remove those, right?  (Yikes.)

The bathroom's original floor was off-white (ish) 8" tile; but pretty much from day one, it had cracks in it.  And I could never get it to look clean, no matter what I used to scour it.
So there you have it.  That was one ugly little bathroom.  (I'm exaggerating--it wasn't that bad.  But it was tired and dated and needed some sprucing up.)

The first step in the renovation, once the toilet, vanity, washer, and dryer had been removed from the room, was to demolish all the old tile so that my husband could lay the new 12" travertine tiles we'd purchased at Home Depot.  (Travertine is a term I'd never even heard before I became an HGTV addict this past winter.)
As you can see, the squirrel was horrified by the mess we created.

But soon, there was a glorious new floor, laid with precision and care by the best handyman I know.
After my husband had completely finished laying the tile, and all the grouting had been done, this happened.
Yes, that's a hole in that tile.  It appeared when my husband stood on a chair to do some finish work on the walls; and the only solution was to break up the broken tile, replace it with a new one, and re-grout it.
I have to say that I would not recommend travertine, because it is so porous and prone to chipping and breakage.  Especially since they make a porcelain look-alike that is so much more durable. But after that one hiccup, we had a gorgeous new floor.

Aside from the floor, the biggest change in the bathroom was the vanity.  We actually purchased one from Home Depot, made of dark "wood" (particle board!), with a nice marble top and set-in sink.
But when we went to install it, it didn't fit around the the pipes in the wall.  The way it was constructed, there was no way for my husband to change the configuration of the inside to make it work with the plumbing.  On a whim, I measured the vanity top and ran upstairs to see if we had an old dresser that was the right size to be converted into a vanity...and I was so excited to see that this elderly beauty (the first piece of furniture my husband and I ever bought when we were newlyweds in 1980, from a little antiques shop in Texas) had the perfect dimensions!
So my husband started demo on the dresser, by first removing the top.
(In the background: another bathroom badly in need of a facelift! 
But that's a project for another time!)
Then he reworked the two large bottom drawers, so that they would still be usable for storage but would also fit around the pipes.  (The two top drawer fronts are nailed in place and are now for show only.)
Okay, now for some "After" pictures!
We removed the wood moldings around the laundry alcove, which opened up the room a lot.  I may hang a shower curtain again to hide the washer and dryer.  But in the meantime, I've tried to organize the laundry area so that it's not such an eyesore.

So here it is again, the "Before":
And the "After":
I love this bathroom now--mostly because of the custom-made vanity that my husband created by re-purposing a well-loved piece of furniture.  I'm actually glad now that the pre-fab Home Depot vanity didn't work out!

So what do you think?  Is this little half-bath/laundry room "Fixer Upper"-worthy?  I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I forgot to mention that we now have a bathroom vanity with no top that we have to figure out a use for. But I'm sure we'll come up with something! (When we realized it wasn't going to work, we'd already destroyed the box and felt it was too late to return it...)

  2. Replies
    1. I've always wanted a vanity like this one. I just love it.

  3. Wow, how lucky you had the perfect dresser to convert! It looks great!

    1. We were very lucky. And the best part is that the drawers didn't work very well, so this old beauty hadn't been a user-friendly dresser in ages. But then my husband re-built the drawers to make them fit around the plumbing, and now they're like new!

  4. Love the new (old) vanity. It's gorgeous!

  5. Love the new (old) vanity. It's gorgeous!

    1. Thanks, Cathy! I love old furniture so much. It has so much more character than new stuff. As I said, I'm happy now that the one we bought didn't work, so we had to come up with another (much better!) solution.

  6. This is awesome! I've been trying to do some laundry renovation, and this gave me some great insight for things to try. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love taking out wallpaper. I think it is the worst look the you can put in your home because it pretty much immediately dates itself. The same is true for the plastic countertops or floors. It just looks bad and it looks like something people from the 1950s would want in their home. I feel the same about fixtures

    Karla Foster @ Southwest Houston Plumbing

  8. That looks like a real project. You really gutted the place. We just moved into our house and it is about 80 years old. The first thing we did was take off the wallpaper. It is funny how you can see the evolution of a family as the years go by with the wallpaper that they end up picking out.

    Essie Reed @ Valley Home Improvement

  9. Wow, you worked hard on your bathroom renovation. I am not gifted when it comes to plumbing and so I used a plumbing company to install my new bathroom suite for me. I didn't want any leaks once everything was in. Your bathroom looks amazing though, and you can sit back and say that you did all the hard work.

    Wilfred Andrews @ LB Plumbing and Heating

  10. This is awesome! I've been trying to do some bathroom renovation , and this gave me some great insight for things to try. Thanks for sharing!

    Ensuite Renovations

  11. hi pls what name ceramic model ?