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Master Bath Makeover

Updated on March 4, 2020
Richard Hampton profile image

I have been doing home remodeling and handyman work for over 30 years. I've also built 2 wood strip canoes and restored an old wooden boat.

Demolition is The Necessary Evil of Every Remodel Project...But It's Kinda Fun, In A Devious Sort of Way

The first order of business was to remove one 'honking' huge whirlpool tub. I think it is officially called a Whirlpool Garden Tub. The master bathroom was, evidently built with that monstrosity in mind since it was the centerpiece of the bay room that enclosed it. Who puts a six-sided tub, designed to accommodate 4 people in a bathroom? Does the whole family take a bath once a week in this reservoir? Well, I don't have the answers to those cutting remarks, but my wife and I bought the house with it in place, so I shouldn't be making fun of it I guess. It did come in handy when our granddaughters came for a visit. They poured in half a bottle of bubble bath while it was filling, (for what seemed like 20 minutes), and had a ball splashing around and playing in that tub with the whirlpool jets spraying water everywhere until it filled.

The biggest problem in removing it was that it was one-piece with a 6 to 8-inch ledge all the way around the tub. The devious fun of demolition, that I referred to, was getting the sledgehammer out and breaking it into pieces. The tub was made of some sort of composite material, like engineered quartz or stone and with one sharp hammer blow after another, I had it reduces to a pile of rubble that could be removed from the work area. I raised my hands in victory holding the 'mini sledge' in one hand and fist-pumping the other, imagining myself as Thor for a brief moment. Thinking back, I don't remember that Thor ever had to clean up the messes he made.

Tear out of the shower enclosure was next up. It was one, like many from "days of yore," that was more glass and gold-colored aluminum framework than the eye could bear.

glass shower enclosure
glass shower enclosure | Source
Shower removed. On to tile removal
Shower removed. On to tile removal

With the Shower Removed, The Really Hard Work Was Still Ahead....Removing the Floor Tile

This was my second time removing floor tile. The first came in the entryway to our house. They were so difficult to chisel up that I would have sworn the installer set the tiles directly into wet concrete instead of using thinset, (Thinset is an adhesive mortar used to attach tile or stone to surfaces such as concrete or cement). The tiles first had to be broken with a hammer, then the mortar had to be removed with a hammer and chisel, inch by inch. To my surprise, the bathroom floor tiles were just as hard to remove. It seemed that this nightmare was not over.


Tips For Floor Tile Removal

The Hard Way (which is my usual way of doing things....duh)

1) Break up the first tile with a hammer. Hit the tile with multiple hammer blows. ...

2) Use the chisel to chip out the rest of the tile. ...

3) Break up multiple tiles at a time and remove with a floor scraper. ...

4) Remove the mortar from the underlayment by hammering.

The Easier Way

Buy or rent a Hammer Drill (a power drill that has an impact feature) with a chisel bit to break up the tiles. This is a much easier way.

An Easier Way to Remove Stuck Floor Tiles Using a Hammer Drill.

While the Drains are Accessible, It's a Good Time to Inspect For Leaks, Clean Out, and Apply Pesticide

After removal of all floor tiles and having the area ready for tub placement, make sure your drains are properly situated and inspect for any leaks. Most drains lines are now PVC and they are susceptible to joint breaks. If you find they are leaking water, it's the perfect time to repair while accessible. Living in the southern US there's always the threat of termite infestation, and since I do my own pest prevention, I applied a generous amout of Termidor to the soil around the drain pipes

Floor Tile Removal

Floor tile removal. Tiles had to be broken with a hammer and then the mortar chiseled out.
Floor tile removal. Tiles had to be broken with a hammer and then the mortar chiseled out. | Source
Floor tiles removed after a long and painful (sore muscles) ordeal.
Floor tiles removed after a long and painful (sore muscles) ordeal. | Source
With drain pipes exposed, inspect, clean, and treat with pesticide
With drain pipes exposed, inspect, clean, and treat with pesticide | Source

Time To Start The Rebuild

We had decided to completely remake our shower enclosure, which meant framing new walls and covering with sheetrock as you can see in the first two pictures below. Next meant laying down a heavy rubber watertight membrane on the concrete shower floor, cutting a hole for the drain, and extending the membrane up the walls before applying the mortar. This will keep the water confined within the shower, not allowing any up the walls or under the tiles. With the rubber mat pressed smoothly over the floor, I applied about 2 inches of mortar along the inside perimeter of the floor and funneling it down toward the floor drain so that no water would stand when in use. On top of that, the 1-inch square tiles were installed completing the floor work, as seen in the second picture.

Frame-Up for new shower enclosure completed
Frame-Up for new shower enclosure completed | Source
Another view of prep work in progress
Another view of prep work in progress | Source

Needed items: What, Why, Where

Tools You'll Need
For What Purpose
Where to Buy
Hearing Protection
Protect your hearing. With all the banging, it gets pretty noisy
Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes
Protective Eye Wear
With tile removal, chips fly everywhere
Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon Ebay
 
 
 
Hammer, Sledge Hammer and/or Mini Sledge Hammer, Stone Chisel
For breaking us and removing floor tiles
Lowes, Home Depot, or Garden Supply
Power Saw, Framing Lumber, Screws, Level, and Carpenters Square
Building the framework for shower and tub. Be sure to keep things level and square
Any of the Home Centers above, Amazon or ebay
Tub, Tiles, Mortar, Grout,
You'll need to pick out the style of tile and color of grout to accent your tub and shower
Home Depot, Tile centers, Lowes
 
 
 
This is not an exhaustive list of supplies but should be enough to get you started and on your way to your custom bath makeover.

With Demo and Floor Work Complete, It's Time To Install The Tub

The tub kit included a Jacuzzi type pump and eight jets built into the tub walls that promised a relaxing pulse of liquid pleasure that awaited the bather. I was already getting excited about having my aching back and neck soothed with a steady, hot flow, of pressurized water. It made the installation go a lot smoother just knowing that.

Installing it was a little more than just setting on the floor and hooking up the plumbing and water pump. The instructions described having to mix up a 5-gallon bucket of mortar to just the right consistency and pouring it on the floor where the tub was to be set up. This step was, as the instruction manual described, to support the fiberglass framework so that standing in it would not cause it to crack and leak. Upon setting the tub onto the still wet mortar and filling with water, the tub will form a depression in the mortar and be a solid surface to rest on, once dry. That step really worked better than I had expected. One can stand in the tub and jump up and down and it's as solid as the house foundation. After the tub was set in place I was able to connect the hot and cold water supply lines and hook up the pump. *Note the picture below of how the tub is filled with water for the step described above.

Jacuzzi type tub full of water setting in the wet mortar to form-fit the tub base.
Jacuzzi type tub full of water setting in the wet mortar to form-fit the tub base. | Source

Decide Now How You Want The Layout Of The Tiles To Appear When You Enter the Room

It may not seem like much of a decision, but the layout of tiles is critical at this point.... you can't change (at least not easily) after they are stuck down and grouted.

As you can see, we chose to have tiles in a 'diamond' pattern instead of being viewed as square rows for the visual effect when entering the room. It's a little more work because it requires more cutting of the tiles, but worth the effect from our point of view.

The same goes for the tile pattern on the shower walls and tub surround. I elected to keep the shower walls in square rows (not diamond pattern) because of the decorative strip of 2-inch tiles dividing the larger tiles on the walls, as you can see for the pictures below. Had I arranged the larger tiles in a diamond pattern, it would have added additional cuts that I was averse to doing this far along in the project.

Start With the Floor Tiles, and Then Work Your Way Up

Starting your tile layout is an important first step.
Starting your tile layout is an important first step. | Source
Next step was tiling the shower
Next step was tiling the shower | Source
Tiling the tub surround
Tiling the tub surround | Source

Tiling On Vertical Surfaces Presents It's Own Set of Challenges

Installing floor tile is a breeze when compared to setting them on the walls. Allow yourself plenty of time to complete this operation and try not to rush the process. If you're the only one doing the cutting and tile placement and you're not a professional, like me, take this in small steps. For instance, don't mix up a large amount of thin-set or it will start to dry out before you can finish the job. Just try to complete one short row until you get the hang of it before increasing the amount

This Was a Fun, Labor-Intensive Project, But Looking Back, it Was Worth the Time, Effort, and Every Dollar

The work progresses so slowly, sometimes you can feel like saying, "Why did I ever start this in the first place?" If it's your own bathroom, it can get very tiresome having to walk across half-broken tiles and use the guest bathroom shower, or just seeing everything in disarray for weeks on end.

Instead of thinking about how much money we were saving by doing the work ourselves I'm thinking about how much the tiles and mortar cost, or how much it is to rent the tile saw, or the tub costs, blah, blah, blah. Oh, woe is me!

Today, with the job long ago finished and everything looking as good as it did the day of completion, it still gives me a great deal of satisfaction seeing it and all the negatives don't even register anymore. I like that feeling!

And does the whirlpool tub work as promised? You bet, now step aside and let me soak my sore old body.

Finished Job Was Worth The Effort

Stand-alone Tub all set, hooked up, and ready to use
Stand-alone Tub all set, hooked up, and ready to use | Source
Floor, tub, and shower tile finished
Floor, tub, and shower tile finished | Source
Makeover complete
Makeover complete | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Tim 

      2 weeks ago

      Interesting article! I agree with some of the other comments; it wouldn't have been the same without the pictures. I may need to talk to you about a remodel at my dad's!

    • profile image

      James N. 

      3 weeks ago

      Very good step by step article. I enjoyed your friendly style of writing. I probably won't be re-doing my bath, but if I should I now know what I would be getting into. I am looking forward to more of your writing.

    • Richard Hampton profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard 

      4 weeks ago from Texas

      Thanks enormously. It’s very encouraging to have excellent writers give the thumbs up

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      No wonder it costs so much when hiring a professional to renovate a bathroom! That is a lot of work! At our age, there is no way we could do that kind of work, but I certainly admire your efforts. The before and after photos are impressive.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Richard, you did an amazing job. Your bathroom is gorgeous!

      I really enjoyed going thru the process with you. You engaged me with your humor and conversational tone.

      I first became aware of you on one of Bill's Mailbags. You mentioned that you're new to writing, so I wanted to check you out. I've seen you grow from the first article to this one. By, George (or Richard), I think you've found your voice!

      You should try your hand at one of Bill's photo prompt challenges. They're a lot of fun and you just may surprise yourself. I feel your confidence building.

      This was a great article and love the photos!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm exhausted just looking at that much work. I'm seventy-one for God's sake. No way am I doing this, but I can stand and applaud the job you did. Great article my friend, and nice job!

    • Richard Hampton profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard 

      4 weeks ago from Texas

      Zulma,

      Your kind, positive comments are such a blessing to me. It gives me such a boost of confidence. Thank you!

      We have re-done our kitchen counter top twice and added a coffee room since we bought the house, but I don’t have a single picture of that. I don’t think it would be very interesting without photos to document the process. I still have two more articles to write before I can pass the HP requirements for writers.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Richard.

      Let me start off by saying you're developing an engaging voice as a writer. It's like listening to a friend. Nicely done.

      Your bathroom looks amazing and has given me ideas for my own when the time comes to redecorate that. We have a kitchen to deal with first. (WilI you be doing a hub about that anytime soon?)

      I applaud your tenacity for sticking with this job. It must have been difficult and frustrating. Here's a pat on the back for you for a job well done. (pat, pat)

      Have a good week.

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