Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Main Floor Bath: Electrical

Since the demolition Slav has been working on upgrading the electrical in the bathroom. And today I’d like to show you some progress:

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The first task was actually to remove the old bathroom ceiling. We decided to install recessed lighting and a new exhaust fan for this bathroom, all of which would be integrated into the ceiling drywall. The existing ceiling drywall was moldy to begin with. So Slav took the old drywall down.

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At the corner was an old vent for basement water heater. Since we installed the tankless water heater three years ago, this vent has not been used. Slav simply terminated it inside the attic, and cut the rest out of the bathroom. Removing this vent and the framing around it gained up a few sqft in this bathroom.

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The only inconvenience of removing ceiling drywall was the attic insulation. Our attic does not have any flooring – the main floor ceiling drywall is the only barrier separating the insulation and the main floor space. To make sure the attic insulation does not fall into the bathroom, Slav had to crawl into the attic and rack the loose insulation away from the bathroom ceiling area.

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Slav then put down some plywood underlayment to prevent the insulation from falling into the bathroom. At this point, he started working on the electrical from the bathroom below.

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First, a new exhaust fan was installed. It has sensors for not only motion, but also humidity in the room. Based on the humidity, it can also choose between two flow rate automatically (80 and 110 CFM), both of which are higher than the required flow rate by code for our small bathroom. Slav positioned the new exhaust fan between the future vanity and shower, almost directly below the roof vent.

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Slav then wired the new fan independently. The old fan was piggybacked onto the vanity lights, which meant that whenever we turned on the light, the noisy ceiling fan had to come on as well. The new exhaust fan is on its own circuit and can be operated independently from the lights.

Next, Slav wired for three recessed lighting on the ceiling. They are also wired on an independent circuit.

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Now the original circuit was only for the vanity lights. He kept this circuit and simply brought it to where the switches would be. We will be upgrading the vanity light down the road – Slav is entertaining the idea of a light-integrated mirror and I am dreaming of a pair of vanity lights. No matter which direction we go with, I cannot wait for the stage of picking out fixtures!

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We will be adding a couple outlets at the vanity height to accommodate things like hair dryer and electrical toothbrush, as well as an outlet for the bidet behind the toilet. For now, the electrical on the wet wall was left unchanged. We need to finish the plumbing upgrade here first.

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The switch used to be on the left side of the door, next to the vent we removed. We have decided to install a pocket door here, so the switches would have to be brought to the other side of the door. Slav extended the original switch controlling the vanity light(s) over the door, and installed the switch on the bath/office wall immediate next to the door. The switches for the new exhaust fan and recessed lighting circuits were also brought here:

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We now have three switches in this bathroom: one for the vanity light (left), one for all the recessed lighting (middle), and the last one for the exhaust fan (right). The metal box is the light switch facing the office.

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Speaking for the office, I have long wanted to relocate the router to the corner of the room. I could not find a recent photo of this wall, but from the picture I took during the office renovation below, you could see the outlet and the Ethernet cable connection were both located in the middle of the wall, determining the location of the router:

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This was what the original Ethernet connection and outlet looked like from the bathroom side. Having the bathroom side of the wall open provided a wonderful opportunity to relocate them with ease:

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Slav kept the wall outlet and simply added a new outlet near the bookcase. The Ethernet connection box was moved right below it on the same stud:

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To patch the drywall for the Ethernet box, Slav screwed on a piece of scrap wood from the bathroom side.

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Here is a close shot for the new outlet and Ethernet connection, now next to the bookshelf:

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After making sure that everything is working as intended, Slav patched the drywall and mudded it smooth:

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Followed by some leftover wall paint.

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It looked like the Ethernet box was never there! Now I can tuck away the router (on top of the bookshelf)

To date we have crossed off 90% of the electrical work in the bathroom, except installing the ceiling cans and adding a couple outlets on the wet wall after plumbing upgrade. Another big progress in the bathroom is that the new window was in!

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To make sure we won’t have water issue around this window, we opted for a fixed panel window. The window is obscured for privacy, but still lets in plenty of light in the mornings.

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After the window was in, I insulated the wall cavity. It was done just before a snow storm and I was glad that the new window and insulation kept my office warm! We also installed sound insulation between the bathroom and the office/guest room for privacy.

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With most of the electrical work done I am happy to report that the bathroom reno to-do list is a lot shorter. The next big job? Plumbing!

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulating the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights;
5. Installing a new exhaust fan;
6. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and rewiring for switches;
7. Installing recessed lights and ceiling drywall, taping/mudding/priming ceiling;
8. Pocket door framing;
9. Upgrading plumbing for toilet and shower;
10. Ordering new toilet, sink/vanity, and shower fixtures. Upgrading/installing water lines to the fixture;
11. Installing new subflooring, closing up the walls, and waterproofing;
12. Tiling the floor;
13. Tiling the shower wall with a shower niche;
14. Installing new window stool/trims;
15. Priming and painting drywall and ceiling;
16. Installing glass shower doors;
17. Installing shower fixtures, vanity/sink, and toilet/bidet;
18. Installing pocket door, mirror, and lighting.
19. Door trims inside and outside/updating nearby closet trims at the same time;
20. Accessories, plants, enjoy!

Main Floor Bath: Design and Inspirations

Now Slav has completed the demolition of the main floor bathroom, it is time to talk about the rebuild. We have been designing this bathroom since September, and have a pretty good understanding how we want the room to function and feel.

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Let us start with the function. This bathroom is the only other bathroom in the house besides our master bath, and also the only bathroom on the main floor. We use this bathroom while working from home during the daytime, and when we hang out in the living/kitchen area in the evenings. Now we have set up a sleeping area in the adjacent office, this bathroom will also be used by guests.

For perspective, this picture was taken when standing in the living room. The room on the left is my office/guest bedroom, and room with blue walls and tiled floor is the bathroom.

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We have decided to install the office door between the hallway and living room, which means that when the door is closed, our guests can have their own private suite and do not have to walk into the view of the living room to travel between bathroom and the bed.

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Since we do not shower in the main floor bathroom, we’ve decided to install a walk-in shower without a tub. A walk-in shower is much safer for our eldly parents, and also easier to keep clean. Below is the old bathroom layout, with shower/tub next to the window, and the vanity and toilet on the right side of the bathroom.

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And below is an inspiration photo indicating the future layout. The shower fixtures, vanity and toilet will remain on the right wall, which contains all the water pipes and plumbing, and the future shower area will be wider (32″) than the old 30″ tub to provide more elbow room.

Different from the inspiration photo above, the shower door panel will be frameless like the one we installed downstairs and in the inspiration photo below. It should create a roomy appearance for this 5′ x 8′ bathroom.

Similar to the inspiration photos above, our bathroom has an east-facing window which lets in a lot of light. We want to keep this bathroom bright and cheerful, so we will be using white tiles on the wall, and dark tiles on the floor, similar to the inspiration below:

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In terms of the tile choices, I always likes high contrast not only in color but also in size. In our master bath downstairs, we chose big dark tiles on the floor and one wall, and white subway tiles on the other two walls:

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To make things a bit different, we will switch to dark small tile on the floor and white big tiles on the wall for this bathroom.

Choosing smaller tiles on the floor allows us to keep the tile pattern uniform throughout the entire bathroom, including in the shower pan area. This will help the bathroom look bigger too.

One feature we really liked about our master bath is the shower niche spinning the entire back of the shower. Unfortunately, due to the window height we are not able to replicate this look. But what we can do instead, is have the niche on the side of the shower, and terminate it on the exterior wall, like that in the photo below.

Other details we plan to add include a pocket door:

And wooden/glass shelves above the toilet for towel and tissue storage.

With white toilet and vanity I think this small bathroom will look simple, clean, comfortable, and cheerful. Imagine opening the pocket door and seeing bright tiled walls, dark and geometric patterned floor, glass shower, with a touch of wood and lots of green plants! Surely we have a long way to go – Slav has been working on electrical over the past a couple weeks and it took a lot longer then we anticipated – but looking for inspirations gives me hope and motivation to push forward. Stay tuned, friends and family. It will be great!

Main Floor Bath: the Demolition

My, oh my.

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Slav has demolished the main floor bath and let me warn you, what is behind the wall is NOT pretty. If you could stomach mold and rotten wood, scroll down for more update on the state of the bath.

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The exterior/window wall

I’ve shown you the state of the window. We want to assess the water damage below and around it first, so the first thing Slav demoed was the tiled shower. We were fully prepared for rotten studs, but to our surprise, the wooden structures are very much intact despite some mold on the surface. Slav sprayed on lots of bleach on the studs and we have determined that very few pieces needed to be replaced.

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Slav is no stranger to demolition work. During college he spent summers in the Big Apple working for a construction company doing mold removal and demolition, and that meant wearing whole body suit and full face respirator in 100 degree and humid summer, working in old moldy buildings without electricity and air conditioning. When I offered help to him on this demo job, he was like “do not even come in I got this”. He was wearing a filtered respirator and kept the fan running during the entire demo. But I was asked to stay outside of the room hence the lack of progress shots.

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Fortunately, all the wood studs are dense and solid, without any signs of rotting. All we need to replace is the window stool support and some horizontal bracing around the tub:

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See the window stool? It was one pieces of granite sitting on a piece of concrete without any waterproofing material in between. The stool itself and the concrete support were removed, and the horizontal 2″x4″ below the concrete will be replaced too.

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We knew about the water leak at the tub faucet. So it was not a surprise to find mold around the tub/shower plumbing. We will be upgrade all the plumbing to PEX as we did for the basement, so Slav terminated the water pipes here by soldering copper caps onto the existing copper plumbing.

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The floor demo

Based on the water damage around the tub faucet, we knew there would be damages to the subfloor around the tub. Slav moved the vanity and toilet out, and pried up the tiled floor.

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Removing tile is a messy job – the tiles were not only set on mortar, but also on a sheet of metal grid. Slav had to cut the metal wires periodically in order to get manageable pieces of tile off the subfloor.

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Here was what the floor next to the tub looked like. The subfloor was soft under the foot, which indicated that it was rotting and needed to be replaced.

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Slav called me into the bathroom after all the tiles was gone, “we have another layer of flooring underneath the tile!” he said. Yep! There was a whole layer of linoleum, probably the original flooring when the house was built.

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The linoleum flooring was glued onto a thin piece of underlayment which was stapled to two layers of subfloor. Removing it was not too difficult, just time consuming because of all the staples.

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The drywall demo

After all the flooring was out of the way, Slav proceeded to remove all the drywall around the bathroom:

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Again, there was some water damage behind the vanity but overall the wet wall studs were in good shape. Even the bottom plate did not need to replaced. Most of the damage was on the subfloor around the tub area:

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Here is a picture of where the medicine cabinet used to be. You can see the water stains on the drywall to the kitchen side. It was because of the roof leak from the kitchen exhaust vent, which we have fixed while putting in a new roof.

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Slav also removed the framing of the corner column and exposed the non-functional vent tube:

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This vent tub has been cut in the basement, just below the main floor level. So we will just cut it above the ceiling and terminate it in the attic.

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It took a few days of demo to get all the walls and flooring out. The room might look worse, but felt a lot lighter:

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Can you see Charlie in the picture above? Despite the noise the pups were very curious what was going on in the bathroom. They kept trying to squeeze in and investigate. Slav kept the door shut to contain dust and spores, but whenever the door was open, you could see one or two little black noses poking in and sniffing!

The cast iron tub removal

Slav spent an entire day demoing the tub.

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The work was difficult due to how much force it required to break the cast iron, yet how little vibration it could take due to our inability of uncoupling the tub drain from the plumbing. So Slav cut the tub into sections, then used an axe to break the tub one section at a time.

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At the end, he cut loose the drain part and it felt like a big victory to see the whole tub gone! Luckily, the vertical framing behind the tub were also solid and can be reused. All we needed to do was simply removing the blocking pieces to which the tub was secured.

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From the picture above and below you can see the water damage on subfloor, all near faucets and water pipes.

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We will replace all the subflooring in this room. As a start, Slav cut away all the rotten subflooring along the wet wall. This process exposed all the plumbing so we can upgrade them from the top.

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The rest of the subfloor was kept for now so we have something solid to walk on. They will be replaced after the plumbing is upgraded.

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I guess we are getting a new floor register too.

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The demo was complete!

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After the demo was complete, Slav sprayed a couple rounds of bleach on all the studs and then brushed on a thick coat of this Zinsser primer to seal the wood.

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We plan to waterproof not only the future shower area, but the whole bathroom before tiling, so no moisture will be able to get behind the tiles in the future. We want to make sure that nothing can grow behind the walls.

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So! here it is how the room look like now – with the demo completed, we will be upgrading the electrical next, and a new window has been ordered. Our goal is to get the new window installed and the exterior wall insulated before the next snow, We also want to install better lighting and a new exhaust fan before starting the next stage of the rebuild.

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To keep track, here is a simplified to-do list on the bathroom renovation:

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulating the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights;
5. Installing a new exhaust fan;
6. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and rewiring for switches;
7. Installing recessed lights and new ceiling drywall, taping/mudding/priming ceiling;
8. Pocket door framing;
9. Upgrading plumbing for toilet and shower;
10. Ordering new toilet, sink/vanity, and shower fixtures. Upgrading water lines;
11. Installing new subflooring, closing up the walls, and waterproofing;
12. Tiling the floor;
13. Tiling the shower wall with a shower niche;
14. Installing new window stool/trims;
15. Priming and painting drywall and ceiling;
16. Installing glass shower doors;
17. Installing shower fixtures, vanity/sink, and toilet/bidet;
18. Installing pocket door, mirror, and lighting.
19. Door trims inside and outside/updating nearby closet trims at the same time;
20. Accessories, plants, enjoy!

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