Wednesday, 11 March 2015

When life gives you lemons- Upstairs back bathroom reno part 1

I've been hinting for some time now that I was engrossed in another large project.
Yep, the last few weeks I have been renovating my upstairs back bathroom.
As you already know the house was built back in the early seventies and my parents furnished it with the best that they could afford back then.

Back in the day, this bathroom would have been the bee's knees with its lemon cast iron tub, lemon bidet, lemon sink, lemon toilet and lemon and white engraved tiles on the wall surround....yep really nice.

For some time now I'd wanted to bring the bathroom into the modern world, and at the end of January I decided to bite the bullet and get started.  I knew once I got started that I wouldn't be happy until it was finished, so I dove right in.
One afternoon, I started to remove the old tiles from the wall.

Some of the tiles came off pretty easily while others hung on for dear life and would not come off the wall......I took care of their stubbornness with some extra hard swings of the stone wall ratchet.
The old mastic that saluted me when the tiles came off had a really musty smell.

 Thank goodness I have a GREAT plumber because I don't know how I would have managed without him.
Next it was time for the toilet to be removed.  It was connected to an old cast iron pipe so that was removed as well.....yes, there's a hole in the wall!!

After the new plumbing configuration was taken care of, the hole was sealed again.

We stuffed the toilet waste hole with newspaper to stop any stench from filling the room.

A nice guy (Burt) came by and applied a Trowel Plastic finish to the walls.

The new pedestal sink and new toilet were installed.

It was then time to get the old cast iron tub out....what another fight......
.. ...but with the help of a few of my daughter's able-bodied friends, it was soon resting outside in the driveway awaiting removal to its new home.
After we took the tub out, the drain waste ended up with this new configuration.

The plumbing configuration was also changed in the shower.  A small pony wall was built along with a step over curb, and the floor was graded towards the drain.

Time for me to start the tiling in the shower stall.
A leader board nailed at the height of a full tile was installed.
The bumpy old mastic was chipped off leaving a fairly smooth work surface.
No I did not break off my hammer handle with this's an old hammer I use in the garden that I found very useful throughout this project.

These are 10x13 Sardegna Bianco Italian tiles with a lovely matte marble finish.

I saw a guy on YouTube using drywall screws as spacers and decided to give it a try...they worked perfectly. The tape helped me to keep the tiles secured level as I worked.
Every tile I installed I used the spirit level to make sure that it was level.

I had only laid tiles on floors before with ex-hubby's help, and I thought that it would be difficult tiling up a wall, but I found it extremely easy, and actually prefer it better than tiling a floor.

 Getting there
 The small 4x4 tiles on the shower floor are Grotte Bianco.
Unsanded classic ivory grout was used to bring everything together.
As always with any project there will be hiccups along the way.  I cruised through most of them taking my time, and using my newly found "patience".
With ex-hubby gone, I engaged the help of my dear friend Andrew to cut the difficult tiles with an angle grinder, but most of the tile cuts I made using a really great hand held tile cutter. I was truly amazed at how well it worked.  Cutting the tiles were a breeze.
Draper 200mm Tile Cutter which I used for snapping the tiles.
Vitrex Tile Scorer with tungsten carbide tip built to last - love it love it love it.
My dad's old tile nippers.

With the slanted floor now to the drain, I found myself one night sitting and swearing at one last bottom level tile that was giving me "hell" to install.  It had to be cut slanted  to go with the grade in the floor, and every time I made a correction and tried to install just didn't work.
I came downstairs muttering loudly..."blasted tile,  it's always the last one to give trouble....not tonight muh brother..... I ain't taking no crap from siree...not'd better get wid the program by the time I get back upstairs!"
My daughter knows I'm crazy already so all she said was "Mum you talking to tiles now?"
I poured myself a glass of juice and went back upstairs, and would you know it, I refitted that darn tile and it popped into position so neatly that even I was amazed.  See what a little talking to can achieve?

I knew I didn't want the curb or the pony wall tiled with the shower tiles, and I instead opted for a longer tile in order to get the look I wanted.
I bought two 12x48 Symphony Almond porcelain tiles which matched the other tiles beautifully.
I didn't want to take a chance cutting these tiles with the angle grinder, thus I made a call for help.
I'd made an enquiry a couple days before with a granite/marble company to buy a small slab of marble for the new vanity  area.  The staff were so very helpful, I knew they would help me with my problem.  Called them problem they told me, bring the tiles right over....we will be happy to cut them for you.

Here is the big cutting machine making easy work of my cuts.

While there I decided to have another look at the marble and granite off cut slabs that were on sale.

I chose this is perfect.
The vanity needs to be built first, and I will highlight that in another post.

A couple of days later, I heard a horn tooting outside, looked out and it was the folks who came to collect the old tub.
Goodbye old served as well.
It will now be a mini pond for some ducks to swim around in.

Now let's get those photos up of the new bathroom.
 It's so hard to take photos of a small space.

The pony wall will be finished with a nice rock tile facade.
The bidet area will now be the home for the vanity with the marble slab top.

A light breezy curtain will be used until the glass shower door is installed.

The bathroom is back online and operational, and I'm so happy that the first part of the renovation is finished.  The finishing touches will be completed soon.


  1. I'm in awe. I'm also thankful I live in a rental apartment... :)

    1. Sometimes when I have to continually take care of things going wrong in my home, I wonder what it would be like to live in a rental, but then again some landlords don't care about the upkeep of their properties,,,,you are lucky.

  2. Awesome job! Tiling has always scared me, I am very impressed.

    1. Thanks Gillian, I surprised myself too. I always thought tiling a wall would be extremely hard, but it wasn't for me.

  3. That's the spirit! Your bathroom may not seem much at first, but soon as you see it through, you will end up with something that will totally work for you for the longest time. You just have to knock things down to bring forth something new, and it seems that newness is what is happening. In any way, I hope that everything is working out for your bathroom, especially the more functional aspects such as the plumbing. Thanks for sharing that, Virginia! All the best to you!

    Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing

  4. Wow, it looked like you had a lot of work cut out for you back then. It’s great that you checked the plumbing after dismantling stuff, so you were able to check if there were problems or issues before you start putting things back together. Anyway, thanks you for sharing this with us, Virginia! I hope you guys were able to complete the renovation soon after. Good day!

    Martha Ward @ Son-Rise Plumbing

  5. You really gave that upstairs bathroom a massive overhaul! It’s great that you had a reliable plumber to work with on this, or it would’ve taken much longer to finish everything and come by this result. Anyway, I hope you’re very satisfied with how it turned out. Good day!

    Wilfred Andrews @ LBPlumbing&Heating


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