Thursday, June 29, 2017

Our Bathroom Reno: What We Learned

(If you haven't seen the previous posts regarding our foray into our DIY bathroom remodel, you can see them here and here.)

Obviously the whole thing was a learning experience for us because we are not major DIYers to this degree.  But there are some things we did right and wrong that may help you should you decide to tackle this yourself.

Watch YouTube videos.

Make a list of the things you know you'll be dealing with.  In our case, we knew we were going to have to lay down the vinyl plank flooring and had no idea how to measure for the vents, around door jambs or how to even read a measuring tape beyond 1/4", 1/2" and 3/4".  (Still don't!)  We also knew we'd need to remove and reinstall the toilet (our only toilet) and remove and reinstall our vanity.  The two that involve plumbing are ones that they easily charge over $100 for per item if you are having a contractor do it!  So we watched videos on all of it.  You begin to see common themes like for a seamless look around door jambs without having to notch too heavily, you need to undercut the door jamb.  Well, hacking away at your frame sounds terrifying but enough videos showed all you needed to do was use a saw and a scrap piece of the flooring you'll be using as your guide to cut underneath and it worked!  Another great tip we picked up was using a fine point dry erase marker  (affiliate link) to make our marks for cuts.  This meant no marring from a pencil and hoping it would come out and if you made a mistake, it was easily removed from our vinyl (or a laminate) plank.  It also made list writing easier.

Watching enough videos done a myriad of ways but finding the common thread that clicks with you will show what works and you'll be able to choose which method you're most comfortable with to get the job done right.

Read blogs/articles about the project(s) you want to do

For us, this wasn't just about changing the floor but also installing planking (or faux "shiplap" if you're a Fixer Upper fan.)  Well, since this was a small bathroom on the interior of the house, there was no need for thick planking and I hate the uniform look of the tongue in groove on the walls.  I read enough blogs to see that you could get sheets of 1/4" plywood ripped for you at the big box hardware store.  Honestly, the hardest part about that was just getting the nerve to ask a dude to cut them into the 6" slats we wanted.  When I pushed the Mr to ask the guy, he said "oh yeah, you guys doing shiplap?  We do that ALL the time."  So truly, they've seen it before so don't be shy about telling them what you need.  Just know that typically the first two cuts are free and then it's $.50 per cut after that.  If I went with the pre-cut, tongue in groove thicker wood, I would've spent almost $150 for our little 30 sq ft bathroom.  Ripping 2 sheets of 4'x8' down into the measurements we needed...$39.

Make a list of the tools you'll need from start to finish

I'm talking from a hammer to caulk to paint brushes.  Then go to the garage and put a check by the tools you already have hanging around from previous projects like drop cloths, masks, etc and what you have left is what you'll need on your store run.  By trying to think of every possible thing, it'll minimize getting started or halfway through something and saying "crap, we don't have that!  Home Depot run!"  This saved us from having to do that at all except toward the end.

Pack your patience

I'm not gonna lie, when we started this I was firmly into the hormone swing week in my cycle and that scared me.  Given my already short fuse when things go wrong and ability to snap like a twig, I pictured all of the things popping up in the corner of the TV they write about people on Renovation Realities.  You know, how they say something like "THIS isn't a good idea!" or "yeah, THAT helps!" and makes the person look like even more of a tool than they already look in a moment(s) of frustration?  So I made a conscious decision that I needed to cut the Mr a ton of slack and that me going ape sh*t over a mistake (as long as it didn't flood our house and cost us more money than if we'd just hired the contractor) wasn't going to help anyone.  We started out with a chill big breakfast at our favorite diner because we knew it'd likely be our only meal of the day or at least one of two.  We each got to our projects and when something was said or done I had a concern about it was either discussed calmly or I'd walk away.  Like when he ripped off the counter from the vanity like a heathen instead of just carefully scoring the silicone caulk like I'd done on the chair rails and baseboard and ripped off the corner of the vanity you would see whilst sitting on the toilet.

Inside, I wanted to hurl him out the second story window onto an awaiting airbag on the patio but since the airbag was in the shop and jail wasn't appealing, I stopped and assessed.  Okay, so lucky for him, he ripped it off in one piece.  That I can deal with.  I picked up a bottle of wood glue for some reason that I couldn't recall and apparently the home reno gods knew I was going to need it for this.  So I glued it, held it for a minute and then taped it to hold it as it dried so I could do other things.

When it was dry, I filled in the cracks with white wood filler, waited for it to dry, sanded it and it was ready to be painted.

You can't even tell it happened.  In that situation, screaming at him and making him feel bad for something I was able to easily repair would've made for a day of grumbling under our breath at each other and that's no fun when you're already going in blind.  Plus lesson learned so he'll be more careful in the future, right hon?

Pipe in some tunes

Seriously, there is nothing that puts unease in the air like silence and figuring out your next move on your project.  It's like perceived added pressure.  By having your favorite tunes on in the background, it gives pleasant white noise to a stressful situation and there's nothing like wielding a T-square and long level overhead as you high five and belt out Eye of the Tiger together.

Plan your cuts

Yeah.  We didn't do this...despite every flooring video specifically saying to do this.  You know how they say figure in 10% waste?  Well, we did and given we had to buy an extra box of flooring because we didn't plan the cuts, our waste went up to about 50-60%.  When you don't plan your cuts, you end up with a bunch of female ends when you need males and then before you know it, you're down to two boards that aren't gonna be enough and your wife has to walk away.  So to reiterate...plan. your. cuts and save $60 on a box of flooring you now have to figure out what to do with.

Paint first

In reading a zillion "shiplap" posts, I saw arguments for and against painting planks before you put up the planks.  Unless you like being confined in a small workspace and contorted in ways your body will rear up on you for in the days following...paint all the coats first.  A little fill and touch up is way better than what I had to go through for three days.  It's not like we hadn't had the boards for 3 weeks either.  But given it was a semi-spur of the moment decision, I paid for our poor planning.  I also must stress if you have a paint and primer mix, thin it.  Because of the primer, it is SO thick that by the time you start on the next patch, the first patch has started to gum up and makes feathering in paint almost impossible.  It can be done if you work super quick but at minimum, water down your final coat after sanding any parts that you can see brushstrokes and make that final coat nice and smooth.  Also make sure to heavily paint the edges so you can minimize how much you'll need to use a tiny brush to get the cracks.  Luckily the Mr lightly primed those so it wasn't quite as laborious as it could've been.

Keep it on the level

ALWAYS check your level on the flooring, on the vanity and anything that must be level.  This is especially true on that first row of flooring because if you screw that up, you will start to get wonky seams if they're visible and if you don't catch it until the end you'll either have to rip it all out or live with it and you know you'll see it forever!  (Thankfully we didn't have this issue!)

Locate your water valve shut off

If you're going to be working with removing toilets and vanities or anything like that, always make sure you turn off the water in your bathroom/kitchen.  Know in advance where the main shut off valve to the whole house is prior to getting started.  No sense in flooding the place if something goes seriously awry.

Properly prepare the throne

If you've watched any horror DIY shows, you know the toilet can be a source of nastiness.  "Stuff" can clump out if it's super old, tanks have been broken due to rushing or carelessness and water flooding because they deemed the job too nasty to get their rubber gloved hands dirty.  Turn off the water valve to the toilet and continue flushing until the tank is empty.  Soak up any remaining water with a large car wash sponge and do the same with the bowl.  Have a trash bag or two ready so when one person is lifting the toilet, the other can be bagging underneath it.  Place it on a steady surface if you're reusing it.  One thing you cannot reuse is your wax ring to reinstall it.  The wax must be removed from the flange and the bottom of the toilet for as clean a surface as possible.  We used this wax ring set  (affiliate link) and that piece that pops up scared us a little bit at first but after sitting on it set properly and it actually helped us set the toilet on the first try.  Always buy an extra wax ring because they're cheap enough and you can take it back if you don't need it.  Better to have an extra one available than having to make a store run in the middle of installation.

We can't show you a true after shot because we're not there yet.  While our part is done for the most part, we have the counter top guy coming Monday to measure and then our counter top and sink should be installed in 2 1/2 weeks.  But here's a look at the hardest part of what we did which was the floor and the planking on the walls with new chair rail.

True after pics coming hopefully in 3 weeks!

(This post contains affiliate links. Should you be kind enough to buy through them, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you!)

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  1. I think keeping cool heads was the best tool we used in the whole process. It does not help to get upset in situations where you're already in the middle of a stressful scene. By keeping our cool we accomplished something that was a challenge to us and we prevailed. We even commented often about what a great team we make. That's the way to do it!


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