Did I achieve my goal to renovate Mom’s bathroom in 7-10 days? Nope — it definitely took longer

anti skid rubber ducks

I still have several more stories to wrap up my series on remodeling my mom’s bathroom into a 1940s jewel box. But now that I’m back home and slowly recovering from the craziness, I see that the first follow-up in order is to circle round on my first post, which asked, “Could we do a bathroom renovation in 7-10 days?” and make it clear the answer was: “Heck No!” Our GOAL was to get the bathroom done in 7-10 days. But lest you think I am a genie, that was NOT actually possible. While we did go fast — and I took to calling the series my “7-day bathroom renovation” because that was our pie-in-the-sky goal — the renovation most definitely look longer than that. If you’re doing a project like this, I would recommend you plan at least a month — and I’ve had other bathroom renovations take much longer…

I did not take notes on the exact timeline as we went, but here is a rough breakdown of some of the things you are going to need to get done to complete your bathroom smoothly. And even with the best planning, there can be bumps along the way — especially since you may be working with an old house that delivers “surprises” as you open the walls. Please also Do Not consider this list to be a comprehensive guideline — consult with a professional.

What did we have to go through to get the bathroom done, avoiding as much delay as possible:

  • We decided and acquired all the materials and had them ON HAND before we got started: Tile, vanity, countertop, faucets, hardware, lighting fixtures, exhaust fan, etc. Now mind you, normally I would take like 6 months — or forever — deciding such things. Perhaps the most notable thing, truly, about this renovation, is that we decided all the key elements in about 72 hours — and bought everything from “in stock”, no special orders.  As further evidence that having Everything on hand is advisable before you start the job, a story from my previous bathroom renovation:  I remember the job IMMEDIATELY coming to a screeching halt, because the plumber had not ordered the shower base, thinking it was “in stock.” But in fact, it turned out the size was special-order. Day 1: Gut the bathroom. Day 2: Discover the problem related to the shower base, put in the order — and stop pretty much everything to wait two weeks (only slight exaggeration.)
  • We also had to have the various construction materials on hand.
  • Decide ahead of time if you are going to move any plumbing and electric. In our case, we had no changes to plumbing and insignificant changes to electric. You Do Not want to be making changes on the fly. For example: How do you want your switches laid out? How high off the ground? How high off the vanity? Take the time ahead of time to think through Every Detail you want in the bathroom, and how they inter-relate. This is the stuff that drives you crazy, but it will drive you even crazier if you have to make an on-the-spot decision with expensive work crews watching you sweat.
  • Of course, before you start messing with old materials, ensure you are aware of any environmental and safety issues and and you are prepared to use proper procedures. For example, test for bad stuff that may be in the house; plan for how you must dispose of anything potentially hazardous; plan for any required containment, etc. You know me: When it comes to this stuff: Consult with Pro’s. In addition, research and pull permits. As you go, you also will likely need to get inspections – plumbing, electric, etc. Consult with your building inspector on what’s required.
  • In our remodel the actual construction elements went pretty smoothly, as our changes were mostly cosmetic, nothing structural: Gutting, plumbing, electric and drywall all went super fast also because our team was lined up without delay. But, even so, there was a day here and day there when no work went on because something else came up and work people were elsewhere. Most contractors, I am told, do not do just one job at a time — to accommodate, or balance, for the inevitable delays. I understand this. Or, like all of us, they have other things going on and can’t necessarily be on the job each and every day continuously. In my last bathroom renovation, I also remember it took a goodly amount of time between trade professionals — like, we waited 10 days for the electrician because he got stuck on another job. This is a really common remodeling  phenonemon. Fits and starts and delays during a renovation project are the norm — not the exception — I think, and can extend your schedule a lot. You gotta relax and let it flow right over you, or you will go insane; arguments with your spouse will ensue; and you will be left to turn to full pints of Ben & Jerry’s for your only solace, which your thighs will most assuredly hate you for, later.
  • The single work process that took the most time, for sure, was the tiling. We had “fussy” tile. Those hexes are small and needed to be cut carefully. The “mud pan” for the walk-in shower and built-in shelves took time — craftsmanship and patience. Stuff needed to cure. I sure didn’t want to rush the tiler — I wanted it to look fabulous! In all, it took a week to complete the tile work  (Sat. and Sunday off.)
  • There are five other things hanging out there, meaning I can’t say we are truly “finished” even still:  (1) The Rough-In for the medicine cabinet was off. Our hole was too big. If we had had more time, I would have asked the crew to re-do the drywall to get the fit right — this would have delayed everything another day or more. We needed to be done, though. So, it was decided to cover the narrow gaps with some wood trim molding on hand. Meanwhile, this little trim got painted white. I wanted it gray, to blend in. Painter back on Tuesday. In addition, I really don’t like the profile of that added trim. Maybe someday soon, when I have fully recovered from this project, I will personally choose a trim that’s “right” and swap it out and repaint it. Right now I’m at, “It’s good enough the way it is. Let’s move on.” We’ll see. This issue moved me deep deep into the Crazy Zone. (2) The hole for the light over the medicine cabinet was not centered properly. Miscommunication. Contractor thought I had a bar light coming in. I had a sconce. The hole still needs to be filled in and repainted. Painter / Tuesday. (3) Trim got painted with flat paint for some reason. Should have been satin finish. Painter / Tuesday. (4) I ran out of time to hang decorative artwork, vintage-y stuff, of course. Next time I’m at Mom’s, I’ll put these up. Still need one or two little thingies. I’m on the lookout, down in my Basement of Treasures. And (5) Sara added the anti-skid rubber duckies to the Carrera marble shower threshold. The matte(I think that’s what it’s called)-finish American Olean hexes with their relatively big sanded grout line are supposed to be pretty slip resistant. But, we also are exploring some kind of coating to see if we can further amp up the skid resistance of the tiles.

So “all in” — I’m going to peg the remodel at ONE MONTH, and that was keeping things moving. Renovating your bathroom? I hope you have a second one to spare while you’re getting this one done!

How long did your bathroom renovation take?
What caused delays?
Advice to share??

  1. CindyD says:

    Whew! I’m exhausted just from reading your post! I realize your mom’s bathroom was a job that HAD to be done, but it reminds me why I’m so fortunate to be able to save my ’55 salmon pink bathroom!

  2. Elaine says:

    These ideas and feedback are so helpful! We have our 1963 time capsule with one bathroom, plus a half bath in the garage that was weirdly added to one of the bedrooms by cutting a door through the wall. It is strange. Well, my idea was to add a shower to this half bath, but the whole thing needs to be raised about three inches to be level with the bedroom floor. The water heater is in a kind of anteroom where the door was cut, and that needs to be relocated. We have plenty of room in the garage to add space in this anteroom for a shower and hopefully, washer and dryer. The half bath is tiled with gray speckle tiles and aqua inserts and bullnose and black trim. The contractor plans to sacrifice the lower three inches to preserve the tiles above. Fortunately, there is plenty of height.

    My dilemma is choosing coordinating tile for the shower and flooring in both areas. The original floor is one inch mixed aqua, gray and speckled. I love the modern glass mosaic and am kind of waffling on adding that in aqua tone in the shower, with pale gray trim tiles. If not, I think am just going to try and match the aqua and trim it with gray and black, Or vice versa. The idea of adding a light in the shower, genius! Will definitely do that, and maybe a heater and fan too in the ceiling outside the shower.

    I also love the idea of the bar of plugins under the medicine cabinet.

    We will be using the original medicine cabinet, vanity with really cool knobs, and toilet and those tile in soap dish, glass and toothbrush holders. Oh, and towel rods.

    We had to tear out two beautiful tiled in showers that had been installed in the garage for two rental units. I cried over those. We couldn’t salvage much, but did save the fixtures.

    I bet it will take longer than a month! They will be starting after they finish painting the outside of the house and doing the new roof. Time capsules take some love.

      1. Elaine says:

        i will! I am sorry I did not get pix of either of the rental units before they were torn out. They were tiny and unusable for our family, but darn! the tile work was great. There was rot in the wall between them, though, so the back to back showers had to go.

        I forgot to add, I ran right out to Target after you showed their shabby chic shower curtains, and got two for my main bath Cinderella tub. I found a shower curtain rod on eBay, too.

        1. Elaine says:

          PS, If I don’t run back this week, it will be June before I get back there. I badly want to see the Endeavor launch though, so maybe…

  3. Ann V says:

    The waiting and unpredictable schedules are why I don’t like to hire people for my home improvement projects. If it’s going to take more time and cost more money, I’d rather just do it myself. (I admit that I’m lucky I can do this.)

    A few years ago I helped my brother remodel the bathroom in his 1920s bungalow. He had a little over a month between closing on his house and the lease being up on his apartment, but we were able to get the remodel done in that time. He even used special order fixtures. The only thing we didn’t do was mud the drywall. I also helped him repair the plaster and paint the walls in 5 rooms and a hallway in that time. That was pretty much all we did those weeks, but the end result was a gorgeous house for just a few thousand dollars.

    And I just want to agree that thinking through where you want those light switches is important! When my dad was helping me with the electrical during my basement remodel I didn’t specify which order I wanted the light switches and now their random order will bug me forever. I’m currently remodeling my kitchen, and during the rewiring process I’ve been very careful about which switches need to go where!

  4. Bird says:

    We did a partial (low-impact) remodel of our 1948 bathroom, which has its original yellow and black tiles. Unexpectedly, the hardest parts were: (1) finding just the right shower curtain (of all things! it took months), and (2) reaching a compromise, because what I wanted and what my S.O. wanted were very different. It wasn’t so much a compromise as a trade-off, really… I told my S.O. that he could completely gut-remodel our other (second) bathroom, but that he couldn’t touch the tile in the 1948 bathroom.

    I would say that sufficient lighting in a bathroom is definitely something to pay attention to, and I wish we had installed a light in the tub/shower– a lot of older bathrooms have that issue. I addressed the dimness in that area by using an open-weave mesh shower curtain (with a clear plastic liner) that permits light from the main ceiling light to enter the tub/shower area, but still provides a feeling of privacy.

    We installed a solid black Silestone quartz counter to coordinate with the black tiles. Although it looks great, as a practical matter, I would not choose solid black again, as it shows every dried water spot, especially soapy water spots. This might be less of an issue if you don’t have hard or mineral-rich water, or like to constantly wipe off the counter!

    Things I learned during the gut-remodel of our second bathroom: (1) don’t let the plumber cut up your floor joists willy-nilly to lay pipe, (2) some jobs really are best left to a professional, like dry-walling (!) (3) again, pay attention to sufficient lighting, (4) don’t use a pre-fab acrylic/fiberglass shower base just because it’s cheaper–I wish we had gone for the more expensive and more labor-intensive tiled shower base, and (5) don’t rely on the workers at Lowe’s or Home Depot to order the correct things for you– always check the catalog or website yourself, know exactly what you want and the item number, dimensions etc., and review the order that is placed carefully.

    Because my S.O. did a large amount of the work himself, both of our bathroom remodels took quite a while. The gut remodel easily took a year. Spending a year on a full bathroom remodel is only possible when you have two bathrooms!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Thanks for sharing these tips, Bird, the are great! We put a light and exhaust fan above the shower in all our bathrooms and in mom’s, too. Light on one switch. Exhaust on other (with timer in mom’s case). I LOVE this feature. Easily done.

  5. jackie says:

    Excellent points on all things here! I’ve completed two bath remodels recently, one leisurely and one quickly – and allowing time to get materials slowed both projects down. It’s hard to say how long they took, as they were both part of whole house remodels. The main thing I learned from both, for me, was that if my gut tells me I can do better myself than hiring it out, no matter how long it takes, DO IT MYSELF. The extra time is worth the satisfaction with the job. I have several things on that list of “leave it and see if I can live with it” that I should have either taken more time to research craftspeople, had re-done, or done them myself, in the quick remodel (6 months, 4000 square feet of house). The leisurely remodel (5 years, 1500 square feet) was only so because we didn’t have to live there while doing it, which makes all the difference; this is a vacation home, I did all the finish work myself (tile and paint) and am extremely happy with it. Very good advice on the electrical planning also. Building code standards changed between my two jobs – and with one in Colorado, and one in Texas, using different electricians – many things were different. I learned the hard way the difference between forward thinking trades people and those that are only able to do exactly, literally, what they are told, with no thought toward how what they are doing relates to the room as a whole, or how it will be used. I’m helping my son with his first home, first remodeling project now, and I will definitely share your experience.

    On the hex tile/slipping issue – I used this same product in my first bath remodel and absolutely love it! I did the install myself and it was definitely worth all the detail work and time for precise layout and application. I used an Aquamix sealer on it that has a matte finish so it doesn’t add any sheen to the tile – and it seems to have the effect of also improving the non-slip properties. I used it mainly because I wanted ease of cleaning with white grout; the tile didn’t absorb much. It’s in a vintage style bath with a clawfoot tub, and we have been pleased with the grip of the floor. I tested it on a scrap first to see how it would do.

    I enjoy learning from others’ experiences – thanks for all the great advice!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Thanks, Jackie for all this great feedback. I really liked what you said about “forward thinking” professionals. I have found that a clever and communicative tradesperson can help anticipate, solve or decide problems that you don’t know the answer to. In Mom’s bathroom the tiling contractor listened to me sweat on one issue (width of shower is pretty narrow because it went where there was an unusually narrow 1970s tub) and then said, essentially: “All over Kentucky this is being done every day of the week — you’re gonna love it.” He was right. We did.

      1. Ally Cat says:

        Not to be devil’s advocate, but many installers have dealt with such anxiety ridden, wishy-washy people that they have essentially given up on suggesting better solutions. I design kitchens professionally, and these projects are very personal so the customer may be resistant to ideas that aren’t a part of their intended vision.
        Pam, and you loved the results from your honest installer, but many installers are afraid that they will be blamed for any dissatisfaction. One way for anybody wanting to find a good installer is to let them know that you want their honest feedback, and you are open to certain compromises. If the door of collaboration is opened, then both sides can communicate openly. And if you do your project yourself, chances are you can live with imperfections because of the satisfaction of saving money and completing the task.

  6. tulsatammy says:

    I agree that it’s VERY important to have all your electrical well planned out. My husband is an electrician and he often has clients change their mind after he wires a job. They want to change where the lights go and add a few more outlets and this adds time to the project and he gets behind on his next job. Then the homeowner gets aggrivated that the final cost isn’t the same as his estimate, but it is often double the hours planned.

    1. pam kueber says:

      You are so right, tulsatammy. One of the very few “things I would change” on mom’s bathroom would be to add another electric outlet. Also, I’m thinking: Bar of plugs under the medicine cabinet even so you can plug in from the right or the left in a flash. I need to do a whole post on where to place electric in the bathroom / best practices. Would LOVE tips from you and your DH regarding what you’ve seen done effectively!

  7. Jenny says:

    “You gotta relax and let it flow right over you, or you will go insane; arguments with your spouse will ensue; and you will be left to turn to full pints of Ben & Jerry’s for your only solace, which your thighs will most assuredly hate you for, later.”

    Hahahahahahah!!!! It’s extra funny because it’s so true… been there, done that 😉

  8. Patty says:

    I’ve heard of friends doing tile work that won’t even quote a price. “Pay what you want.” Sounds like a good recipe for disappointment on somebody’s side.

  9. Robin says:

    Hi Pam,
    We renovated our master bathroom last year and it took longer (and cost more) than we expected!

    We did major stuff like take out the cultured marble shower, vanity and whirlpool tub. Our tiler (and good friend) had a regular job, so he would do his tiling work when he got off his regular job in the evening, so he could only work a few hours at a time. His prices ended up being more than what he quoted for “extra” things he didn’t say he charged extra for…we ended up losing a friendship of that issue in the end…as a friend told me right before our renovation….NEVER use friends or family for remodel work…lesson learned! (advice #1)

    You are right about needing various things that you don’t think about! We replaced the whirlpool tub with a claw foot tub and ordered it online. When the tub came in, it was the right size, but was not what the shape that we were expecting! Come to find out, the tub we wanted had the wrong picture on it online and didn’t come in the size we needed, so we were stuck with the tub that they shipped us….then, the faucet came from one place, the drain stuff from another.

    Removing old wallpaper was hard. I ended up having to rent a steamer from Home Depot to help with that process. I had already researched about being sure that the sheet rock is prepped properly before painting, so the walls have 5 layers of paint on the walls, so that took a lot of time!! I had to use GARDZ (a product to seal damaged sheet rock), 2 layers of Kilz and 2 layers of paint.

    We painted the cabinets and replaced the toilet (ordered from Home Depot and it took almost a month to finally come in). We also replaced the sink and faucet. The shower is fully tiled and we installed a new glass door…

    We ended up remodeling our 2nd bathroom at the same time since the house was already in a mess. We kept the cultered marble shower/tub combo. We pulled out the toilet and I thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned it inside and out and reinstalled it. We tiled the floor with our left over tile from the master bathroom (it looks like walnut hardwood floors). We did replace our vanity. It was the one from Lowes that you featured that has the rounded ball feet. I removed the wallpaper and painted these walls too.

    In the end, both bathrooms are FABULOUS and I am so glad we decided to remodel….besides, it will be the last time we will have to remodel these rooms while we are living here…..now, the kitchen is next! 🙂 robin

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