In all honesty, we (I mean, I) thought this whole bathroom renovation would go much faster, but several weeks in, we’re still behind where I thought we’d be. Such is life. In reality, we took a few days off after Day 2 when we installed the bathtub to tend to other work, friends, and family, but came back with a full vengeance and got a lot done on what was our 3rd day of active construction.
Shelving, moisture barriers, HardiBacker, taping, we did it all, and then crashed into a deep sleep for 8 straight hours.
Really, we were able to get a lot of stuff done in one day, considering that we’re renovation newbies.
- Built custom inset shelving
- Installed moisture barriers
- Installed HardiBacker 500
- And… tackled more plumbing snafus
I started out the morning with a goal of designing and building the inset shelves for shampoo, conditioner, and soap storage. We had debated for days whether we’d build two or three shelves, on which walls they’d be best suited, and what heights we should plan to have them positioned. These are the serious decisions, people. More so than what tiles we chose, the placement of those shelves could make us happy or easily annoyed every day. If you’re liked me and have lived in na house with a shower shelf too small, you’ll understand why shelf size is critical to bathing happiness. Our final pro-con list led us to design two long horizontal shelves on the wall opposite the shower head where they’d be well out of the way of flailing elbows and hair, and also out of direct line of sight for anyone entering the bathroom. I don’t want the first thing people to see when they come into the bathroom be my razor and shampoo; furthermore, the wall that was going to be utilized was a more recent addition to the space (we assume it was added the last time the bathroom was renovated, maybe in the 1990’s) and was clearly not a load-bearing wall. Here’s what it looked like in pre-demolition state – it did have two tiny shelves, but was never enough room for all of my stuff.
A big part of deciding where the shelves would fall had to do with the way that the horizontal tiles would sit. And here’s a little bit of a surprise, because last time you were informed, we hadn’t decided on how to finish the shower: I landed on white subway tiles, cheery and clean and white and inexpensive and readily in stock, I couldn’t be happier.
We found them priced even lower than originally reported in the shopping post (at only 23-cents/tile), nd because I bought it with a coupon, the entire 70-sq. ft. load only cost me $116. Tack on $16 for mortar and grout, and call it a happy day. Let’s face it, if I had gone with a fancier tile, $116 would only have covered 10 sq. ft. of one wall! Yikes.
OK, back to the shelving layout.
To figure out where the shelves should be installed on the wall, I comped up a little faux-wall layout on the hardwood floor, using the floorboards as a level, the real 3″x6″ tiles, and the 1/8″ spacers to demonstrate where the grout would lay. Manufactured subway tiles are actually self-spacing, but we voted to have thicker grout lines. I wavered between allowing the shelves to be 4 or 5 tiles high (5 felt a little tall, but when I put shampoo bottles in position, it felt just right to accommodate the hand pump).
I scribed the tile orientation, grout thickness, and shelf placement onto a piece of graph paper. I realize that our chicken scratch and overlapping drawings aren’t something you can follow, but it really helped to have the plan drawn out, every measurement notated, and the whole plan triple-checked.
Because tampering with the chosen wall wouldn’t effect the structure of the house, we started by cutting into the center stud with a reciprocating saw to open up space for the lower shelf.
From there, I built upwards, adding first the lower shelf, side pieces for support, and the top of the lower shelf/bottom of the upper shelf. Originally, I bought a few new 2×4 boards from the store to do the job, but I found some scraps from a previous project and put those to work instead.
You may have noticed in the tile layout that I showered earlier that the top of the lower shelf and the bottom of the upper shelf was designed specifically to accommodate a full run of the 3″ tall subway tiles, so in addition to factoring in the thickness of the HardiBacker that we were going to install around the studs and shelves, we had to figure out a way to bulk up the middle 2×4 with another 0.75″ width. Happily, a leftover piece of shiplap from a previous project [bedroom, dining room, entryway?] was the perfect size for the job. Bundling it with the 2×4, we continued to build upwards to complete the new framing for our shower shelves and found ourselves done by lunchtime. Radical progress.
Enthusiastic about those shelves, we decided to keep forging ahead. The next step as we saw it was to install a moisture membrane over the shelves and silicone seal the lower edge of the plastic to the bathtub all the way around. I had actually installed it along the back wall just before we got started building the shelves, as you can see in the picture above, but the rest needed to wrap carefully around the new framing to protect the wall and guard against moisture touching the wood.
The 6mil barrier that we used was leftover from a previous project (when we gutted and refinished a bedroom at Pete’s parent’s last winter; we went overboard with purchasing the vapor barrier then but were happy to be able to use the leftovers here). Installation was easy. I affixed the plastic with as few staples as possible using an electric staple gun, and took precautious around how the plastic would need to overlap for water protection when coating the new shelves. Very quickly, the entire shower was wrapped to ward off moisture.
We did have to make a few more cuts of cement board to surround the shelves we built, and that ended up not being so simple. Because cementboard can be dusty, and that dust not safe to breathe, the cuts were made outside on the deck. In the snow. In 10-degree weather while we wore mittens and wielded quick to dull utility knives. I left my camera out of this, but by the time we were done, it was looking really nice. I had even gotten around to taking the exposed edges.
It wasn’t until we began making cementboard measurements to the third wall of the shower that we realized we’d have to make some serious decisions, pronto.
For one thing, the existing CPVC and copper plumbing wasn’t sunken beneath the level of our 2×4 studs (get an idea of what I mean in this next photo). Laying the cement board over the pipes would have crushed them, so we were left with one solution: total shower plumbing replacement.
We ended the third day of renovation with a trip to the store to get new pipe and fittings, but were satisfied to have covered two of the shower walls with cement board and even designed and built the custom shelves.
To read more stories about this renovation: