Our 1926 house came with that classic unlovely bathroom – made worse by multiple cheap additions over the years: linoleum floors over hex tile, “marbled” bath surround, a tiny triangle sink with hideous plywood cabinet, crumbling plaster. I wish I had a before picture for you! Sadly not. It was so ugly I never photographed it…
It was such a good day when my husband and I got out the demo tools – we have a special iron bar we call the “persuader” – and we persuaded every inch of that bathroom into the dumpster. Well, almost. We saved the original cast iron tub – which I think everyone should consider doing – cast iron holds heat like a champ, and the shape of the tub is really nice. There are companies that will re-coat the surface – just do your homework and find a reputable service. Bonus – you will save a lot of money – a nice tub is not inexpensive!
Notice how the tile at the back of the tub is narrower at the right side and wider toward the drain? It’s not a mistake, the older tubs are like this so that the water will drain out – check this if you are considering tiling yourself!! (Put a level on the edges to confirm if it’s angled or level.)
Design-wise we stuck with Craftsman to match the rest of the house – it’s pretty straightforward. The fun part was the wainscotting which I drew versions of directly onto the plaster walls. This helped me figure out sticky issues such as: How high should it be? How should it be divided? But what if the panels are not the same size? How will it meet the window and mirror trim? What will it really look like? Drawing full-scale onto the walls is a really helpful (fun!) trick. Use chalk and erase gently with a wet rag if you plan to keep the wall – I didn’t, it was all coming down to allow for new insulation and plumbing.
The new tub tile runs to the ceiling – this gives a small room the illusion of height and a really nice, finished look. Plus it works great for tall people as you can raise the height of the shower head.
In addition to what you can see in my photos there are a few things you can’t–
- We saved $$ on this project by doing our own design and demo. We hired Noel Canfield, 510-301-6513, to complete the finish work and tiling – and we’re glad we did. He’s an artist and fun to work with!
- When the walls were open we insulated a waste (yes, waste) pipe coming from the 2nd floor bath. This helps dampen the flushing sounds.
- It would have been misery to remove the old floor tile, so we set the new hexagonal tile on top of the old and added an oak threshold to transition from the hallway hardwood to the new, higher tile floor level.
- Used a medium grey grout to emphasize the subway tile pattern, tie into the darker wainscotting and – bonus! – hide the dirt. I’ve used white grout before and I will nevereverever do it again. Ever – even with a sealant.
- Intentionally chose an off white paint for the trim to contrast with the “bright white” porcelain fixtures and tile.
- Through trial and error we’ve tried numerous types of caulk for the tile to tub joint and have finally found what seems to be an ideal product – Latisil by Laticrete, a 100% silicone caulk that comes in 19 different colors. You may be able to get it at your local tile shop or you can order it online. You can’t paint 100% silicone, so it won’t work everywhere, but it is so great in this application.
- Always add a fan!
Here’s another trick we used, we had wanted the wainscot trim to be a bit thinner than the window trim but it wasn’t going to work out– they wound up needing to be the same thickness. To give the illusion of the wainscot sitting behind the window trim, we painted the wainscot a greyish brown and then (Heidi, who doesn’t drink coffee) painted a really straight line where they met. It’s a great optical illusion (see below)
So, if I had this project to do over again there are a few details I would change. If I had the funds I would go ahead and change out the original window to an operable, insulated unit. We spent time and money fussing around with the old window, which I think would have been better spent towards a new one. And I would definitely have added in-floor heat because tile is cold…
So…on to the next bathroom! We have a partially finished one upstairs for boys only…maybe I should look for a huge urinal…hmmm.
Other posts you may like: