Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bathroom in a Weekend - Part 1: Flooring

Our first floor bathroom (original to our bungalow) has been a utility room of sorts for the last three years. It served as the only bathroom for the first year and a half while we did the second floor. Once that new bathroom was complete and we moved on to redoing out kitchen, our original bathroom became the default utility room.

It was still functional. Indeed, we used the sink as our main source of water for our temporary "college kitchen" while the new kitchen was constructed. But by backing up to the kitchen stove and exhaust hood (and originally on the same electrical circuit), it slowly became part of the construction zone. Coupled with the fact that we started using the bathtub as a utility sink for drywall and painting, it soon became a disaster zone. Especially when we found out about the faulty wiring that was frying slowly in the ceiling!

Enough was enough. We (mostly Jen) were embarrassed to have such a fabulously wonderful new kitchen, only to take a few steps and find a slummed bathroom. So it was with grandiose fervor that Jen announced that the bathroom would be redone prior to our kitchen unveiling party to thank all those who have helped us out.

The plans were to tear up the 1 foot-by-1 foot stick-em tiles that the previous owner had installed, and lay down some ceramic tile, and then replace the 19inch cheapo vanity and fragile medicine cabinet the POs had installed in some half-hearted attempt at "modernizing" the bathroom when they went to sell the house to some unlucky schmucks (which naturally became us).

A few weeks ago, to prove her commitment to the project, Jen took up one of the tiles and found another layer of hideous older adhesive tiles underneath. She then panicked, realizing she may have loosed asbestos in the air. A week later with our wallet $80 lighter, we had certified proof from EMSL that the floor/glue was asbestos free. And so began our first real it-could-really-be-done-in-a-weekend-just-like-on-tv-DIY-project.

We called up some of the usual suspects (Kenny, Scott, Julie) to help us out. Kenny and Jen began removing tiles in the bathroom as we waited for Scott and Julie. Underneath the stick-em and the gaudy 70s non-asbestos gold tile was the original tile floor of the bathroom. As typical for bathrooms in the 1910's, the tiles were small 1" white hexagons set in a deep bed of concrete. I was shocked to see that there were very few that were cracked. In fact the whole floor was very well intact, but had a thick layer of dried glue on it. Jen didn't think it was salvageable (read: pretty) so she and Kenny headed off to buy tile.

While they were at the store, Julie showed up at the house, and upon seeing the floor exclaimed, "Oh you guys have to save that!" and grabbed a nearby chisel to start scraping up the old adhesive. As I agreed with Julie, I joined her and before long, we had about a square foot scraped, shiny and glue-free. When Jen came home, Julie convinced her to try refinishing the tile there instead of laying down a new layer on top by offering to do rest of the scraping herself! Jen acquiesced, and Julie and I set back to work.

Then Kenny came in with some lacquer remover, rubbed it on a spot and - voila! - no more adhesive. He started to use it on the rest of the tile and the glue came right up. (This is strong stuff though, let me tell you - lacquer remover is definitely not low-VOC, and in true dad-as-superman-fashion, Kenny insisted on doing the work and having us leave the room so we weren't affected by the fumes. Apparently his lungs and brain cells are made of steel????)

An hour later, the floor had been restored to a lovely white porcelain tile with blue inlay flower patterns that matched the 1952 baby blue bathtub!

So that's the first part of our Bathroom in a Weekend Story - and it was only the first few hours. WHEW! More to come ...

BEFORE

9 comments:

Tiny Oak Park Bungalow said...

That's awesome. I hope to find something salvagable beneath our 90's tan ceramic tile but I am not holding my breath.

Jennifer said...

Nice find! I love finding good stuff under crap. I would love to have found something like that in our bathroom, but the PO ripped out and repaced the subfloor.

jay said...

Thanks for the reaffirming feedback. It's good to know that losing brain cells wasn't done in vain!

TOPB - hopefully the tile is on backerboard or some other substrate instead of mortared directly on the original tile.

For anyone else out there looking to cover up a dated floor, please consider that, as odd as it may seem, future owners might want to take it down to the original one day. Any efforts you take to protect that original floor will be appreciated!

Sandy said...

The ceramic floor is awesome!

Jim said...

Wow, that old hexagonal tile looks sweet! Great save!

I'll have to write up a post (and some pics) of our salvaged hardwood floor. Y'all will love it.

Jenni said...

Glad you saved the floor. Very nice and color coordinated!

Keith said...

John and Jen,
This is Keith with This Old House magazine. I am interested in doing a story on your house. Please email me at keith_pandolfi@timeinc.com asap.
Thanks.
Keith

cac said...

Wow,
That looks exactly like what the prior owner said our bathroom floor was in '76, right before they covered it with bad ceramic tile. We hope to try to recover it; does thinset come off? We shall see.

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