Lakeshore Cottage

A reno blog for a cottage just outside of Toronto
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Bathroom reno from hell – Part 1

Monday, January 18th, 2016

We’re currently in the middle of renovating the only bathroom at the cottage. We both had 10 or so days off over the Christmas holidays and figured we weren’t likely to get another chunk of time off like that, so I set out planning the demo and reno of the bathroom. It really could have been possible over that time, but we ran into unexpected issues that basically took 4 days away from our schedule. It’s been a fucking brutal slog.

This is what we started working with:






It doesn’t look too terrible in the photos, but don’t be deceived. It was a gross, shitty bathroom, and I hated all that brown puke cracked marble (!!) tile. I don’t have photos handy, but the bathroom was originally an even scarier place. The entire room was basically covered in those heavy marble tiles. They ran about 4′ up the wall, on the floor and in the shower. Probably a year or so after buying the cottage we swapped out the old wood vanity, which they had tiled around, so we took it as an opportunity to lose a wall of tile and ran new drywall and a light+switch. This time around, all of it was going.




It was obvious that the shower was leaking but we ended up discovering that the toilet was also leaking. That said, the (surprising) 3/4″ subfloor under it all didn’t seem in such bad shape. We had spent the two weekends prior to the holidays demoing the room. 1400lbs (!!!!) of crap taken to the dump later, we thought we’d be able to start the process of putting the room back together starting December 26. We booked 3 nights at a hotel nearby because we expected we’d appreciate the ability to shower after each day of work.




What were we thinking? No such luck.

After getting down to the plywood we realized that the floor had way too much movement in it when just walking across it. Around the toilet it was like a trampoline. There was no way we were going to put anything new on top of the existing floor, so it meant another day of demo to pull up the floor to see what was going on under it.

This is what we found (ignore the new wood under the top wall):



Would you like some shitty floor joists? Because we had them. They were 2x6s (!!!!!) that had been poorly sistered. I guess the first bathroom leaked (tub was stamped 1969), rotted the joists, so they threw some new ones in beside them. Why not, eh? Yeah, too bad those ‘new’ ones rotted with the second bathroom. I guess we’re glad the tub was too gross to take a bath in?




Do you see those pieces of blocking between each set of joist near the side wall?


That’s all that held the joists into place. Once we cut the blocking out we were able to move the joists with just a finger; they weren’t secured at all. Add this to the 2x6s used and it explains all the deflection.

We also found this lovely gem:


The wood under the floors had disintegrated and the walls were propped up with air. No big deal, though! It’s not like it’s an exterior wall or anything…

We put some new stuff in there:


And then set out rebuilding the entire floor. After realizing we were left with a mess to rebuild, we went to the hotel early and did hours of reading on wtf process to take.

We decided it was better to start fresh and replace all the old joists. We had to use 2x6s again because that’s all the room we had under the walls, and it didn’t seem like using 2x8s but notching them at the ends would actually add anything worthwhile. We’re lucky that the length from the exterior wall to the beam they rest on is only 8′, and we used hangers to secure them 12″ OC instead of the 16-17″ they were before. We also put a shit ton of blocking and replaced the subfloor under the exterior walls. Using this we were able to get a tile deflection rating that would safely work for the new floor we were going to put back in. I write this like it was No Big Deal but it was a lot of fucking work.





We also used construction adhesive to glue and screw a 2×4 flat along the bottom of the 2x6s. This apparently does some engineering voodoo magic to improve the strength and stiffness of the joists.



This stole about 3-4 days from our original schedule, but when you’re spending money on a new bathroom, there’s no point in cheaping out on the subfloor. BTW, that’s the crawlspace under the bathroom, and the insulation between the joists was one of the first things we did for an eco energy audit early on. It was pretty disheartening to have to remove work already done, but also spend so much time confined in a space of about 2′ of height dealing with old plumbing messes and gross spiders.

You can see how much the old floor had dropped under the weight of the marble – almost an inch:


At this point we were able to start rebuilding. Since it’s a small room and the floor tile gets cold when we run the pellet stove only, we splurged on some discounted in-floor heating, which got covered in self leveling cement. We haven’t worked with it often but it scares us every time. It was especially stressful considering how much time we had spent just to get to the bare subfloor, but it went totally fine. Caulk every gap or hole, know where your low spots are, and use a rubber floor squeegee thing with notches cut out of it to spread it around. It came out totally smooth.





Next up was the Ditra and tile. This is how we spent our NYE. The dogs relaxed, we worked.





We woke up the next day and had no water. The temperature had dropped significantly overnight and the heat trace hadn’t been sent on high, so we thought maybe we just had a frozen pipe. We gave it til pretty much mid-afternoon before packing it up and heading back to Toronto three days early. No water = no grouting.

We came back three days later on the Sunday before going back to work, armed with bottles of water, and grouted.

It was too cold and windy/snowy that day to properly examine the water line from the lake but there was one part that seemed icier than the rest of the line (which had snow melted away from it because of the heat trace). We contacted the water company we had used in the past to see if they had any ideas or availability to come check it out and they suggested it might be a leak or blown pump. Last weekend the weather wasn’t as cold and we found the source of our water issues:


Thoughtfully, the water gauge and pressure relief valve also decided to give out at the same time, so they got replaced. I’m glad we didn’t blow the pump since the lake is now frozen.

After drywall, grouting, minor plumbing work and finally getting water, we got to this very exciting stage – a functioning toilet!


And now we’re off to the races. We only came up for a half-day yesterday but were able to finish the Durock around the tub. We ran out of seam tape however, so weren’t able to thinset like we had hoped.





We’ll have to do that this coming Friday evening, and then waterproof using Redgard on Saturday morning. Tiling should start Saturday afternoon and probably continue through to Sunday. We plan on using 4×16″ stacked white subway tile so hopefully we won’t need longer than this weekend. Argh.

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