Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

Master Bathroom Remodeling Project

By: Danny Lipford

Watch this video to see how we remodeled a master bathroom, including:

  • Plans for the renovated bathroom.
  • Demolition and removal of walls.
  • Roughing in plumbing lines.
  • Preparing and tiling a shower.
  • Installing the tub, vanities, and fixtures.

Read episode article to find out more.

Print   Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: If your home is your castle, then the master bath must be the throne room, right? OK maybe not, but this week on Today’s Homeowner we’re giving this master bathroom a royal renovation that you just have to see.

The owners of this home, The Cumptons, have lived here for five years. Over the course of those years they have renovated just about every corner of this 25-year-old house. You can see that a lot of updating has taken place in the master bedroom, but now they are really anxious to get started on the renovation of this master bathroom.

Michael Cumpton: Well, about six years ago we bought this house, and this house was an old home, it was 20 years old when we bought it. And over the years the previous owners really hadn’t done anything to the house. So, we spent a lot of time, a lot of elbow grease, a lot of money, re-doing things, really a step at a time over the last six years or so.

And the master bathroom was the last step in a six-year process of redoing this home. Well, the reason we waited until the last to do the master bathroom is frankly, it was probably the most expensive of all of the remodels that had to be done in the house. It’s one thing to redo hardwood floors or to paint kitchen cabinets, and things like that; but the master bathroom, well, that was a big project.

Right now the bathroom is really in two separate rooms. You have one room where you’ve got the vanity area and a room in the bathroom where the toilet is located, the bathtub, and the shower. And it just feels closed in, much like a cave, especially the walk-in shower.

About a year ago, we noticed that the floor in the master bathroom was really beginning to crack. And about six months ago I pulled a couple of the tiles and found that there was some wood underneath the tiles that was somewhat rotten. Well and that sort of made us a little nervous.

Danny Lipford: Once the demolition starts, those few cracked tiles turn into many cracked tiles, as the crew begins tearing apart every surface in the bathroom. Everything goes, including the wall that separates the two areas of the bathroom. That’s so we can create a more open space with this renovation.

The current layout has the tub, toilet, and shower in one room, and the vanities in another. The new plan calls for one large room, with a garden tub in the center, flanked by the toilet on one side and a large shower on the other.

The entry door will be moved just slightly to allow for a symmetrical his and her vanity on either side of the door. Now, because we are rearranging so much of the plumbing, not only do the walls have to go, but so do parts of the floor. Which is not the end of the world, since some of it has some pretty serious water damage.

With the pipes exposed, our plumber, Artie, begins the work of rerouting the drain lines. But the job may be a little bigger than he anticipated, because the existing system has several serious flaws.

Artie McGowan: One thing we’ve got a sanitary T laid down on its back, when this should be a combo that looks more like this. Now, this is okay here. But this is flat vented, it has nothing to wash down the rest of the waste as it’s coming through here. So this could cause a clog in the bend. This right here is a pressure 90, which is another no-no. That’s used for pressure water pipe, not sanitary.

And again here where the old shower was, there is no trap, allowing sewer gas to go directly into the house, which is a hazard to the homeowner and could make people sick.

Danny Lipford: We don’t want that so the first order of business is to correct those problems before the new drain lines go in to accommodate the new layout for the room.

Well, Artie and his crew have almost completed all of the plumbing in this bathroom renovation. They’ve completed the drain lines and they’re just about to get started on all the water lines.

Now, I’ve been remodeling for over 30 years, and I’ve done a lot of bathroom renovations. I can’t remember a single one that we got to this point that we didn’t find some of this—rotten wood hidden away. And, Artie does a lot of plumbing on bathroom renovations. Artie, what causes this for the most part?

Artie McGowan: Lack of maintenance, Danny. In this case the marble pan wasn’t properly caulked to the marble walls, cultured marble walls, and water got out and caused that.

Danny Lipford: I guess the same kind of thing when you have like a trim ring around your bath tub, that water can get behind it and I guess cause some of the damage we see here.

Artie McGowan: Exactly right. You see the results of it.

Danny Lipford: So you know that caulking we always talk about is not just for appearance in a bathroom, it can prevent some of this type of costly damage. Now, the water lines. You have copper here, I assume you’re going to stay with copper.

Artie McGowan: We are going to stay with copper, Danny. The best product ever made for water lines and we’re going to put new copper right back in.

Danny Lipford: Man, it’s been really expensive lately, though.

Artie McGowan: Yes sir, it has gotten up there.

Danny Lipford: But on a bathroom like this you’re really not using much, anyways.

Artie McGowan: No, I mean it’s really cost effective in a situation like this.

Danny Lipford: Great well we’ll let you get to that. While Artie is taking care of that, lets check in with Joe for this week’s Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: Whenever you’re installing new interior room trim, it’s much better to do the painting or in this case the staining and varnishing, outside in a garage or workshop, so you can control the mess and not get the finish all over the floor and walls. Now, what I like to do when I’m applying polyurethane in particular, rather than using a brush, I like to apply the varnish with the foam roller.

Now, the advantage is, that because the polyurethane is so thick, it has a tendency to pull the bristles out of the brush, and then you get in your finish. But with a foam roller, as you’ll see, it conforms to the shape of the molding. Gets right down into the deep crevices, plus it’s a lot faster. Then of course, you’re not to be pulling out any bristles, because there are none.

Then, once you get a nice coating of varnish on there, I like to come back with a disposable foam brush. What that does is it allows you to pull out any bubbles or streaks, and you get a nice even coating of varnish. And, it has a little point so you can get down into the deep crevices.

Then, you just let that dry. Now the other advantage of using a foam brush is that at the end of the day there’s no paintbrush to clean.

Danny Lipford: This week were renovating an oddly laid out master bathroom to make it more functional for the homeowner. We’ve completed the demolition of the old bath and modifications to the plumbing, so we can close the floor up with new decking. But one of the challenges we’re really becoming aware of is access.

Everything that goes in or out of this bath is coming up or down this spiral staircase on the back of the house. This will minimize the mess in the rest of the house, but it’s quite a workout for the crew.

After the floor is in, the cradle to support the new tub can be built and the framing is complete. Then, the electrician routes the wire and installs the hardware for the new lights, switches, and receptacles.

Finally, we’re ready for drywall. But again, there’s the challenge of getting this stuff into the bathroom. Thankfully, it’s a relatively small space so there isn’t that much that has to be carried or installed before Mark is busy applying joint compound to smooth out the surface of the walls and the ceilings.

Boy, this is looking great. It’s always encouraging when you get to this point in a bathroom renovation where the drywall has been installed, and the finishing is almost complete.

For the contractor, it means progress is being made. And we’ve only been on this renovation for just two weeks, so things are moving along fairly nicely. Now, for the homeowner it’s very encouraging because they can get out in the space and really get an idea of how well all of those decisions they made in the design and layout of this bathroom is working out for them.

Now, on this side we have the toilet that’s situated in the corner right under the window. Then, over here we have one vanity and over here another vanity. And then, right in the middle of the new bathroom layout, we’ll have a large soaking tub. This really has worked out very nice. Now, over in the corner you may notice a little dry wall missing. This is the location of our custom shower.

Now, the Cumptons decide to go with tile. And, of course, you just can’t stick tile to drywall. So, we’ll be installing some cement backer board to provide a suitable surface for that title to be adhered to. And because of the extra steps that are involved in this, it can be fairly extensive. Now, they chose tile, but you don’t have to.

Allen Lyle: What you decide on really depends on your budget and your personal preferences whether you’re building a custom shower or not. Now, if you happen to laugh out loud when I said budget, believe me I feel your pain. Here’s a great place to start.

This is a one-piece unit, fiberglass with an acrylic gel coat. Really does look nice and what’s great about things like this is that these are really very simple to install so you’re going to save some money not only on the price of the unit itself, but on the labor to put it in. Of course if you want a bigger one, these do come in different sizes.

If you want the tub with it, again, one piece unit with a tub and the surround. Now let’s say you live in a place where you’ve got to go up some stairs, around some tight corners and you can’t fit a whole one piece unit in there. It’s okay because these do come in separate pieces where you can get just the tub and the separate units for the back.

Keep in mind, though, if you’re going to do something like that, anytime you have a seam, you have a possibility for leaks. So, if at all possible get a one piece unit. Now if you’d like to have something a little bit more roomy, that is kind of tight. In fact, this is rather tight in here, a little confined space, you can get just the pan, just like this and put say two walls up and then maybe an enclosure of glass or plexiglass and it looks really good.

Now, if you want to get away from the acrylic look, something let’s say step up to is cultured marble. That’s a great choice because cultured marble really is a great surface for a bathroom. They have standard sizes at nominal prices and of course what’s great about cultured marble is that it also can also be custom fit for whatever space you have.

And you’ve got additions, like shower seats and of course the shelves for all those shower incidentals. Now, if say you do like all that, but you’ve just got to have that tile I’ve got some good news for you too! You can get custom pieces, just like this that are actually prefabricated with the backing so it makes installation a snap.

Danny Lipford: Back in the Cumpton’s bathroom, the work has started on their custom shower. This cement backer board won’t go all the way to the bottom of the wall until after the guys install the vinyl shower pan over the floor. By folding it up the walls, and then overlapping it with the final pieces of backer board, they are ensuring that water won’t leak out even if it soaks through the grout in the finished shower.

All the seams are taped and coated with thin set, then the whole thing is sealed with this pink waterproofing material. Then a bed of mortar is spread out on the top of the vinyl pan, and carefully sloped towards the center, so the shower will drain properly. This really requires a skilled tile setter like James, so that you don’t end up with puddles all over the shower floor. I said it was extensive, and we haven’t even laid the tile yet.

Now, while the mortar bed dries, the vanity cabinets go in, as well as the stone countertops and tub apron. And, finally, we’re ready for the tile. To support the weight of these big 12×12 tiles, James has installed a temporary ledger board where the second row of tile start. From there, he’s simply building his way up.

After the floor tiles are laid, the bottom row of wall tile is filled in and the bull nose pieces go in around the edges. Hey, while these guys wrap up all the odds and ends, Jodi’s going to show us this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: I’ve seen a lot of painting tools and techniques over the years because I’ve done more than my fair share of painting jobs. But I have to tell you this truthfully, I hate taping off the trim and the windows. But the part I really dread the most is touching up the walls or ceiling after removing the painter’s tape.

Well, I recently came across this new product. It’s called FrogTape, and it comes in its own little container and it’s pretty impressive. FrogTape is coated with what they call Paint Block Technology. Which is a really thin layer of super absorbent material that reacts instantly with latex paint. It soaks up water much like a diaper would to prevent paint from seeping underneath the tape.

As the tape absorbs the water from the paint, the edge of the tape expands just enough to form a break in the sheet of paint before it dries. Paint doesn’t seep underneath it, or bleed through this stuff. And once you peel it off, it doesn’t pull off the paint, either. You’re left with a clean line. The time saved on touchup and clean up alone is worth the six bucks a roll. Think about it, it’s almost like painting with a laser.

Danny Lipford: Well, as you can see the path that leads from the front of the house where all of our trucks are parked into the backyard where we have access to our second story bathroom we’re renovating is getting a little bit worn.

Hey, the bathroom’s going great but it’s always a challenge when you have a project on the rear of a house and your only access point is something like this spiral staircase. All the materials, all of the fixtures we’re using are having to go up these stairs. That means this is getting quite a workout and so are we.

Earlier this morning Susan, the homeowner, dropped by just to see how everything was coming together, and I think she didn’t believe that we’d be finished here in just a couple days. The reason for that is the chaos. There’s so many little pieces that have yet to be put together. And that’s so often the case when you have a renovation project, the last few days can be very chaotic.

And the reason is that you have a lot of different people that have their very small tasks to complete, and that takes a lot of coordination and a lot of storage area, and a lot of patience. And right now, we have the plumbers taking over in here. Hey guys, I hope everything is going well for you in here.

Artie McGowan: Going good, Danny.

Danny Lipford: Good. You know one of the things about working in a small project like a bathroom, there is only so much room for so many people. Here we have three different plumbers, working putting in faucets, putting in the tub valve, finishing up the shower. You know this is just part of wrapping up a project like this.

Now a few days ago, our job superintendent, Wiley, put together what we call the punch list, or the finish up list. And on this is everything we need to do to complete this project. Now, this gives Wiley an opportunity to talk to the homeowner about some of the last few decisions that they have to make. And I’ll tell you, on a project like this, you’ve got to make a lot of decisions. These are the final ones to put everything in the finished column.

Now the things that they’re also able to do because of the list is able to schedule everybody and then cross your fingers and hope that everybody gets in and gets out without additional damage or back orders, and those kind of things that plague a remodeling project.

Well, we’ve got about half of the punch list done and about half of it to go. A good chunk of that list will be taken care of by Artie and his crew as they trim out all the plumbing fixtures and finish hooking up the drain for the garden tub.

But there’s also plenty of paint touchups, which usually they will go on until the very last minute because with all of this activity, some paint somewhere is bound to get scratched or scuffed. The medicine cabinets for both vanities have to be installed in the walls, and the TV has to be mounted and connected.

The tub turns out to be more of a challenge than Artie anticipated. But eventually he has all the connections beneath it finished, so the custom panel the cabinetmaker created can go in to cover up the front of the tub skirt. We’re nearing the end so we thought we would ask the Cumptons how they’re holding out in the process.

Michael Cumpton: Once the project is coming together, and the tile is on the floor, the bathroom countertops are placed, you can see it coming together. You can visualize the finished product. And the excitement starts to build again.

Susan Cumpton: And also having a contractor that you can rely on and who communicates with you through the process really helps.

Michael Cumpton: Yeah that’s, I can’t begin to tell you, because of course over the six years that we’ve been working on this house, we’ve had some horror stories of contractors.

Danny Lipford: Well we’re hoping to create a fairytale ending for the Cumptons this time, and it’s getting much closer, as we check off the last few items on our punch list. For every energy dollar you spend on your home, a full 25% goes to heating water. So it only makes sense to find some way to reduce that cost, right? Well, a tankless water heater that gives you hot water on demand is the best solution.

It costs almost three times more than a conventional heater, but the tankless water heater is still worth the cost because of the money you’ll save by not having to constantly keep the water. To illustrate it better, a conventional water heater is like trying to heat this glass of water with these candles.

To keep the water hot, the candles have to keep burning. On the other hand, a tankless water heater is like this propane torch. It will heat the water in this thimble as you need it and then it’ll turn itself off, as soon as it’s finished with its job.

We started this week with a divided bathroom that had several maintenance issues and just wasn’t meeting the needs of the owner. And now, we’ve transformed it into one bright open area that has everything the Cumptons wanted. Though we haven’t actually added any floor space, the bath just seems a lot larger.

The colors and materials that Susan chose work together beautifully to create a warm comfortable feeling in a room that will also be a lot more functional. You know, even with all of the demolition and rebuilding we had to do in this bathroom, it still only took about five or six weeks to complete.

And, the good news for Michael and Susan is this is the last area of the house that needs any renovation. So they can take a little break from all of the dust and noise.

Now, if you’re thinking of remodeling your bathroom, whether you’re doing something this extensive or just a simple facelift, check out our website at dannylipford.com. Lots of information and tips on how to do it and save a little money along the way.

Hey, thanks for being with us this week, we’ll see you soon. Next week it’s all about green, at the GreenBuild Expo in Boston.



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  • Rameez Says:
    February 18th, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Our house is one of the ones that has some otxiaidon and we’re having trouble getting the knob of the faucet off. I don’t want to pull too hard for fear of breaking a pipe. Any suggestions? Thanks!


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