Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

How to PHASE a bathroom reno (keep that shower as long as possible!), tons of wall tile, and painting tips: Week 3, One Room Challenge

We're in the middle of the work for our bathroom reno, and I think the middle is probably the worst place to be. The design excitement is over, you've had your house torn up for a while, you're tired of things being in weird places, it's starting to look better but you're working on it alll the time, and there are still hurdles to cross before you're close to done.

But we've made this reno as painless as possible in a few ways, and I'm sharing about those today. This bathroom hass (basically) our only shower and bathtub, so we phased demo and construction to leave the old shower in place as long as possible. We also are phasing wall tiling, as there is SO MUCH of it to do. Finally, fit in the most time-consuming parts of painting strategically.

Bonus to this post: details and pics on the terrifying shower demo I've been dreading!!

This post is part of my series of 6 posts about the 5-week One Room Challenge. You can see all my posts about this project here or listed below:

How to phase a bathroom reno

Let's start with the phasing. We initially planned to demo everything all at once, and of course work toward toilet installation first. That meant the floors needed to be all the way in and the wall tile around the toilet needed to be installed and grouted. But demoing everything would mean no shower, and the shower is across the room from the toilet and vanity, AND redoing the shower is going to be a huge, time-consuming, new-to-us process... we were afraid of ripping out the shower and being showerless for what could be months!

So, we demoed almost everything except the shower.

Then, we started rebuilding--repairing the walls enough so that we could tile them, then tiling the floor, then tiling the walls (focusing around the toilet area).

We installed the toilet and vanity, got the sink plumbing hooked up, and were able to operate pretty much as usual for a bit, as if we weren't in the middle of a chaotic reno! Kept taking normal showers in our functional but very ugly old shower. This approach would work well if you knew you wouldn't ever have a couple solid weeks of work time for a project like this and would be doing it on the weekends, mixed in with other life stuff, for a while!

THEN we demoed the shower. I was so scared of this part!! Jason locked himself in the bathroom for most of a day to get this done without getting dust throughout the rest of the house, so I only got to see the end result. He drilled out the mortar between the glass blocks with a special drill bit and then pried them free. It must have been so exhausting and tedious. (I am so grateful to him for going through that!)

Then he began demoing the shower tile. This took foreeeever and involved breaking most of them, as you can see... these were done in the 90's over tile backer board screwed into the wall, so they didn't come off the same way or as easily as the terra cotta colored 50's (?) tiles of the rest of the room.

The shower curb is made of wood with a red plastic water barrier, and had damaged cement board around it (you can see that three photos up). Unfortunately when Jason took this up, there were casualties to our pretty new tile floor we had so carefully finished the edges of.

We have finally finished shower demo...

We're ready to rebuild!! This method is shortening our shower-less time, for sure, but let's talk about the two main downsides I've found of a multi-phase reno:

  1. The potential of damaging the phase 1 work. We'll have to redo the floor tile in that area, and/or build out the shower curb with an extra board or piece of cement board or something to fit the gap. We'll see. We also have scratched up some of the pretty new window trim paint by hauling more debris out the window!
  2. Dust twice. Demo is messy work. We've had to deal with tracking/not tracking tile/plaster/who-knows-what dust through our house for what feels like a long time now... would have been great to get all the demo done at once so we could get the messiest part done with!

I still think this method was the best for us, though. If you had a second shower you would probably want to do it in one phase even if it took a long time. Oh, the joys of home renovation.

My Everest: TONS of wall tile

Another bit of progress we've been able to make lately is wall tile. I calculated it before ordering: I think we have 168 SF of wall tile, including the main room and the shower walls. THAT IS A LOT. I've tiled backsplashes before and a whole wall in the kitchen at our last house... I think that one wall took my mom and me 8 hours! It was a more complicated pattern, but still. I've had to do the wall tiling in this project in phases for sure.

I am the designated tile-er of the family, though Jason is the tile cutter and my mom is a great assistant and I love when she can come keep me company and help with a few things.
Tiling is NOT a glamorous job

You can see multiple phases of tile progress here... the area behind the toilet and vanity is tiled and grouted. Areas where I stopped at the first pass and had to come back and cut tiles are tiled but not grouted.

New large areas are tiled but not grouted.

This tricky area is tiled but not cleaned up! And missing a few pieces we need to re-cut.

I have definitely had to do this tiling in small chunks... only so much you can get done during baby naptime or while someone is available to watch him. I've worked in 1-3 hours chunks (not counting measuring tiles I want Jason to cut for me) and it's actually pretty impressive how much you can get done in only an hour. I saved a lot of the trickiest parts for last and was dreading doing the area around the laundry chute (not one single whole tile on that portion between it and the built-in! So much measuring) but it feels great to have it done. At this point we have basically ALL the tile up except the shower, but we have not grouted all of it.

I hate grouting but Jason doesn't mind, so I'm leaving all the grouting for him to do later.. :P hopefully. You can't mix enough grout for all of these walls at a time (it'll dry out in your bucket), but you could at least get into a good grouting groove and mix a couple buckets in one day for a little more efficiency.

Painting Tips

Painting!! It really transforms a room, even if it's just going from dirty blue-white to fresh creamy white. (At least, that's my prediction for when we get to painting the walls!) Updating our trim paint from the 80's denim blue that was there to Sherwin Williams Grey Clouds, which is just a shade darker than our floor tile, made SUCH a difference and made me like this room so much more!!

In this case I do recommend painting before you're done with the room, and here's why... you may have to do some touch-ups on areas you dinged with demo materials (I hope not), but you usually  have to do touch-ups anyway, and if you get the paint done you can put up towel bars, lighting, etc. and get back to function sooner. When we painted the inside of that built-in cabinet it meant we could put our bathroom supplies back in and get them out of the hall!!

Most paint jobs will require two coats or more anyway, so I definitely suggest getting started with a coat or two while you can. Painted areas are the base for everything else so unless you want to be without window hardware for a few more weeks, I say paint the window and put it back up!

One thing that has made painting in here much easier is having easy-to-hold containers! HANDy Paint Products sent me some of their paint cups/holders and they are so much better than old yogurt tubs or the big gallon! My favorite is the HANDy Paint Cup which works so well for trim paint. Their cups have a magnet near the handle to hold your brush in place. Genius!

I also LOVE the mini roller tray, the HANDy Roller Cup... I love using those little 6" high density foam rollers for doors and flat surfaces of trim, and this is so much better than the broken plastic mini tray I have that came with rollers once.

Note: When painting over painted trim, make sure you wash it down with TSP or a deglosser before painting so the paint adheres better, and make sure you use a trim paint! This is a semi-gloss trim paint.

That's our progress so far... hoping to make big strides once the new wall goes up and we can finish tiling. And I can't wait to paint the walls and have a mirror in here again!!

You can also check out the ORC blog for the rest of the 6-week challenges happening now! There are 20 featured designers plus tons of other guests like me!

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