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September 2021
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Master Bath Project Episode 9

The Master Bath Project is virtually complete. The only missing items are the Shower Door and enclosure, trim rings and switch plates.

Here we go with a tour of this project.
The walls are textured with a knockdown texture and painted a light off white, the ceiling and trims are a pure white,(Behr Ultra White). The laminate and the solid surface is are off whites as well. The fixtures and cabinet hardware are a brushed nickel finish. The floor is 20” ceramic tiles in a light beige to complement the tub which was the only item left from the original bath.
The Makeup Area.
The square footage of flooring is almost as much as in the original bath, just rearranged differently.

Design Notes:
The counter height was derived from the rolling seat. the area between the counter and the cabinet above was determined by the two mirrors.

Behind the Magnifying mirror on the left is a switch for the mirror light as well as an outlet for other electric accesories. You can also see the shelves in the back corner in the shower in this photo.

Here is a closeup of the mirrors and counter. The lit mirror is 25×25” the mirror on the right is the door for a built in medicine cabinet. The bottom of the storage cabinet is finsihed with laminate to diffuse the light.

The Shower
The shower as noted before is a custom size being 4′ wide and about 6 1/2′ long. The shower walls are 76” tall adding about 4” more than ‘standard’. The safety bars are in place on the side wall as well.

The shower head is on an adjustable bar with a 6′ hose allowing the clients to reach anywhere in the shower. The soap dishes are adjustable as well.

The control for the shower is mounted on the inside of the ponywall. This allows them to adjust the temperature of the shower before stepping in. Note that the control is a single handle control which is used everywhere on this project. Single hand controls just make more sense.

Here is a long view of the bathroom along the back wall.

The Vanity
The vanity is suspended between the two pony walls and has two drawers with the same pull hardware that also acts as towel racks. The caps on the pony walls are notable as they are much thinner than normal contributing to a much lighter feel. (It was one of the details that was a little hard to get across, as it was not ‘standard’, but we prevailed.)
The sink is a one piece unit molded into the counter top eliminating clips, rings, and cracks for dirt or mold to hide. The sides and back have back splashes of the same solid surface.
There are also two outlets GFI protected outlets on either side of the counter. Finally is the built in medicine cabinet. The only thing left is trying to find a light fixture for above the cabinet. There is a lot of crap in the market.

The Tub
The tub being the only item left from the previous bath got a makeover as well. We installed additional jets in the front and the back, that the client reports work great. At the same time, the lines and jets were replaced. We also installed new controls with a spout type diverter valve for the deck mounted wand in the corner.

The backsplashes are the same solid surface that are carried to the bottom of the window. The window sill has the same thin detail as the pony wall, tying them together. We also installed a grab bar on the deck of the tub for accessibility. We finished off the tub with a solid surface modesty panel to cover the plumbing and to be able to gain access should any problems arise in the future.

The flooring complements the tub, and is much better looking the second time around. We also installed new base board.

Comfort Station
The toilet is a one piece high line toilet in keeping with building this bathroom with future accessibility in mind.
The TP Holder is a one piece design tucked into the top of the magazine alcove. The stretcher bars for the bottom of the magazine rack are made out of standard door stop material.
Morning Multi Tasking!

Towel Bar
On the other side of the pony wall is the heated towel bar. It runs off of a timer mounted on the wall above the pony wall.

So there you have it. A new bathroom. In case you are just arriving here, here are some photos of before:
Makeup Area




Comfort Station

Master Bath Project Episode 8

Solid Surface Hell
One of the earliest design decisions made was solid surface for the shower. If you have a tiled bath/shower enclosure, you have experienced the heartbreak of keeping it clean, grouted, sealed, killing mold and mildew.
Since we were building a custom shower in both size and function, we interviewed a number of companies. Most could not produce the off center shower pan. Most of them were installers using buyout materials.
We finally found a local company who could produce the shower pan, and manufactured their own solid surface.

In addition to the shower pan, and side panels, they were also making the vanity top with integral sink, the makeup top, tub surrounds, modesty panel, and the caps for the pony walls.

We explained that we were going to have a swinging shower door with a simple glass panel on the top of the pony wall. ON the Inside Edge. Horizontal surfaces in showers and baths are breeding grounds for mold,mildew, and dirt. They were brought on site early enough to be able to discuss their requirements for installation. Which is one of the reasons that we left the bottom sheets of drywall off until the shower pan was installed.

The day of installation arrived with a couple of stout lads as this pan was heavy. In wresting the pan in place they chopped up a corner of the pony wall. It sucked but I can fix anything.

The first major problem is here, where they brought the edge of the pan completely into the opening and created an area that would have the water splashing onto the floor. Remember the shower door and glass were to be placed on the inside edge of the pony wall and inset on the other side. Also floor tile selection was finalized.

The next morning, I hung, corner beaded and taped the rest of the drywall, and bagged off the solid surface, cabs and counters so the texture guys could come and spray the walls.

After some discussion as to fixing the drainage issue the solid surface guys showed up to install the walls. They must not talk a whole lot as there is a new problem. See in the corner where they did not extend the solid surface to the floor? Yep, looks like crap.

The decision was made to fill in the edge and machine it in the field. There was a lot of delay in what they said was a color matching issue. This is weird because this material was a ‘standard’ color from their collection, and should have been a no brainer. It wasn’t. It took multiple applications, a lot of sanding which creates a dust storm to rival anything you see on National Geographic.

Complicating this was the scheduling of the tile. The tile was laid and they had to return with a new crew and redo it. There was no reason but carelessness for the first tile job. There were no cracks, bumps, or other problems that prevented them getting it right the first around.
Not square, flat or consistent in grout lines.

1/2” gaps on the edges and incomplete grouting was an issue as well.

The second time got the job done.

Smooth, flat and consistent.

I will be reluctant to recommend either of these two companies, as a first choice unlike my plumber and texture guys. To be fair, both of them did repair their mistakes, but it did push the project into February.

Master Bath Project Episode 7

Delay Delay Delay. Remodeling never has neat schedules. The original schedule would have had the client taking a bubble bath for Christmas. There are any number of things that for one reason or another, you subcontract out. This project had the plumbing, solid surface, cabinets, and tile work subbed out.

The mechanical A/C work was done before I opened up the first wall as part of the ductwork moving for the Walk In Closet Project. The electric was done by the client, working in the evenings. The plumbing was done by a company I have been using for years, and understands the nature of remodeling projects, and works with you. For example he did not have a problem with the shower control placement, just needing to know where we wanted it. He also helped select a brand of fixtures, that we would be able to find parts for in the future.
Plumbing In Arizona
The water in Arizona has a high mineral content, which leads to lime and scale build up, and faucet failure. One of the more interesting services in Arizona is called re-pipeing. Just like it sounds. They come in and replace your old waterlines with new pipes, as the scale and mineral deposits, clog your pipes. These deposits also act as sandblasters inside your pipes leading to pinhole leaks that create disasters as well.
Enough about water.

The Cabinets arrived and have been mounted.
The Make Up Area
The make up area has a floating cabinet for the counter and a storage cabinet above. Both of which are custom units. The storage cabinet is a non standard height, as the top goes to the ceiling and the bottom needs clearance for the lit mirror which is wall mounted. It will receive a solid surface counter.

The Vanity
The vanity cabinet floats between the two pony walls and the cabinet height was partially determined by the depth of the sink countertop. The placement of the vanity cabinet on the pony walls is a little shorter than standard, for convenience, and to allow for splashes around three sides and having room for the pony wall caps.

The Bathtub
The bathtub was a object of some interest, as it is a custom unit, in height, width, depth, and controls. The client liked the current tub from design, function and could make the color work. In looking at a new custom tub, the cost was in outer space. I mean you could buy a economy car for the price some folks were quoting. The only other downside was wanting some more water jets. Staying was not certain until the guy was found who could install more jets.

Some holes, re plumbing and another control and the tub question was a done deal.

At this point we are waiting for the solid surface guys to bring the shower pan, so we can move toward completion. We cannot get the texture, priming, or painting done until the pan is in.

Master Bath Project Episode 6

The framing, plumbing, and the electric work is done. So some of the drywall gets hung. The cabinet maker was here for his dimensions, and the solid surface folks got their numbers, and made their templates for the custom shower pan.
Here you can see the insulation and the blocking in place for the grab bars that will be installed after the shower is finished.

Here is a view into the shower. The bottom sheets of drywall will not be installed until after the shower pan is installed. It would have been nice to get the pan done before the drywall, but equipment breakdown, and scheduling conflicts created this. There are always surprises in remodeling, and this was one. The solid surface guys had even more surprises in store creating more delays in this project.

We used ‘green’ board in the shower and in the vanity area. Due to the details for the shower, we could not complete drywalling in a number of areas.

We have filled in the area in the window covering the bottom row of glass block and drywalled and taped the bathtub area. We also skim coated the walls where the old tub surrounds were.

Meanwhile we were able to drywall the pony wall by the toilet as well as skim coating those walls.

The current plan is after the shower pan is in, waiting 24 hours for the glue to set, I will drywall, bead and mud the shower area so that we can texture, and paint so the solid surface guys can return and install the rest of the solid surfaces.

Master Bath Project Episode 5

In our last episode we were getting ready to do some drywall. We will get around to it, but first a couple of things. Wasted space drives me nuts. Short Drive, Never Mind. The client is a fan of storage also. See the Walk In Closet Project.

The Makeup Counter
The back wall of the shower is 48” wide giving us this deep hole. About 28” between the shower and the bedroom wall. Now we knew that we were only going to put in a 20” deep counter, which would leave about 20 or so inches of dead space behind that wall. Notice that on the bedroom wall beyond the pocket door frame there is a 22” space between the corner and the next stud. We decided to put a cabinet in that wall facing into the bedroom.

So we went to the home improvement store and picked up a ready made cabinet. Cut a hole in the bedroom wall…

And installed the cabinet

Meanwhile back in the bathroom, we framed up the new back wall, including blocking for the surface mounted mirror, the romex for the mirror light, and the pocket for the small medicine cabinet. Here we needed to dry fit our surface mirror to determine it’s center visually as the right side has the door of the medicine cabinet sticking out 3/4”. The devil is in the details, between a good project and one not so good.

We then insulated the whole thing. In this case the insulation is more for sound control that it’s insulation value.

That doesn’t hurt either.

We then went forward and began drywalling this area. We will be insulating every wall we opened. Some fiberglass and some foam board. On the right side of this photo you can see where we are beginning to insulate the shower area.

The foam board is used over the exterior brick wall whose ‘studs’ are 2×2”s.

We are doing only a partial drywall as we are waiting for the solid surface guys to show up for measurements, which is why the shower area is not getting drywalled now.

Remodeling Construction Notes

Bathrooms are one of the nosiest rooms in your house, and are usually next to the quietest rooms, your bedrooms. Insulating the walls is only a few bucks and the sound dampening effects make it worth the investment. Bathrooms are hard surfaces which bounce sounds everywhere. Anywhere you can break up the paths with pony walls, corners, or sound absorbing materials ,(keeping in mind the humidity) will pay you back in a quiet environment.

Master Bath Project Episode 4

The major demo is done. The decision on the types and rough sizes of the shower, vanity sink, and the makeup are done. A mirrored medicine cabinet has been selected. So now it is time for rough framing.

Remodeling Construction Notes

This project was a field design. There are and were no prints other than quick sketches as we went along. In the case of this project, until we demoed the walls and figured out where the plumbing was, we could only guess as to what would be needed to get things moving. Once we knew what was in the walls, we could begin to figure out where things were going and what our rough sizes would be.

I do mean rough. For example, the vanity wall was built out to mount the built in medicine cabinet. The height and width of medicine cabinet, determined the room needed for the vanity height, and space and placement for the GFI outlets above the counter. This build out also gave the plumber and electrician room to work without having to spend a lot of extra time having to break things to do their work, creating more work for the next guy.

The original bathtub pony wall determined how deep the shower pony wall was going to be. The grout line on the top of the bottom glass block, in the window on the tub wall determined the height of our vanity and toilet pony walls. It also determined the height of the solid surface walls for the tub surround. The exterior door on the south wall determined the depth of the toilet pony wall. The desire for a magazine rack on one side and a heated towel bar on the other side dictated the construction details on the pony wall next to the toilet. This also let us know where to put the switches for the vanity shower and overhead lights.

The remaining space between the back shower wall and the bedroom wall determined the width and depth for the makeup counter, and cabinets. The height of the make up counter and the built in mirror and the small built in medicine cabinet in this alcove determined the placement of the upper cabinet as well as the switch and outlet for this area.

The selection of fixtures and controls for the water determines where your blocking goes, as well as providing pathways for your water and waste lines.

Those are just a few of the reasons that this was a field designed project. Now back to our project….

The Shower
The shower is going to be 42” wide by 72” deep. ‘Standard’ shower pans center the drain. The original drain is embedded in the slab. In specifying the size the client wanted, we knew that it was going to be custom. The number of companies that do solid surface that can also cast an off center drain shower pan is surprisingly small. The shower door will be a 32” wide frame less double pivot style. This requires 3/8” tempered glass. Because of the width of the door and not having a frame, the back wall is made with 2×6” with a double corner to provide strength for the hinges for the door. The pony wall at the lower right of this image is 2×6 also.

The choice of 2×6 was made for a number of reasons. Strength, as the glass door will be hanging off rear shower wall, and the two vanity pony walls will be supporting the vanity which will be suspended from either side with a small drawer cabinet below. No Base Cabinets. Plumbing access on the shower side as the controls will be mounted on the shower side of the pony wall and not underneath the shower as is typical. The last reason is visual. Having all the pony walls the same width and height, we can visually tie the room together.

The Vanity
The vanity wall was built out with 2×6” to accommodate the built in medicine cabinet and to have space to insulate the brick wall behind, and to provide room for the plumber to route the water and waste lines, as they need some serious work from the last time. Also it allows us to build square and plumb walls, which is real important with so much custom solid surface and cabinetry.

On the bath side, we added material to the bath pony wall to provide strength for the vanity as well as framing for the clean out access.

The Toilet Wall

This pony wall does double duty, On the bath side it will have a heated towel rack. On the toilet side it will have an alcove for reading materials. In this photo you can see where we installed vertical blocking so we have a wide area for attaching the towel bar.

Here is a detail shot of the outlet box for the electricity for the towel bar.

Here is a detail of the magazine alcove.

A little electric and some rough plumbing we are ready to drywall.

Master Bath Project Episode 3

In order to set the pocket door, a small amount of the old flooring needed to come up. As I have mentioned before there are always surprises in remodeling.
Floor from Hell
This is the flooring in the MBP.
From the bottom to the top is the original slab, the original linoleum installed with ‘cutback’ adhesive, thin set mortar,and the ceramic tiles.
This turned out to be the floor from hell. I had to go over the floor three times to get to the slab. First to get the tiles up, secondly to get the mortar up, and finally using an electric jackhammer to get the linoleum and cutback up.

Why go to all this trouble? This is the right way to do this, for a couple of reasons. One is the vanity is going to be a counter with drawers, suspended between the walls for the shower and tub. (No base cabs to hide things. Two is to check the floor for level and to note any low or high spots that may cause water to pool as this is a ‘wet’ room. Third is being able to check the slab for cracks from settling, or any other irregularities, that would prevent the tile from being laid smoothly.

Shower Wall

Having removed the rest of the closet, the cultured marble sides and shower pan, the counter and cabinets from the old vanity, it was time to open the walls for a serious look at the plumbing. (Note: In the kitchen or bath, you always want to check the plumbing. If you have to replace or move it, you need to know what you are working with)

Vanity Wall Take 1
We have removed the drywall, and have a better idea of what we are up against. The bathroom is on an exterior wall. This is a slump block wall with 2×2” studs nailed in with cut nails. Some of these will require ‘blue screws’ to refasten the studs, and repair spacing as the plumber does his thing.
(Tech Tip: You can still get cut nails, but trust me on this, you try to refasten 20 year dry studs with cut nails, you will break the studs, and loosen what little grip the others have)

Demo to studs
Notice that the back wall is basically blank, but the shower wall with the light coloration is where the builder foamed the plumbing wall with urea formaldehyde foam. Why he did not foam the other exterior wall is a mystery for the ages. Also you can see that there was a bathtub originally in this location, The client had remodeled this room about 20 years ago.
Note that the copper pipes are playing peek a boo in the block wall.
Vanity Wall Take 2
The vanity area is interesting as there is a lot of foam surrounding the supply and drain. It gets better You can see evidence of a leak with the mold on the drywall, which was hidden by the cabinets, and you never would have seen it or been able to track it down, without going this far in dismantling the bathroom.

Removing the rest of the drywall and crap on the wall we now see this.
Demo behind old vanity
A closer look reveals that the last guy used spray foam and drywall mud as the clamping for the supply and drain line.
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!
This is so bad on so many levels. Valve replacement, leak repair, pipe movement in turning off and turning the main water supply, and so on. You can see that there was a leak with the mold evidence on the sole plate under the drain. Notice that they had broken the block for the supply lines. The weird thing here is there was no insulation of any type in that area. Anywhere but the desert, these would have frozen and burst.

Discovered the clean out for the drains here, in the pony wall behind the tub. I can only imagine where the hell this goes.
Hidden Cleanout behind existing tub

The Comfort Station
Moving on to the other side of the room where the toilet will be going. Yes it is staying in the same location as moving a toilet in a concrete slab is a very big deal.

At this point we are going to break to plan our next moves.

Master Bath Project Episode 2

Remodeling never takes place in a vacuum. At the same time as the MBP was beginning, painting was going on in the rest of the house. Having completed the Walk In Closet, and having the Master Bedroom between the closet and the Master Bath, getting the maximum value out of the painters required a little change to the ‘normal’ demo schedule.

One of the earliest decisions was to replace the existing bathroom door with a pocket door.
Yet another stake in the heart of the hinge door lobby!
But I digress…

Since the bathroom door was part of the master bedroom wall, and the painters were drumming on their cans, I did a partial demo to get the pocket door in and the wall finished.

As you can see I removed just enough materials to allow me to install the frame. Notice that I used the right hand side of the existing opening as one side of the pocket door opening. On the right side of this wall on the bathroom side is the toilet, which we were not moving, and we were going to need the space on the bathroom side for the switches that are currently in the closet wall.

Once I installed the frame I also installed the door as the bedroom side needed to be drywalled for the painters. ‘Normally’ we would wait until the drywall was up on both sides, the flooring was in, and it was ready for paint. This also would allow us to adjust the bottom of the door to meet the finish flooring. We decided that we would paint the bedroom, so the painters could do the rest of the house while the bathroom project was ongoing.
Yes the ceiling has blown insulation which makes quite a mess and left unchecked would spread all over the rest of the house. This also allows us to continue the demo in the bathroom while the painters were doing their thing.

In this photo you can see the new round ductwork that we had installed during the closet project, because we were eliminating the closet and its soffit. We also demoed the side wall and have the electric hanging in space.

Time to rip out more stuff so we can move the switches.

Master Bath Project Episode 1

Having completed the Walk in Closet Project it is time to move to the Master Bath.

Our Goals for this project are to open up the room, and perform a serious makeover.

Behind the door is the closet that was emptied into the Walk In Closet. We will be removing the closet completely. The vent above the closet has already been disconnected when we had the tin men re-routing the ductwork for the Walk In Closet Project. We will be putting a big shower. We will also need to move the switches.

The old shower has cultured marble sides with glass doors bound for the dumpster.

The vanity counter and cabinets will be replaced, as well as the mirrors, fixtures and lights. The wing wall will stay after some serious modifications and moving the GFI outlet.

The tub ended up staying, but the side panels above and on the side of the tub will be replaced.

Rounding the corner is the toilet which has a floor to ceiling partition which will be removed and replaced with a wing wall the same height as the one at the tub and left side of the Vanity.

Some decisions have been made, as to materials, types, fixtures, and finishes. Others are dependent upon what we find behind the walls. With remodeling projects there are always surprises when the hammers meet the walls and you begin the demolition.