Maximizing Bathroom Space

Today, I’m showing you a renovation we recently completed in my Mom’s house. As I showed you in a previous bathroom transformation, renovating a bathroom gives you the ideal opportunity to maximize the space you already have. Mom’s bathroom had never been updated in the 30 years she’s owned the house so it was high time for a reno. For us, it was just as important to make the sure the space was as functional for Mom as it was beautiful.

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Mom didn’t want another beige coloured bathroom yet she was insistent on keeping the old beige bathtub which gave us a narrow focus on our tile selections.

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I was happy with her decision: if something is still functional, I always try to keep it and work around it because it’s the sustainable thing to do!  Keeping the beige tub in mind, I managed to pull together a nice palette to make the bathroom look fresh.

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I was able to make the beige bathtub work by by finding a neutral floor tile in an off white with a slight streak of beige running through it. Although it reads more like a white, the slight streak of beige really ties in the old beige tub and pulls it all together.

Below you can see the floor tile against the field and accent tile we used for the tile surround. We’ll use the colour of the blue accent tile to paint the existing vanity, which was the only other original element of the bathroom, besides the tub, that we kept.

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Two inch tile for the shower floor is an ideal size to accommodate the curve of the floor toward the drain, but can I tell you how hard it was to find a decent variety of tiles in that size? At the 11th hour, we finally found a dark grey hexagon pattern which helps to ground the starkness of the white tile on the floor and shower walls.

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You can see the grey shower floor in the picture below and the original vanity base – which we kept because it was sized to fit perfectly into the alcove and was in good condition.

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One thing to note is that we have started to replace all the light bulbs in Mom’s house with LEDs and the bathroom is no exception. It will save her a substantial amount of money on energy costs!

Here’s a before and after of the vanity area with updated with new mirror, lighting, quartz countertop, sink and faucet. The vanity is still a work in progress; it will be painted blue to pull in the tile surround on the bathtub and the hardware will be replaced with a more modern silver metal pull. The holidays have a habit of putting finishing touches like that on hold!

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A tip that I gave you in my last bathroom makeover that I’ll give you again is to get rid of any bulkheads above the bathtub and shower areas. You can see how removing them really opens up the space!

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Here’s another before and after comparison of the bath area that demonstrates how much more expansive it looks without the bulkhead:

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The lighter colour scheme also helps make the bathroom appear larger:

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Another useful tip to open up the space if you have one of those ‘corner’ showers, is to knock down the back wall and go deep. Originally there was a tiny little cubicle of a shower stall; Mom was in real trouble if she dropped the soap! Below you can see that we removed the original back wall and made it flush to the wall of the tub. We also opened up a ‘window’ between the shower and tub to let the light flood in (which will be fitted out with glass when the shower door gets installed).

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Increasing the size of the shower allowed us to add a bench seat for Mom (and of course a grab bar to help her get up!)

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It also allowed us to fit in a rain shower head as well as a hand held sprayer too.

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A nice finishing detail is a shower niche to hold soap and shampoo. Its a huge improvement over the metal soap dish that was originally there! Which would you rather have?

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Happily, Mom wasn’t as attached to the beige toilet as she was to the bathtub. Both technology and looks have come a long way in the last 30 years and a one-piece low flow toilet is the way to go!

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Here’s how the new finishes look now. It’s a calm relaxing space!

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Once the glass for the shower surround went in, Mom was finally able to enjoy the new space to its fullest.

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If this new bathroom space has inspired you, please pin and post on Facebook. You might also want to check out some of our previous bathroom renos:

Reclaim and Maximize Space in Your Bathroom:

Colour Scheme

Powder Room Makeover – Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

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Blow it Out Your Roof: a Guide to Replacing a Bathroom Fan!

They say nothing is certain but death and taxes, but I’d like to add a third: repairs!  Last week alone, three things broke down on us that had to be repaired. When you’re a do-it-your-selfer and a blogger, you have to look on the bright side of things and call that a good week: repairs alone can give you a ton of things to write about!

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This week, I’m sharing a DIY on how to replace a bathroom fan. As (bad) luck would have it, ours stopped working just before the hottest and most humid blast of weather hit us. Poor hubs had to go up into the attic to replace the fan and was just drenched when he was done. Ironically, that was the same morning that our air conditioner broke down, so by the afternoon our house was as hot as the attic! Oh well, I guess our pain is your gain.

I wasn’t sorry to see the old fan go. It was so loud and clunky, I could hear barely hear hubs singing rubber ducky outside the door 🙂

Personally, I would never want to attempt such a dirty, grimy job myself, but hubs is a perfectionist and he likes things done right. For instance, he planned to seal and insulate all the duct work.  When you hire a contractor, they’re in and out so fast that it leaves you wondering if they sealed it up as thoroughly – if at all! Sometimes contractors take shortcuts and don’t even bother to connect the bathroom fan to the roof vent. This is a HUGE problem as mold will grow unless the fan is vented properly through the roof.

To start, hubs removed the old fan so he could find a replacement that would fit without having to cut a bigger hole into our drywall. He taped a plastic bag to the ceiling so he could cover up the hole after removing it (wouldn’t want any critters – or insulation – to fall into the bathroom, would we?).

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Removing the old fan

He also protected all the surfaces in the bathroom by taping plastic to the walls and on the floor to catch any insulation/mess that might drop down when he was working in the attic later.

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Hubs then inspected the condition of the old ducting in the attic. He discovered that the original 4″ pipe attached to the vent was poorly installed and there were a lot of gaps. He also discovered that the builder cut too big a hole into the roof – which further explained the gaps. Here’s what the old duct (and fan) looked like:

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Because of the gaping hole in the roof made by our builder, hubs was going to have to use a 5″ gasket in order to bridge the gaps at the roof vent and then replace our 4″ ductwork with 5″ fittings instead.

Hubs found a specialty fan store that sells to the building industry, but is open to the public. He took the old fan with him. It cost him $75 for a new whisper quiet fan (only 1 sone). Any fan under 1.5 sones is considered to be quiet so keep that in mind when shopping. Another thing to keep in mind is the diameter of the duct connector on the new housing. To maximize performance, try to match your duct diameter to the new fan. As I mentioned, ours was duct was originally 4″ wide but we needed 5″ to span the gap at the roof so hubs decided to buy a duct reducer (installing the 4″ end onto the fan and the 5″ end onto the new ductwork).  There’s nothing wrong with increasing the size of the ductwork, but don’t ever do the opposite or you will restrict the exhaust from the fan!

With respect to performance, a fan’s ability to move air is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), so look for a CFM rating that will meet your needs by moving enough air for the size of your bathroom. To determine your CFM rating, use the following formula:

Length x width x height x .13 = the minimum CFM rating

In addition to the fan, hubs purchased a variety of new fittings too.  Get more than you think you need and return what you don’t use; there’s nothing worse than being stuck in the attic and then realizing that you have to run out to buy something you didn’t get!.  All-in, it cost about $125 for the fan and supplies. It would cost you up to a couple hundred dollars more than that to have someone install it for you.

Hubs cut the power to the bathroom so he could connect the wiring safely without risk of electrocution! He suited up in a white Tyvek coverall, like the one pictured below, so he could protect himself and his clothes from the scratchy insulation. He also wore a mask just in case of mice, which almost always reside in the attic.  You need to take the precaution of wearing a mask so you don’t breathe in any toxins.

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Tyvek coverall source: Home Depot

Hubs placed a ladder beneath our attic access (ours is in the bedroom closet) and took all his equipment up with him in a box to keep it all together. This included a drill, screws, screw driver, tin snips, duct fittings, fan, electrical bushing, silver tuck tape, cord etc. He also took a bright light on an extension cord up with him so he could see (the light was run to another electrical power supply that was still working).

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Hubs has previously done work in the attic so he had already placed some runner strips of plywood across the joists so he could walk.  You’ll want to rip down some plywood for this purpose if you don’t already have some in the attic. Once in the attic, he pushed aside all the blown in insulation so he could locate the electrical wiring and hole in the ceiling of our bathroom.

The new fan body was positioned over the hole in the ceiling and then screwed into the joists. A metal strip (shown below) was attached to the back to help secure it further to the joist (they can reduce side to side vibration). Depending on where your hole is positioned between the joists, you may have to install anywhere from one to 4 of these strips.

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Our fan was positioned beside the joist so we only needed one new strip at the back:

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He installed the electrical bushing onto the fan (it protects the wire) and then fed the wire through and connected it.

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Hubs used tuck tape to seal along the edges of the fan, then he then started dry fitting metal ducting, starting with the reducer, until he eventually got it all to line up with the roof vent.

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As you can see below, one of the pieces of ducting is articulated so it can be twisted into just about any position to line the ductwork up with the roof vent.

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Hubs used a 5″ gasket with a seal around it for the connection to the roof vent. This is a much better solution than the straight run with release cuts the builder previously installed because it seals any gaps. He had to use tin snips fit the gasket flush against the joist in order to line it up with the roof vent. Once it fit, he peeled the tape off the gasket and pressed it up onto the underside of the roof.  He pre-drilled and inserted screws all around the gasket.

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When all the ductwork was connected he pre-drilled a hole into each duct joint and installed at least one if not two 8 x 1/2″screws to hold the sections into position.

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Then he wrapped each joint with the silver tuck tape to seal it.

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Before he finished up, hubs turned the power back on to make sure everything was running smoothly. Then he turned the power back off (as a precaution) and went back into the attic to wrap the pipe with insulation and tie it on with cord (he reused the old insulation that was originally there).  He also returned all the blown in insulation to its original position between the joists.

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He brought all his tools back down and then put the ceiling cover over the fan to finish it off. Now the fan purrs like a kitten; bring on the rubber ducky!

For more bathroom renos, check out the following posts: Reclaiming and Maximizing Space in the Bathroom; and

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Powder Room Makeover – Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

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I’ll have one more bathroom reno in the next few weeks; we just finished updating my Mom’s bathroom!

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Powder Room Makeover – Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Our powder room is the first room you see as you come into our front entry and it was an eyesore. Dated oak cabinets, builder beige walls, old toilet and an ugly light fixture made for a poor first impression.

It HAD to change, but having just gotten married, we were on a tight budget. We salvaged everything that was usable and upcycled some second hand finds (one found in our very own basement), making this a budget friendly makeover.

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We started by stripping everything away that was going to either get replaced or updated; that turned out to be everything except the cabinet doors!

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We patched the walls where we took down the sheet of mirror that was over the old vanity.  I wanted to add a hanging mirror there instead but couldn’t find anything that really caught my fancy, until one day we found something fantastic in a pile of old junk in our very own basement (see the reveal as you scroll down)!

We primed the walls and then painted the entire room a dark charcoal grey.  You would think that a dark colour would make the room look smaller, but it didn’t. I think it’s because we added a lot of contrast by way of artwork, fixtures and trim paint, which were all light in colour (as you’ll see later).

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Patching the walls before priming

My husband ended up rebuilding the vanity cabinet because it wasn’t very sturdy, but he kept the doors for me so I could add a very special feature: some iridescent grey water glass.

We cut the centre panel out of each door, then spray painted the frames with a charcoal grey car paint. Car paint is great to use in the bathroom in case there’s any splashes!

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After the paint was dry, I inserted the glass into the doors, hung them on the cabinet and added new hardware.

I wouldn’t recommend putting water glass in the lower part of any cabinet if you have children because this particular glass isn’t tempered.  For us that wasn’t a problem because we don’t have young kids in the house (and I wanted the powder room to have a bit of sparkle!).

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Water glass is beautiful, but it isn’t tempered so beware!

After the cabinet was done, we popped on the countertop. The counter was actually the inspiration for the colour scheme of the entire bathroom. It happened to be a left over piece from the renovation of a previous house I fixed up. I knew I’d have a use for it one day, so I held onto it – for a few years 🙂 It was the perfect size – and essentially free!

I installed a glass tile backsplash before we cut the hole for the sink. The counter gave me somewhere to work and rest my tools and adhesive/bucket of grout while I was installing the tile. Because it was such a tiny area (and we were trying to save money), I used a dollar store rubber kitchen spatula instead of a more expensive float to apply the grout! It worked great.

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Once the tile was done, we were ready to install a new ceramic sink that we found on clearance. Before installing it we used putty to seal around the hole we cut for the sink. The putty adds an extra measure of water proofing that I think is better than caulking for sealing. It also provides a cushion to bed the sink into.

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Putty is rolled into ropes before applying to sink area

Here, you can see the dramatic charcoal grey on all the walls contrasts with the while trim, towels and flooring. We also installed a new matching toilet paper and towel holder in a chrome finish to add more sparkle.

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We decided we needed extra storage because my husband was going to be using the powder room in the morning to shave and brush his teeth so he wouldn’t wake me up. We found an old wooden medicine cabinet at the Habitat for Humanity Re Store; I think it cost a mere $15! We measured the perimeter of the cabinet, then cut a hole in the drywall between the studs so we could recess it into the wall.  We added some 2 x 4’s along the top and bottom in between the studs to reinforce the structure to accept the cabinet.

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We spray painted the cabinet frame and door the same colour as the walls so it would blend in seamlessly.

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But then I had a change of heart and I decided to do THIS to the centre of the door:

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Testing out the spacing on the wall

I literally just decoupaged on prints from an old calendar – again, another freebie! I added an additional decorative raised effect using venetian plaster that I troweled through a variety of botanical and nautical stencils. The next step was to crackle the surface and rub in a bit of stain to age it and highlight the cracks. Finally, I added some thin strips of wood to separate each image and added a high gloss Varathane to protect the whole surface from splashes. It adds just the right pop of colour to the monochromtic space, don’t you think?

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A plain wooden cabinet get a fun decoupage finish to add a POP of colour!

Once the cabinet was done, I needed a mirror that would counterbalance it and also reflect the burst of colour coming from the ‘artwork’. Here is what we found in the aforementioned junk pile in our basement:

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It wasn’t a thing of beauty – yet, but it had potential! It clearly needed a cosmetic overhaul so, in keeping with the monochromatic colour theme, we stripped it down to bare wood and then primed and gave it a fresh coat of the same charcoal paint we used on our wall.

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I absolutely love that the mirror used to belong to my husband’s great grandmother; it adds a vintage touch to the space. I also love the authentic antique quality of the mirror glass itself. It’s see-through in spots; to me, the fact that the silver backing isn’t perfect makes it so much more beautiful!

Here’s the reveal once the mirror was in place. Doesn’t the mirror balance and reflect the medicine cabinet beautifully?

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You’d think we might have stopped there, but we really wanted to go all out with the glamour so we splurged a little and added some crown moulding at the ceiling.

First, we installed some wooden corner blocks to help us position the moulding and then we pin-nailed it in place. We caulked any gaps at the ceiling and walls with paintable caulk.

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As you can see above, we still didn’t have a light fixture in place at this point. I was taking a stained glass fusing course at the time and decided to make my own light fixture. It’s subtle, but you can see that there are starfish in the glass that play off the ceramic ones I attached to the wall above the toilet. The white in the crown mouding, light fixture and star fish are a nice contrast against the deep colour of the walls.

Here’s how the light fixture looked before and after.

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Light fixture before and after

Here are a few more afters. I added some light and airy artwork to the wall.

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And a final before and after comparison:

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The makeover was a big improvement; now we’re no longer embarrassed to have guests use the power room and my husband has a nice place to get ready in the morning. At first, he thought it was too nice and thought we should reserve it for guests only. However, I truly believe that the real secret to a long and a happy marriage is never having to share a bathroom, so I didn’t see any reason to start 🙂

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