February 20, 2016

Bathroom Remodel - Phase Next

After installing the cabinets, countertop, and sinks, the next committing move was to tear out the old, plastic tub surround and redo the shower area.  This turned into a multi-phase project that was more work than anticipated.

The old shower, complete with pink bathtub and leaky, plastic surround
After removing the surround, I discovered two layers of wet, moldy drywall with complementary smell.

With the drywall removed and mold damage assessed, I decided to plane down the studs that appeared affected by mold and mildew.  This brought clean, fresh wood to the surface, convincing me the mold issue was surficial as far as the wall studs were concerned.  As an additional precaution, I hosed down the studs, twice, with mold and mildew killer/preventer.

With that unexpected issue dealt with, I began some framing modifications to accommodate a built-in niche for the new tub surround.

Framed out niche for 
 Prior to rebuilding the surround, I planned to turn the hideous, pink tub white.  Using a $95 refinishing kit from Bath Works, I made this happen.

White tub!
Next task, plumbing.  I installed a new valve, tub spout, and shower head and connected it all up with PEX.  The instructions said to use copper pipe between the valve and tub spout, but the "expert" I spoke with at Home Depot said PEX would be just fine (and I desperately wanted to avoid soldering).  So, I went with 1/2" PEX all around (more on this later).

Plumbing complete (sort of)
 With blocking in at all planned board edges and transitions, and the wall framing planed as flat as I could get it, I was ready to start rebuilding the surround.

 Rebuilding the surround would consist of installing 1/2" backer board up to about the level of the shower head and waterproofing the backer board layer prior to tiling.

Backer board installed
 I had originally attempted to leave the existing drywall above the back board in place.  This turned out to be noticeably thicker than the 1/2" backer board, so it had to come out as well.

Upper drywall removed and replaced
 Next, the waterproofing.  I taped all joints with 6" fiberglass tape and covered all backboard surfaces with Hydro Barrier waterproofing membrane.

Pretty, blue membrane
Once the membrane dried, I installed the fixtures in order to temporarily use the shower while we wait for our ordered tile to arrive.  In doing this I discovered that water would come out both the shower and bath outlets when it was only supposed to be coming out of the bath outlet.  Further research into this issue led me to the conclusion that it was because I didn't use copper pipe between the valve and the bath spout.  While there is nothing magical about the material itself, 1/2" copper pipe has a larger inside diameter than 1/2" PEX.  The reduced flow through the smaller diameter PEX causes a pressure build up that ultimately raises the column of water between the valve and the shower head high enough to allow water through the shower head.  My planned solution, waiting to be implemented and tested while I wait for a couple of PEX parts to show up, is to increase the PEX diameter from 1/2" to 3/4" between the valve and bath outlet.  With the back of the wall still completely open, this should be a relatively simple and non-invasive fix while still avoiding and need to solder copper pipe.

The entire process described in this post took me one week.  I worked mostly evenings as I've been working full work weeks as a carpenter with Confluence Construction for the last five weeks.  As my hair is still long and I'm now working as a carpenter, the low-hanging-fruit of a joke is that I look like a modern-day Jesus.

Provided this plumbing fix works, the main tings left to finish the bathroom are to tile the surround, tile the floor, finish up some drywall installation, texturing, and painting, and some minor trim work.