There’s always that one project that’s like the gift that keeps giving, but not in a good way! For us it was our master bathroom remodel.
When we bought the house the bathroom was very dated, cramped and poorly maintained. We knew we needed to remodel it, we just didn’t plan on it taking over a year to complete! There are a few things we learned through the process and so I thought I’d share my learnings so you don’t make the same mistakes we did.
1. Don’t start demo until you have the money to complete the job
We started the demo earlier than planned due to an ant infestation. I swore to never use the grotty bathroom again after sharing my shower with ants! And shortly after that, thanks to my enthusiastic husband, the walls started coming down, carpets ripped up and we were left with this.
The problem was, we weren’t ready to put it all back together again. We needed to save up, buy the materials, book the builders… So the project was left like this for around a year.
My advice, don’t start demo until you’re ready to put it all back.
2. Don’t skimp on the essentials
I tried to save money by ordering cheap faucets (taps) from an online retailer. Whilst they looked very nice and were solid enough, they were a nightmare for the plumbers to install and didn’t meet local building codes. So in an attempt to save a few dollars it meant more hassle and wasted time trying to send them back and find alternative named brand replacements at last-minute.
My advice, do your research, make sure you understand local codes if you are sourcing materials yourself and spend money where it makes sense. For things you’ll use everyday it’s probably worth spending a little more to ensure good quality. We ended up buying ours from Grohe and have not been disappointed.
3. Expect things to go wrong
We were project managing the remodel ourselves. Which meant hiring in sub-contractors at the right time in the right order. We thought we’d allowed enough time for each of the trades to complete their work before the next trades came in. However as it always goes, things go wrong, delays happen and we ended up having to push trades back to accommodate this.
Some tips we learned when project managing it ourselves:
- Buy the materials well ahead of time so that if things are missing or broken it won’t delay contractors
- Check things as soon as you get them, double-check you bought the right size etc
- Be extremely clear with contractors early on, draw accurate diagrams where possible
- Schedule in some contingency time, as however much you plan things will go wrong
4. Porcelain tiles will break
Porcelain tiles, although very durable and easy to maintain compared to real stone, are extremely hard to drill and so end up cracking easily. Of the eight holes that needed to be drilled, three of them cracked. Ideally you should steer clear of using a hammer drill on these types of tiles, however to drill them without will likely take about 30 minutes per hole! So unless you have a lot of patience, expect a few to crack.
The other thing we learned about these large format porcelain tiles is that some tend to have a slight curvature to them. Meaning they don’t meet completely flush at the corners, which spoils the streamlined look. My advice is to buy extra so that any curved tiles can be discarded for straighter ones.
5. Be careful not to be too adventurous
Whilst something may seem like a great idea at the time, be cautious and make sure you think about the practicalities of achieving your desired look.
For me it was the solid oak live edge countertop. I wanted something stunning and rustic and saw photos of similar countertops on Houzz. And if you saw the recent episode of Fixer Upper you might have noticed that Chip and Jo also used live edge in their kitchen project (Season 5 episode 2).
Photo courtesy of HGTV
Before I knew it I’d found a local sawmill and was making plans to visit to pick out my piece of live edge. We found the perfect piece of 3” thick oak milled from a locally grown tree. Perfect! It was cut to size and we took it home and left it in the garage to dry out for a few months. We then sanded it and applied two coats of polyurethane and left it inside with heavy tiles on it (to keep it flat) to continue drying out until we were ready to use it.
When we came to use it we found that it had warped so much it was about 1” out at two corners and wouldn’t lay flat on the vanity that we’d bought. So we had to take it back to the sawmill, a 2 hour round trip, to be re-sawn to make it flat again. Which also meant we had to re-sand it and apply two coats of polyurethane again!
Then came cutting the holes for the sinks… The sinks we’d chosen needed almost the entire size of the sinks cutting out. I searched online for the best tool to use to cut through almost 3” solid oak, and found a lot of posts from carpenters cursing Designers and Architects for choosing such a ridiculous countertop. That’s when I realized that maybe this perhaps wasn’t the best of ideas.
We did manage to cut the sink holes, eventually, after much cursing from my husband, hired tools and many broken jigsaw blades. But I think the result was worth all the effort. However looking back, it was maybe a tad adventurous!
6. Take photos of stud walls
My last tip, although only a simple one, would’ve saved a lot of time and scratching heads. If you’re building walls, make a note of where the studs are before you put the drywall back. It saves a lot of time trying to find them afterwards as you try to hang that heavy mirror or vanity unit.
You can read about how we created the finished look in my next blog ‘How to create a rustic country chic bathroom.’