By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Musings

Here’s an elemental truth about bathroom remodeling:

Pound for pound, ounce for ounce, and brick for figurative brick bathrooms rank at the top of the difficulty scale. I both tell this truth–and hear it back–from attendees/contractors at The Remodeling Show where I give a bathroom remodeling demonstration. This year’s show is at the end of October in Indianapolis, but I digress…

…For the bathroom here at Mangled Manor I would call this truth extra-true.

Bathroom Remodeling at Mangled Manor

The first tiger to wrangle was how to use the space in this 10×12 former bedroom. The people who put in the bathroom we inherited either gave this notion zero thought or tried to do as poor a job as they could. When you walk in the door all the fixtures–tub, water closet, and vanity sink–were jammed into the left side of the room. Straight in front of the door you could practically lay down a full sheet–32 square feet–of plywood and touch…nothing. Just space.

And opportunity.

Bathroom Remodeling Leads to Two Punchlines

As I’m fond of saying, we respect the nature of the traditional builders, but those people went to the bathroom outside, so turning the clock all the way back ‘aint gonna happen, nor will we keep the 1970s-era train wreck. So, having period details in mind, we started moving the fixtures around on paper and making a period-respectful floor-plan. This task–hugely important–leads me to one of the two punchlines of this blog.

Punchline #1: As a contractor I approach a home improvement from the intended finished surfaces first. I get an idea of what I (or a customer) wants. Then–and only then–do I start weaving my mind into the guts of the building to see if it is possible.

  • Ideal: “The toilet would be best here, not there.”
  • My thoughts: “Will it work for the space–can you access the toilet, use it, it is in the way of anything else? What about a vent? Can I move the waste line without having to demo the floor system? Will I have enough pitch in the waste line to get s___ to roll downhill if the toilet moves that far?”

These are big questions and require serious thought and technical know-how to answer. And they require a heavy dose of stick-tuitiveness to execute.

Punchline #2: As we work on the bathroom we realize there are other, massive to be honest, blank spaces all around the house.

If the bathroom is any indication, we’re in this space for a long time.