Category Archives: Remodeling

Master Bathroom Remodel Part 2: Turning the Dream into Reality

My post Master Bathroom Remodel Part 1 covers how Chris and I came up with our plan to convert our small half bath into a full master bathroom, and how we found a great contractor.

This posting picks up where the fun really starts – the actual remodel process.  We were going to cut a huge hole in the roof of our 1920’s house and add a dormer for a full master bathroom.  So when I say “fun,” I mean the homeowner’s version of skydiving, rollercoaster, point-of-no-return fun.

But other than possibly destroying the look of the house if things went sideways, we really didn’t have much to lose. The tiny half bath, which was actually a converted closet, would not be missed.

Master bath before remodel
Half bath, south wall, before remodel
Half bath, north wall, during demolition
Half bath, north wall, during demolition

The master bathroom remodel finally begins!

Once I met the project lead, Bruce, I knew we were going to be okay.  He knew his stuff, and his easygoing manner had no doubt brought many nervous homeowners down from their ledges.

Every morning, he and his crew would come upstairs and work in the hole they had cut in our roof.

Master bathroom remodel: house exterior during remodel
Bruce and his crew

Every evening, I would come home from work and check out the progress.  I would enjoy the view from the new hole and brainstorm on finish materials with Chris.

Chris came up with some great ideas: a cathedral ceiling, an in-floor heating system.  He also wanted a separate shower and tub, an idea I loved because that meant we could get a free-standing claw foot tub.

Choosing our finish materials and fixtures

Our goal was to use materials and moldings that were similar to what we had elsewhere in our house.  We wanted the new master bath to blend into the original design.

A claw foot tub

Claw foot tubs were more commonly used in houses older than ours, but they were still sometimes used in the 1920’s, so we felt that it was a safe choice.

We didn’t like the look of the reproduction claw foot tubs.  After much hunting, we found an old one at a savage shop in surprisingly good original condition and at a great price.  We bought it on the spot, hurried home, and Chris jumped in his truck to pick it up before they accidentally sold it again to someone else!

Master bath remodel - clawfoot tub

Master bath remodel

Carrara marble flooring and countertops

We loved the clean and timeless look of Carrara marble.  We’d seen it in remodels of other older homes.

There were so many Carrara marble flooring options.  Some of them, like the mosaic marble tiles, were so gorgeous.  But with the amount of flooring we needed, that was little cost-prohibitive so we went with simple 12 X 12 marble floor tiles.

We got the sink vanity from Pottery Barn and it came with its own Carrara countertop.  But we had to have a marble countertop custom cut for the little vanity desk.

Master bath remodel - south wall

We were lucky to find the little wainscoted vanity on closeout at Pottery Barn for under $800.  It included a Carrara marble countertop and a sink.

vanlity lights

 Subway tile in the shower stall

There was white subway tile in our main floor bathroom.  So we used subway tile in the new shower stall with a black marble liner tile to add interest.  The marble liner is in a classic Greek-inspired pattern that was popular in the 1920’s.

master bath marbel liner
Shower stall marble tile detail

Nickel finish fixtures

We liked the warm glow of nickel over other finishes that might be popular at the moment but later would go out of style.  We decided to keep it classic and go with nickel finish towel bars, faucets, and light fixtures.

master bath remodel - nickel fixture

Beadboard wainscoting

We considered using subway tile as wainscoting for the walls, like we have in our main floor bathroom.  But for this remodel, that would have been a heck of a lot of tile – maybe to the point of overkill.  So we opted for beadboard wainscoting, still very much in keeping with a 1920’s house.

original pocket window

Hexagonal glass cabinet knobs

These are pretty common and still widely available.  But they look nice with white cabinetry and they were used in the house’s original built-in cabinets.

Master bath glass knobs
Glass cabinet knob

Wood framed leaded glass windows

The original leaded glass windows in the house are of course single-paned and the new bathroom window would be double-paned.  It’s difficult if not impossible to get double-paned leaded glass windows.

So we had to find a work-around.  We ordered plain wood-framed double-paned windows.  Then we had strips of leading added over the glass by an artist who specializes in stained glass windows.  The windows were then framed with molding that matched the original windows.

Leaded glass pocket window
The original leaded glass pocket window
Master bath window
New window with leaded beading added

Custom cabinetry

On either side of the footprint of the new dormer, we had little sloping areas that followed the original roofline.  We wanted to put these little spaces to work.

So we decided to tuck a linen closet in on one side,

Linen closet

a vanity desk on the other.

makeup desk

They would be very specific sizes and had to be custom built.  Bruce worked with a cabinet-maker who built them with inset drawers to match the original built-ins elsewhere in the house.

Stucco exterior

Once the dormer was built, it was time to match it with the original stucco siding.  We didn’t want to use stucco panels on the dormer, knowing the texture wouldn’t quite match that of the house.  Bruce found a contractor who specialized in real old-world stucco to come and work his magic.

Cost Cutting Measures

Besides our bargain finds – the clawfoot tub and the vanity, we did a few other things to save money:

  • Chris did the demo work himself, saving around $1,000.
  • We did the interior painting ourselves.
  • We hired our own electrician.  He had done great work for us before and he charged a reasonable rate.

Details, details

In Part 3, we take a closer look at some of the fun  little details of our master bathroom remodel.


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Master Bathroom Remodel Part 1: How We Got Started

Big ideas for our small bathroom: dreaming up our master bathroom remodel

This is the little half bath on the second story that connected to our master bedroom.

Half bath before master bath remodel
Half bath before remodel

It really started life as a walk-in closet, and sometime in the 1950s it was converted to a half bath.  As you can see, it’s tucked into the roofline of the house.  We wanted to bump out the sloping wall along the roofline and convert this little half bath to a full master bathroom, which meant (gulp!) cutting a huge hole in our roof and putting in a dormer.

Not only would this give us enough space for a full master bath, but it would also add an east-facing window to the second floor.  And windows are a big deal to me.

The planning process – my heart was in my throat!

Adding a dormer to the 80-year-old house, if not done correctly, could really ruin its original charm.

I see this kind of thing all the time – unfortunate add-ons that obviously aren’t original to the house, and visually they do more harm than good.  I would rather have lived with the tiny half bath forever than have our sweet old house fall victim to that kind of abuse.

With remodel projects, I always feel more confident if I can really picture the finished product in my mind before we even start.  So I would stand in the tiny half bath and try to see all the possibilities.

Chris drew a template of the entire upstairs area – the finished space and the unfinished attic combined.  We used copies of this drawing to sketch out many possible bathroom configurations.

Master bathroom remodel
Chris’s drawing of the existing upstairs area

Then we would put the sketches aside until one of us had a brainstorm and wanted to add or change something.

We didn’t rush this process.  We looked at books and magazines for inspiration.  We attended several local home tours.  We researched dormers and photographed homes from the 1920s that had dormers we liked.

Finally we had a roughly sketched plan we both liked.  We were ready to get an architect to draw it up.

His drawings included several images showing how the exterior look of the house would change.  It all looked good to me on paper, and I prayed it would look good in reality.

Master Bathroom remodel

Master bathroom remodel

 

Finding the right contractor

For this remodel, we would be, as previously mentioned, cutting a huge hole in our roof and then framing in a dormer.  The dormer would then have to match the existing siding, which was the original stucco.  We would also be adding pipes and drains.

So we decided we would bite the bullet and hire a general contractor.  But how to find a good one?

We sent feelers out to friends and co-workers asking for contractor recommendations.  We cast a wide net from our real-life contacts so we would have several recommended contractors to choose from.

Then we considered the source. For instance, if I knew a particular co-worker to be a perfectionist and/or they had good taste, then we would definitely plan to meet the contractor that they recommended.  Bonus points if this perfectionist co-worker hired the same contractor more than once and was still happy.  Or if someone else recommended that same contractor.

Go with your gut

We scheduled meetings with the top three referrals to talk about our remodel plans.  All three seemed very competent but we just had a good gut feeling about one of them.  We liked him.  And as it turned out, we also liked his crew, especially the project lead, Bruce.

It never occurred to me how much time this crew would be spending at our house. That we liked these guys was a huge bonus because that made it easier for us to ask questions and request changes.  Bruce was honest with us when he knew an idea we had would not work, but he was also very accommodating about changes if they were for the better.

And he liked our cats.

Now that we had the right contractor, our work was done, right?  Wrong!  All our weekends were spent scouting finish materials and fixtures and making decisions.  In other words, shopping.  Oh the sacrifice!  More on this in Part 2.


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