We had been in the dirty demolition stage for what felt like a really long time (2 months to be exact) and it would have been easy to lose momentum. I remember being in the bathroom and thinking that it looked like an episode of DIY SOS.
We had to really push ourselves to keep going and finish off a few last jobs before we could get our plasterer in.
Our to-do list:
1. Fill in the brickwork in-between the two windows – where the chimney was removed.
2. Do the pipework which was going to be behind the walls – the hot and cold pipes for the shower and the two waste pipes for the basin.
3. Fill in the old kitchen door with wooden beams ready for plaster board.
4. Put wooden battens in-between the beams for the radiators and basin to be fixed to.
5. Insulate the walls
One by one we slowly ticked each task off our list.
David’s parents came over one weekend to kindly lend a helping hand, David and his Dad did the pipework and me and his Mum insulated the walls. After an excellent team effort we were finally ready for the plasterer to start!
Not the most exciting topic I grant you, but a necessary one.
Our current toilet waste is an old Victorian cast iron pipe that comes up from underneath the bathroom floor, connects to an adapter of sorts then fixes to the toilet. Now, whilst it fits in quite nicely with the current surroundings, when the bathroom is finished and is all shiny and new, this is going to look terrible. It will also make tiling this area a nightmare.
After much umming and ahring we decided if you are going to do something, do it once and do it right (our general ethos when it comes to house number 59). So we called our wonderful plumbers and asked them to quote for replacing the main waste pipe. We made a deal that if we sorted the scaffolding tower, they would give us a good price. Done.
It took them half a day to cut down the old cast iron pipe and replace with a new plastic one. They then spent the rest of day chatting to us, our plumbers love to chat. They normally have some good stories to tell and they like to give us advice on the house, and we are happy to listen. They talked David through how to fit the waste pipes for the shower, sinks and bath and gave us some good advice about the pipework for the sinks. Nice guys.
Now the waste pipe comes straight in from the outside wall and connects to the toilet. No more tiling nightmares, David can sleep soundly.
When renovating, rooms have to get worse before they get better and it was at this point that the bathroom was at its worst.
Once we took out the current suite, that was it, no bathroom at house number 59. It would involve showering at work and brushing teeth at the kitchen sink, so for obvious reasons we wanted to wait until the last possible moment.
For now we worked around the shower and toilet, stripping off wall tiles and removing the old plaster and slats. We had to be careful of the bathroom ceiling tiles as it had been suggested in the survey that they could be asbestos, and after a bit of research it seemed that indeed they were. After a quick a call to our local council we were armed with advice on how to safety remove them and had booked a time slot for them to be collected. David decided that he would take one for the team, suited up and set about taking them down.
We also had lots of floor boards up at this point so we could figure out what pipework we had, what needed to be removed and what needed to be replaced. This made using the toilet somewhat difficult, but it was all fun and games… (Every time one of us went to the loo the other would say “toilet challenge” said in 1970’s game show host voice)
We had put it off until the last possible moment, but now all that was left to do was to take out the rest of current suite. From now on house number 59 was going to be roughing it!
As the chimney breast was on the (upstairs) kitchen side of the adjoining wall, up until this point the bathroom had remained untouched. With the chimney breast now removed all that was left to do was to knock through. This was the point of no return, once we did this our bathroom would become a building site.
The general division of labour was David knocked out the bricks and I would sort them into bags ready to take down stairs to the skip. But when it came to knocking down the wall, I couldn’t resist a go with the club hammer! This was definitely the messiest part, we were knocking through bricks on one side and plaster and tiles on the other. There was a brief moment when the floor was lost under a mound of rubble and I wasn’t sure if me or the bathroom would ever be clean again.
After what felt like a hundred trips up and down the stairs carrying bags of bricks and rubble we could final stand back and admire our new LARGE bathroom!
For the time being we left the top of the chimney underneath the bathroom floor but above the downstairs ceiling, this way our current kitchen remains undisturbed until we are ready to remove the chimney on the ground floor.
With the planning stage complete it was time to get cracking and get our hands dirty. With the big thumbs up from our structural engineer and local building control there was no holding us back.
The reason we could remove the chimney, without having to re-enforce the structure of the house, is because were planning on removing the entire chimney, from top the bottom. This was not something we entered into lightly, we did lots of research and had lots of advice.
The first task was to remove the chimney stack from the roof, bring the stack below roof level and then patch the roof back up. Whilst me and David planned on doing most of the work ourselves, I don’t think my nerves could handle this particular job. This was a job for the professionals. In one day our roofer removed the chimney stack, patched up the roof and the top of chimney was now in the loft ready for us to bring down, brick by brick.
The bit in the loft was probably the hardest, David had to lie flat in order to get close enough and trying to hit out bricks when you are lying down is not easy. My job was to collect the bricks, bag them up and then put them in the skip on the driveway. That night we both ached, a lot.
It wasn’t long before we broke through to the first floor and could start bringing down the chimney breast in the upstairs kitchen. We had already taken all the plaster of the wall so it was just a case of knocking out bricks, one at a time.
It was hard work and it was dirty work and I will probably look back at this in years to come and think I can’t believe we did that. But we did. Just the two of us. And we were still friends at the end of it.
Fast forward six months and we were ready to start planning the bathroom. I really enjoy the planning stage and with a bathroom remodel there was a lot of planning to do!
First we had to try and work out what the size of the bathroom would be once we removed the adjoining wall. Then we could work out if the shower, sink etc. would fit and configure the best layout for the bathroom. As we were doing the bathroom remodel ourselves we had no contractor or design team, but thanks to Google we found a free bathroom planning website and were able to roughly plan out the layout.
I had always wanted a roll top bath so when we found ‘the one’ a few months back at our local salvage yard we bought it there and then. Buying it from a salvage yard was the only way we could afford to have what we wanted, buying it new would have cost thousands of pounds so at £200 it was a steal. Yes it needed work doing to it, but that is all part of fun! It was a beast of a tub and therefore the layout of bathroom kind of centred around where the tub would fit.
After lots of research online and looking through bathroom brochures, we decided to buy the rest of bathroom suite from Heritage Bathrooms. Their Victoria range was the perfect balance between traditional and timeless, quality and within budget. We found a supplier in London who offered us a great price on the double console basin, close coupled WC, shower tray and shower screen. Whilst the name ‘Bathroom Discount Centre’ sounds a bit wheeler dealer, it actually turned out to be a really nice showroom in Fulham (plus if it is good enough for the editor of Sheerluxe it is definitely good enough for us!).
When we bought the roll top bath we also bought the 1901 Bristan bath taps that came with it. They were in great condition and an absolute bargain, new they are £450, we got them for £60. Bristan is a quality brand and their 1901 taps are beautiful, so we bought the basin taps and the shower to match. Again we managed to find a great price by shopping around on online.
The Tiles and Paint
This called for a trip to our local Fired Earth store. I had already spotted the wall tiles I wanted when looking through their brochure and I always knew I wanted black and white floor tiles so it was simply a case of working out how many tiles we needed and a choosing a paint colour that worked with the tiles. We knew that we wanted to go bold in bathroom and both liked the idea of green, but a sort of Victorian green, so ‘Greenwich Green‘ was the perfect choice.
I have read that on average a house renovation can involve making 15,000 decisions. I am starting to think that might be an understatement.
The owners of house number 59 before us were father and son-in-law. The father lived downstairs and the son-in-law lived upstairs. The only modification they made to turn the house into two flats was to install a kitchen upstairs, other than that there was no lasting evidence.
The current upstairs bathroom was small, just enough room for a shower, toilet and a small basin. An adequate size for now, but not for the family home we wanted house number 59 to become.
The upstairs kitchen, next door to the bathroom, was described on the floor plan as bedroom number 4. It would be a small single bedroom at best so would probably be used a ‘study’, which we felt was not a good use space. So we started making plans to covert these two small rooms into one big, family sized bathroom. The bathroom of our dreams with a large walk in shower, roll top bath and double basin.
But before we started to get ahead of ourselves we had to do something about the state of the current bathroom. When we first bought the house these grand plans for bathroom were just dreams and we had to save money and try and get the two front bedrooms finished first. So we needed to make a few small temporary fixes to make the bathroom useable.
The first thing we did was to remove all the built in cupboards, they were filthy and removing them seemed like the easier option rather than trying to clean them! We then gave everything else a really good clean, I painted the window frame white and David and his Dad laid new flooring.
It would do for now whilst we continued to dream big…