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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baths on the Half Shell

Renovation: Half Bath turned into smaller Half Bath plus Closet! (very long but informative post written by Eric)

This will be my first guest appearance on LaForce Be With You.  You have of course seen me looking handsome in lots of pictures either traveling, helping Emily with her projects, or parties that we have hosted.  Emily asked me to write up a blog post describing our adventures converting our gargantuan half bath into a half bath/closet combination.  I was lucky enough to have a real man show me the ropes (my Dad) otherwise we probably would have ended up with a flooded downstairs and weeping puppies (we of course would have had to buy puppies to fill the gaping hole left in our hearts after the failed project).  Typically my twin brother helps me out with these larger projects but he feigned an illness that weekend which was probably for the better; it would have been pretty crammed in there with 3 men.  It would have been like some horrible magic trick gone wrong.  Here are some before photos

As I said we started out with a ridiculously large half bath downstairs (it could have been a full bath, but we didn't want our neighbors watching us shower... kidding there are no windows in the bath).

We did not have a ton of storage space downstairs so we thought it would make the most sense to cut down on the half bath and build a closet.  The infrastructure was setup very well for this.  We figured we could use the current bathroom door as the closet door, move the sink, change around some electrical wiring, and bust out a side wall for the new bathroom wall.  Easy Peasy.  We were overly optimistic and figured we could knock this out in a weekend.  Not even close, though that was mostly my fault as I was super slow doing the drywall, but lets get to that later.

Anyways, lets get started.  So we knew right off the bat we were going to need to move the pedestal sink that was currently right near the door.  It had the audacity to be right where our closest should have been.  We did what any man would do and started busted walls out left and right.  Just kidding, but we did cut out the sheet rock in the garage so we could get a better look at how the plumbing was setup.  Once we had access to the plumbing it was a matter of making a trip to Lowes to get the parts we needed.

Once we returned from Lowes we turned off the water so we wouldn't drown, and then disconnected the pedestal sink from the existing plumbing and from the wall.  Once it was disconnected we moved it out the way so we could shorten the plumbing to watch where we wanted the relocated sink to stand.  We cut the existing pipe down to the appropriate length, reattached the proper PVC connectors, and then hooked the sink back up to make sure it still worked.  This took some time, but was not overly difficult.

Once the sink was in place we started thinking about how the electrical outlets, lights, and light switches would work.  We had an existing light fixture that was above the sink and we determined we could use that same connection for a new fixture in the closet.  We additionally had a light switch available for that connection that would also be in the closet to control the light fixture.  Once we had planned out where we would need to run the electrical wire.  Like all good plans we had to revise it approximately 100 times before we got to the end.

Once we had an idea of where all the electrical items needed to be, we started thinking about framing and more demolition.  We knew where the wall was going to be, and we knew we needed to create a new door for the bathroom (as the current bathroom door was going to be used for the closet).  We measured everything out framing wise and made sure the door was going to fit where we needed it.

We used one of Dad's new tools to cut out the sheet rock that would eventually become the door frame.  It was pretty nifty and I was pretty jealous of the new tool, so I promptly hid it from him hoping he would forget about it and leave it for me.  Kudos to me.  At this stage it was pure demolition, which is really pretty easy as you don't have to be super exact.  There were a few kinks in terms of where some piping was and some wall studs that had to be removed, but nothing that a saw and hammer couldn't take care of.  I suggested termites but Dad promptly said that only works in kitchens.

After we tore out a new door for the half bath, we started framing out the wall that would divide the half bath and the new closest.  Here we did the normal measure twice, cut once routine.  We made sure the cuts were very exact and a smidge longer than really necessary so we would get an extremely tight fit.  We just used hammer to bang the 2x4s in.

We laid out a 2x4 that would serve as the base for the wall, then used 3 2x4s as the wall joists, and finally another 2x4 at the top completed the wall framing.

Once we had the wall frame in place, it was time to run our electrical wire.  Since we already had a perfect plan there should have been no issues.  Of course as we were running the wire and installing outlets, we figured out we were about half as clever as we needed to be.  My Dad is an excellent troubleshooter though so we did not end up getting too stuck at any points, and needed to make another trip to Lowe's to cover some missing materials.  We essentially needed to run a new fixture for the half bath since we were using the old fixture in the closet; we also decided an outlet would come in handy by the sink (hair dryers and whatnot); finally we also needed a new light switch to control the new outlet.  Some of the outlets were easier than others.  Sometimes it can be difficult to get the outlet to attach to the drywall and you end up with drywall that can't take a bite.  At this point you have limited options.  You essentially need to build a brace of some sort that the outlet box can be screwed into.  The other option is to cry silently in a dark room listening to emo music.

After we completed the electrical work, we could get the "wall" up.  We measured and cut the sheetrock to our specifications for the wall and screwed them into our frame.  You want to make sure you get the screwed deep into sheet rock (but not so deep as to go through it).  You don't want any screws sticking out at this point because it will show up quite clearly later on when you try and paint.  Another tip is to make sure you have a utility knife handy.  It makes cutting sheet rock super easy and is easier to handle than trying to use a saw or anything else.

Once the walls were up, the last infrastructure piece was to get the doors up.  Unfortunately the current door had to be flipped around to open out (like a closest should) as opposed to opening in (as a room should).    We started out with a chisel to chisel out the spots for the hinges.  This works OK, but is a pretty slow and frustrating process.  You are much better served to bite the bullet and purchase a hinge guide.  It has all the tools necessary to make a clean cut hinge.  Once we cut out the hinges, we had to fill in the spots where the hinges used to be.  Here some wood filler and some sanding goes a long way.  Then it was just a matter of installing the hinges and attaching the door to the hinges.

The last infrastructure piece was to get the new door up.  Remember we had already cut out the necessary spot for it  We had purchased a new door from Lowes that morning so we pulled it out from the now extremely messy garage

If you haven't set up a door before-don't.  Just kidding, but it was pretty difficult from my perspective.  I think it is one of things you need practice for and of course you can't get that experience without doing it.  Its a very delicate process as you have to get it set exactly so ensuring that the door will hang level (and not creak closed like some Paranormal Activity remake).  There are also a lot of loose pieces that you have to manage so make sure you have a friend (or foe if you are into that kind of thing) to help you out.  It is especially helpful to have a wife that is a project manager - really makes the process much smoother :)

At this point my Dad had to head back to Columbia, but we had gotten a large amount of the work done.  He gave me a few lessons on spackling the sheet rock, and then high tailed it out of there before I asked for any more favors.  I was done at this point too.  The next part of the process took a good long time as I was doing it after work sporadically.  Its a lot of sanding and spackling very thin coats over each of the seams and corners, over and over again.  I ended up doing about 8 layers of the spackle to ensure it was a smooth finish.  The corners are by far the toughest part.  You can buy special tape that gives the spackle something to grip, but trying to make a corner smooth takes a lot of practice (that I currently lack).

At that point it was just a clean up job.  Reattach the baseboards, and paint the walls.  We waited a while before getting to those, but eventually we picked the colors we wanted and got it done. We went a shade lighter than the previous green which is also in the kitchen.  Here are some pictures of the final product. Of course it's not easy taking pictures of a small bathroom.

We have also built some awesome shelves for the closet but I will leave that for another post.  We are still missing one critical piece of the clean up job.  Where we removed the wall to put in the new door, they had not laid down any hardwood so right now it goes right to the concrete subfloor.  We have been unable to find the same wood without having to buy a whole bunch of it.  At this point we are either considering taking out some of the wood from the closet underneath the stairs, or getting some type of threshold.  Let us know if you have any ideas!  Hope you have enjoyed my guest post.

Linking up at these fun parties:


  1. This is, perhaps, my most slow-pokey week yet. My apologies for taking so long to get over here from “A Little Birdie Told Me..” to enjoy your post. It’s important to me to visit and really give my full attention to all the links, but as the party grows it’s taking more and more time. Thank you so much for bearing with me, and for continuing to share your talent at Rook No. 17!

    P.S. Love the new look of your blog!!


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