The Hidden Facets of Bathroom Remodels

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The Hidden Facets of Bathroom Remodels

Diane from Myer's Constructs
Diane of Myers Constructs Inc.

By Diane Menke

I just got off the phone with our lead carpenter who was calling from a job site where we are replacing a powder room and laundry closet combo. He let me know that in the spot where we need to locate the new toilet, we have a floor joist in the way. This is just one example of the many things we need to fix behind the scenes – and walls! – to make your bathroom work well.  To repair problems like these, we cut the floor joists that are in the way and “head them off” with double 2x materials and joist hangers so the load (which is the weight of the building, anything on it such as snow, and the person standing in the bathroom) are all transferred to structure, which then transfers that load to the foundation below.

Here’s another problem we ran into, and this may sound like really basic common sense, but a toilet needs enough clearance room on all sides for someone to be able to use it. The original powder room in this house had what I call a “standing room only” toilet. That means you can’t sit on this toilet because the front of it is too close to the wall. I’ve used public restrooms designed by these bad stand-up pee artists. Who told them they could design a bathroom? They never took the time to look at the codebook or, easier yet, sit on the toilet to see if it fits!

Want some more common sense? A toilet needs floor structure under it so you don’t fall through the floor and into the room below when you try to use it. Most bathrooms we renovate have floor joists that were hogged out by the plumbers so they could run their pipes. What do they care about wood? They only care about pipes and what’s in them! In these cases, we often have to head off interrupted structure. Many times, we have to use glue to “sister” the structure with plates of wood or steel at prescribed mechanical fastening schedules. And sometimes we just reframe the whole bathroom floor with new framing to make it level and strong.

What’s more, the original laundry area and closets in the house were ill sorted. More carpenter-as-designer B.S.  The new rooms will have nice flow, great structure, doors that don’t hit each other, and great lighting, and you will be able to sit on this toilet comfortably.

Other expensive stuff you never see includes:

  • Grounded outlets, spaced to code
  • Wiring for audio and visual
  • Plumbing, configured correctly
  • Structure, such as wall and ceiling framing supported by floor framing below to hold up the roof and other stuff over your head, not just under your bottom

Not-so-expensive stuff, but super important, nonetheless:

  • Insulation – This bathroom had none!
  • Vapor barriers – Bathrooms make a lot of water vapor. Do you know what water in a house’s walls does? It makes you sick with mold, and it keeps us very busy with work when you call us to fix it.
  • Ventilation – You must get the water out of the house. You never notice great ventilation. You only notice bad ventilation, which causes mold or leaks sewer gasses into your home.

This “behind the walls stuff” is important. It’s what makes your bathroom work, and it comes with a price tag to match. The costs can run from $10,000 to $30,000 per bathroom, depending on size and scope of the job. The shiny fixtures are cheap, by comparison, and much less important, because you can have a $400 tub or a $4,000 tub, but they both have to have all the “behind the walls stuff”!

Article by Diane Menke of Myers Constructs

2 COMMENTS

  1. “More carpenter as designer B.S.”

    Interesting statement. Any carpenter worth their salt has basic design savvy if not more.

    I’ve also dealt with quite a bit of “designer B.S.”

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