Well, folks, it’s been an adventure! Brian and I are closing out our Master Bath Rebuild Series with a sincere word of gratitude and a handful of lessons learned.
I must have acquired my inquisitive, curious attitude from my parents and my own personal grit. For as long as I can remember, I’ve not been a huge fan of authority (my parents included…so sorry, mom and dad!). Challenge the status quo; there are many ways to do many things. To ask “Why?” is to learn, to learn is to grow, and to grow is to live. Experiences offer lessons that lead to different ways of thinking and living.
Life is an adventure of lessons learned.
What We Learned
Many of my own impactful lessons have come from discomfort and even failure. I’m a big believer in pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in order to grow and learn about personal boundaries and capabilities.
Excited AND scared, Brian and I uncomfortably headed into uncharted waters to explore the renovation of our own bathroom. The worst thing we could do is mess something up so badly that it would require a call to the professionals. We took a chance and succeeded, learning some big lessons along the way.
Understand Your Limits
With no kids and dual incomes, Brian and I were able to commit a serious amount of time to our project outside of work. Most days, we tended to our day jobs and then switched over to work on our bathroom late into the evening. Sometimes we woke up earlier to get some things done with the bathroom before we moved onto work. We also had an idea of a budget, though we were flexible when necessary.
- Consider your lifestyle: family, work, etc.
- Know the maximum you can actually afford
- Pay attention to your health: sufficient sleep, balanced diet, comfortable mobility, etc.
- Examine your capabilities: understand the fine line between challenging and overwhelming yourself
- Take breaks when needed
Take Your Time
Brian and I estimated a humorously accelerated timeline in the beginning. It’s a great thing that both of us don’t get caught up in unrealistic expectations! Luckily, once we started struggling with tile, we both came to the understanding that the project was going to take much longer than anticipated.
Truthfully, if we wanted this rebuild finished quicker than 4 months, we would have hired out! However, there is no guarantee that this would be any better of a job than what we accomplished ourselves. We took our time to research, learn new skills, and challenge the heck out of each other in the best ways.
The first substantial re-do we took on was the Kerdi Membrane we applied to the top of the half wall. It had the smallest ripple in it and it bugged us to no end. Done and done. The NEXT re-do we embraced was the floor tile, followed by the wall tile. We had a few all-nighters, but we now know that it was done correctly and to our liking!
Projects like these are not races, by any means. We aren’t ‘professionals’, but we do care about doing the best we can.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask For Help
There’s no shame in putting yourself out there and asking some questions. We all need a little help sometimes! Brian and I are forever thankful for my dad’s knowledge and encouragement as we ventured through this crazy experiment. Without his help, it would have taken us much, much longer to get our footing! We worked through things we could and explored new territory when encountered, but will always be grateful dad was a phone call away when we had a question or needed some correction (IE sorting through our all-nighter tile nightmare)!
Also, not only did we receive great suggestions from the folks at Home Depot and Lowes, but we also had helpful conversations with our plumber and countertop installer! You don’t always have to take everyone’s advice, but it’s nice to have some extra information available to help you along your way.
Reference Multiple Sources
Do NOT subscribe to one school of thought right off the bat! Research, complete your own due diligence, and try a few things before you commit.
In addition to the following YouTube channels:
- Home RenoVision DIY
- Mr. Build It
- Sal DiBlasi
- Andrew Thron Improvements
- Schluter-Systems North America
I also frequented the following forums for extra coverage and exploration:
- John Bridge Tile Forum
- Terry Love Plumbing Advice & Remodel DIY Forum
- DIY Subreddit
- HomeImprovement Subreddit
Examining all of these resources helped us understand application, installation, potential points of failure, and more.
Invest in Tools
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle in completing your project is the lack or quality of tools used. Brian and I agreed early on in our project that we would spend a decent chunk of funds on good, solid tools. We aimed for durable, long-lasting ones because we knew that we would be pursuing more DIY ventures in the future. It was an easy decision to invest in our future! These tools (specifically our SDS hammer drill and wet saw) saved us a ton of time and energy!
…as long as you pay attention to the return policy! It’s common to visit the hardware store multiple times in the course of a project. Save yourself some time and aggravation by using a little bit of foresight to figure out what extra material you MIGHT need.
For example, when purchasing tile, it is good practice to order about 10% to 15% more than necessary. We also found that buying additional thinset and Schluter Tile Edging was also very helpful. Unfortunately, that was not before we were on a time crunch and had to run out in the middle of rush hour traffic about an hour away (due to pandemic-related limited supplies!). Lesson learned.
It takes one bad cut of tile or trim to realize it’s great that you have just a little extra to make the perfect cut. One word of caution I have is that you double-check and keep up with the return policy. You definitely do not want to get stuck with a bunch of leftover material that you didn’t necessarily need.
Discuss & Determine Allocation of Money
Our decision to mostly DIY our bathroom rebuild saved us money right away. Originally, we only planned to hire out for plumbing and the shower enclosure, but later added the countertop installation since we elected to convert a dresser into a vanity. These 3 services cost us a total of $4,173.62.
We were mighty fine with that amount since these were specialized services we could not have completed ourselves. Hiring out for the entire project would have cost us somewhere in the ballpark of $30,000. At just over $4,000, we at least had the peace of mind in terms of proper plumbing, installation, and guaranteed work. The rest of the project was up to us!
With a loose budget of $10,000-ish, we prioritized the money in different parts of the project.
- Quality product: we carefully selected non-Chinese produced material
Note: the quality and cost of a double vanity surprised us. We had a miserable time trying to locate a sturdy, American-made vanity. The only option that came close to our requirements was the Room & Board Kenwood, which was only available to us in the dimensions needed as a single vanity. This would have cost us $4,800!! We nixed this idea and eventually decided to convert an old Broyhill Dresser.
- Bought tools to make our lives/jobs easier
- Decided not to rent a dumpster and instead took a few trips to our county landfill
- Abided by Schluter®-Shower System and Schluter®-DITRA-XL install requirements (which was pricey!) to maintain the Lifetime Warranty
- Maintained a bulk meal plan of celery soup, freeing up time and money to instead spend on bathroom fun
Because Brian and I discussed our financial expectations and limits before, during, and after our bathroom rebuild, we never felt that the project was a financial strain. We combined our concepts of financial freedom and the application of the rich mindset to succeed in our overall project. At the end of the day, we remind ourselves that we did not come CLOSE to spending the amount we would have if we had hired out.
Notable Mentions: Lessons & Tips
- Expect the mess
- Sharpen your research and negotiation skills
- Outline your To-Do List each day for what you’d like to accomplish, but stay flexible
- Don’t beat yourself up; mistakes will happen…learn from them and move on!
- Reuse and recycle – we would have spent more money on lumber if we didn’t reuse the original!
- Account for the time it takes to prep and clean up each day
- Pictures of studs/electrical wiring/pipes (before drywall is installed) will be helpful in the future
- Take pictures and videos, text/e-mail, and journal along the way; the memories are worth remembering
Moments of Gratitude
Brian and I faced both struggle and success throughout our rebuild. We remain grateful to each other for supporting one another on this unexpected adventure. Perhaps the constant lesson through this project (and life, for that matter) is to continue to reflect on and acknowledge moments of gratitude.
It is not lost on me that we are lucky to have had this opportunity to work on our own bathroom. We are incredibly thankful for my dad, the companies we worked with, and all who became part of our experience in conversation and action.
Thank you for reading through our Master Bath Rebuild Series!! We very much appreciate you following along! Brian and I have learned quite a bit about ourselves and each other. We are looking forward to this next year and whatever adventures await us – DIY and otherwise! Stay tuned…