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DIY Lessons Learned While Renovating Quickly

Alternative titles for this post: “I hate rushing and pressure while DIYing”, “Why do I do this to myself?” “I prefer slow DIY one step at a time,” and I’m sure I can think of a few others. All that to say, we are not going to be finishing our bathroom renovation in time for the One Room Challenge reveal day. BUT when we do finish our bathroom we will be so much happier with it because we took our time and fixed the things that weren’t working. Let’s talk about some DIY lessons learned from our bathroom remodel and our plan to fix things.

Pressure When DIYing Isn’t Helpful

There’s a reason why it’s been almost a week with no action in the bathroom. We last left off with installing the tongue and groove ceiling and the next step was to tile. The tiling felt so final. As in we better not have any regrets right now because there is no turning back from this point. Days and days have gone by without picking up the trowel and dipping it into the tile adhesive. Why? Regrets! The bathroom just doesn’t feel right and it’s time to take a time out.

I’ve been feeling this since the shower hardware went up and the electrical boxes went in. Colby too, but we felt this pressure pushing us to keep going to meet the One Room Challenge deadline. As soon as we paused and realized nobody was making us do the challenge and we were not obligated to do it, the pressure was off and we felt like we could breathe and course correct.

Installing cement board in a bathroom to prep the walls for tiling

Slow And Intentional DIY Projects

I’m definitely a person who prefers slow DIY and this blog is all about slow, intentional projects. I don’t know what I was thinking. Thinking we could pull off a full gut job renovation of our bathroom in just under 8 weeks?! We pulled it off for our guest bathroom renovation but A) that was before we had two small children and B) we barely pulled it together in time!

I am definitely a person who prefers to do projects slowly, intentionally, and over time. We are definitely NOT a before-and-after blog. More of a do a little somethin’ somethin’ here, course correct there, we’ll nail it in time kind of blog. Our projects turn out so much better when we go at our own pace, doing one part of the project at a time, making one decision at a time. I definitely learned my lesson with this project. Going forward I’m giving myself permission to lean into who I am and how I like to work. Although it’s hard in a world of social media and comparison, seeing others tackle big projects in what seems like a blink of an eye. But they say comparison is the thief of joy, right?!

Bathroom Update: So…What Happened?!

Writing a post like this is hard because in a way I feel like I totally failed by quitting the One Room Challenge. And it’s hard to own up to mistakes for the whole world to see! But on the other hand, we’re also winning because we are no longer bulling through on finishing a bathroom renovation that wasn’t feeling quite right. Let’s walk through what’s going on with our bathroom, shall we?!

Issue #1: Shower Hardware Location

When we first planned out our bathroom, our original intent was to build a wall between the end of the bathtub and the toilet. This would provide a place to install the shower hardware. When we ordered our bathtub, we planned on this wall being there and ordered a right drain tub. The bathtub arrived and when we installed it, adding a wall felt claustrophobic. Our bathroom is super tiny and we thought if we moved the shower hardware to the other wall, the one near the vanity, it would keep the bathroom feeling more open. Well, it was a rash decision that started a landslide of problems.

Plumbing On An Exterior Wall

First up, it puts the plumbing for the shower on an exterior wall. When we made the decision to move the plumbing, it was before a deep freeze burst the pipes in another bathroom. We had always planned to redo this old plumbing from the 70s and insulate the pipes better since they freeze regularly. But they hadn’t burst before. It took us longer to clean up all the mess from having our pipes burst than it would have to take down a section of wall/ceiling, replumb, and add extra insulation. After that mess, we were hesitant about adding plumbing to another exterior wall.

Bathroom renovation with tongue and groove ceiling planks installed with exposed wood beams

Sconces In A Water Spray Zone

Second, it put the plumbing and the shower hardware freakishly close to the sink and sconces. We don’t have local building codes to abide by but we do like to follow the National Electrical Code. From what we could find on bathroom lighting, specifically bathroom sconces, if a sconce is within the shower zone (AKA within 3′ of the tub), the light fixtures needed to be rated “wet location” for safety. One sconce is 2′ from the shower. While technically we think we’re fine (although we are not code officers and are not 100% sure), it still feels too close.

Tub Drain Misalignment

Third, moving the shower hardware to the vanity wall meant that the tub spout would be on the opposite wall as the tub drain. This just felt wrong and something that would keep me up at night. This tub is deep enough that I can take baths in. The idea of taking a bath with my head underneath the tub spout is so awkward.

Issue #2: Tight Vanity Area

This one kind of piggybacks off the sconces near the shower hardware. Even if the shower hardware wasn’t so close to the sconce, they still don’t quite fit. Because the bathroom vanity and sink need to be so small to fit in this bathroom, I was dead set on choosing a pharmacy-style mirror that has a little shelf for holding toothbrushes, toothpaste, and the other things that are nice to keep easily accessible. We measured the mirror and the sconces, we taped off the wall, and in theory, it all should fit.

When everything arrived, after the electrical was roughed in and the cement board up, we held up the mirror and the sconces. Everything was just WAY too tight. The sconces felt jammed up next to the beam, the mirror, and the tub. It felt so wrong. We briefly thought about switching to a light above the mirror but that’s a tight too. The bathroom is small enough that we really don’t need more than one light fixture. Our other bathrooms don’t have sconces and they’re fine. They’re also both slightly larger spaces.

In the pic below you can see where we taped off the mirror and sconces to get an idea of spacing. We didn’t factor in cement board and tile which squeezed things even more. As soon as the cement board went up, we could tell the sconces just wouldn’t work.

Small bathroom renovation progress with a door to attic closet

Issue #3: Vanity Building Vs. Wall Mount Sink

This is definitely one of those rushing through it moments. We still don’t have a firm grasp on how we’re going to build a bathroom vanity that fits in the space. We just kind of committed to a “we’ll make it work” plan.

My original intent was to install one of those painted wall-mounted sinks like the Grizzly Cast Iron Utility Sink from Rejuvenation or the Nano Coupe Sink from Watermark Fixtures on Etsy. When it came time to value engineer our bathroom renovation project to fit an overall budget, this was one of the things that got cut. Instead, we budgeted $200 to build our own vanity. So right now, we have no design plan just a vague idea, a cheap vessel sink we picked up, and the wrong size sink faucet. I bought one too short for the vessel sink and we were intending to figure out a way to make it all work. The entire vanity part of the project just feels like a “we don’t know what we’re doing hot mess express.”

Issue #4: Shower Hardware Height

Okay, now this is an issue that I feel like I could look past if it wasn’t for all the other issues going on. But I greatly dislike how high up the tub spout is. To hang this shower fixture high enough for Colby and me to use (Colby is 6’5″ and I’m 5’9″…definitely not short), it meant the tub spout needed to be high as well. The company that makes our shower hardware does sell extensions. By the time we realized we needed an extension, there wasn’t enough time for it to arrive to meet the One Room Challenge reveal deadline. Now that we’re bowing out of the challenge we’re going to order the extension.

Issue #5: I Bought The Wrong Size Rug

Another one of those rushing through mistakes. I bought the wrong size rug for the attic closet. This isn’t technically part of the bathroom renovation but the attic closet is attached to the bathroom and is where the storage cabinet for the bathroom is located. I wanted to find the right rug for the attic so I could decide on a paint color for the cabinet which I wanted to tie into the shower curtain since the shower is visible from the attic. Did you follow that?!

Well, I was feeling behind on the bathroom project and scrambled to find a rug at midnight during a rug sale. I found a gorgeous rug but none of the sizes felt like the right size for the attic. My choices were to either go too wide or too short. I chose too short mostly because it was cheaper. But as soon as the rug arrived and I plopped it in the space, I immediately knew it was wrong. I’ve since moved the rug to the kids’ playroom. They were getting splinters from playing on the old wood floor and needed one. Now I’m saving up until I can order the bigger rug.

DIY lessons learned from ordering a rug that was too small during a bathroom remodel

What Now

Now that we’ve taken a week to pause and reconvene on what we’re doing in our bathroom, we’ve got a somewhat action plan. Both Colby and I felt like we were just moving too fast in the wrong direction without thinking things through. DIY lesson learned the hard way. Here are our next steps.

We are going to build a wall between the tub and the toilet. This corrects the shower location problems and moves the hardware much further away from the light fixtures. While we don’t love the idea of adding a wall in our bathroom, we like it better than living with the other issues.

With the sconces, we’re planning on removing them altogether. It’s just too tight there. The mirror will have room to breathe and we also will have some space for a towel hook if we choose to put one there.

Finally, the vanity. Before we go any further in this bathroom we’re going to design a vanity and mock up something to see if it will fit. We’ll probably just take an old side table and put a board on top to give us a feel for size. If we decide that a vanity just doesn’t leave us enough room to get through the attic door, we’re going the wall-mount sink route. We’ll likely build something temporary until we can save up for the fancy sink. If we go the wall mount sink route, we can plan accordingly with the plumbing and the tile to make sure it’s easy to add later.

Here are my really awesome, totally realistic, no strange perspectives at all (note the sarcasm) Photoshopped pic of the wall we intend to build between the shower and the toilet. The shower hardware will also move to this new wall.

Photoshop rendering of adding a wall between the tub and toilet in a bathroom renovation

And In Conclusion

And there you have it. WAY too many words to say that we poorly planned out our bathroom remodel, moved faster than we could handle, and put way too much pressure on ourselves. But we’re on a mission to make it right. Lesson learned.

Also, I had a sweet friend remind me to give ourselves grace. This is our first MAJOR project in a few years. It’s hard getting back in the saddle, especially with a bathroom reno! I also reminded myself it’s not like we’re professionals and have made all the mistakes in the many many projects pros tackle. This is our third bathroom…ever. All the more reason to go slow and thoughtfully.

Okay…I feel like Debbie Downer. Do we need some flare up in here? Or maybe it’s time to discuss puppy cuteness on a 10-point sliding scale? Shall I divert your attention to the shiny object behind curtain number two? Well…at least I tried.

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Angie's Roost Campbell Family in front of home in 2021

Hi there! We're the Campbells. We traded in Maine city living for the country life in Vermont. You'll find us here fixing up a circa 1781 historic home, growing our own food, and filling this home with the memories and things that matter. Read more about us...

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