Renovation Report: Bathroom Pt. 1

As you might know, the reason Jacob is still in Sydney is that we are doing a massive renovation of our apartment (nothing in our apartment has been updated since at least the 60s if not earlier).  I thought people may be interested in seeing what we are doing, as well as provide us with a bit of an archive.  I’ve broken it down by room to make it easier and not such a long post (edit: sorry, still long!).

We started the bathroom renovation while I was still in Sydney, but Jacob has been working on it on his own since I left.  This part of the renovation ended up being much more involved than we thought, a vale of sighs if you will.


Exposed pipes, decrepit fixtures, broken tiles (though some of the broken tiles are from us starting demolition before we realised it would be a good idea to take photos).

The Plan

Build a half wall to the right of the window to house all the plumbing and extend it out to form a walk in shower space near the window, with the toilet moved down the wall and a custom built vanity closest to the door.

Bathroom plan and 3D view Jacob designed in Revit (with my design help)


We were hoping the tiles would easily come off the wall so that we would have a flat surface to tile.  And here’s where the problems began.  The tiles ended up being thin glass tiles set in a thick mortar.  Each time we tried to knock them down, they would shatter in a million pieces. Sigh #1.  And getting the thick mortar off would have been almost impossible, so we decided to sheet above the mortar to make a smooth surface. Sigh #2.

Half way through the tile demolition.

When trying to take out the bathtub, Jacob discovered that it was cast iron, which we could actually resell it, IF we could have gotten it out of the apartment in one piece.  Instead, Jacob had to rent an angle grinder and cut the 150 kg (330 lb) tub into 5 pieces. Sigh #3.

We were also hoping to leave the tile floor in place and just put new tiles on top of it, so we got started building the low wall straight away.  We then figured out the toilet was concreted into the floor…and when Jacob pulled it up, part of the concrete floor (screed) came up too. Sigh #4. Where the concrete came up we could see the wooden subfloor underneath…which had water damage.  And the concrete all around where the toilet was was loose.  The plumber said we really needed to pull up the whole floor, meaning more time and taking down the low wall we had already built.  Sigh #5.

The first low wall in happier days.

About 24 boxes of rubble later, the whole tile and concrete floor was out, and we could see all of the wooden subfloor.  Which was rotted across half of it.  It had to go too.  Sigh #6.  It’s a good thing we pulled up the subfloor though, because one of the floor joists underneath was half rotted away, putting our bathroom in danger of ending up in our downstairs neighbour’s bathroom.  Sigh #7.  So we bolted a sister joist to the rotted one and put in sheets (of incredibly heavy) cement subfloor on top.

This is how we do it in Australia, construction and flip flops and DANGER.  (That’s Jacob).  Don’t try this at home kids.  The guy in the last photo with him is his dad.

Because we pulled up the screed, we had to have another one poured to get the right fall so the water would drain, as well as have waterproofing put down under the screed, over the screed and up the walls, so we wouldn’t flood our neighbour.  These tasks were WAY out of our league (and the waterproofing requiring certification for liability purposes), meaning we had to hire someone and pay more $$$. Sigh #8.


We rebuilt the low wall (with a nook for reading materials!) and sheeted it and the walls then the waterproofing and the new screed was done by a tradie.

Oh so happy to be rebuilding the wall.

In the meantime, we also figured out when the electrician came to install some new lights that the ceiling had to go too. Sigh #9.

Once the top coat of waterproofing was dry, it was time to tile!  We got 400mm x 100mm (15.75 in x 3.9 in) white tiles for the walls at a great price, and 300mm x 300mm (11.8 in x 11.8 in) chocolate brown tiles for the floor.  I had done a lot of tiling while at Arcosanti, and Jacob’s mom does some tiling as part of her mosaic work, but Jacob had never done it and it had been years since I had.  We ended up tiling over Easter long weekend, and made a few neighbours a bit mad.  We didn’t realise how much cutting we’d need to do, so Jacob spent hours angle grinding thin pieces off or putting a mitre on edges.  This made a LOT of noise, so by Sunday, the neighbours were rightfully sick of it.  We promised not to make much more noise that day, and make none the next day, greatly slowing us down. Sigh #10.  Jacob ended up doing most of the rest of the cutting in his parents’ garage, most likely pissing off a whole new set of neighbours.

Tiling: A family affair.

This is the part where I fly to America, leaving poor Jacob to finish it all on his own…

Other Renovation Report Posts:


Balcony and Kitchen Pt. 1

Balcony and Kitchen Pt. 2

Bathroom Pt. 2

Bathroom Pt. 3


7 thoughts on “Renovation Report: Bathroom Pt. 1

  1. Pingback: Renovation Report: Bathroom Pt. 2 « A Year Off

  2. Pingback: Renovation Report: Overview « A Year Off

  3. Pingback: Renovation Report: Balcony and Kitchen Pt. 1 « A Year Off

  4. Whoa, I had no idea how much of an ordeal this has been. I think you should be way passed Sigh #10. Most of those things deserved at least 5 or 6 sighs alone.

    I really dig those wall tiles.

  5. Pingback: Renovation Report: Balcony and Kitchen Pt. 2 « A Year Off

  6. Pingback: Renovation Report: Bathroom Pt. 3 « A Year Off

  7. Pingback: Renovation Report: Finished AND Rented! « A Year Off

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