Gutting farmhouse master bath --- keep the original closet?

hautingluMarch 5, 2010

Hi guys,

Sorry for the flood of questions. I'm trying to get ready for the warm weather so I can start a couple of my many projects. I want to gut and redo the 1st floor master bath before I start painting and doing the floors.

This bathroom is small and also has a decent size linen closet next to the toilet. I was thinking:

1. Remove it completely, maybe save the wood and hardware. Rotate toilet 90* CCW so it would be against the left wall (Picture #2).

2. Keep it as-is but gut everything else. This would mean I wouldn't be able to get a bunch of the plaster off.

3. Attempt to take it out carefully and put it back as is when the drywall is on. This is probably harder than it sounds.

My brain is saying go with 1, but I want to keep the house original, so my heart is saying go with 2 or 3.

p.s. any comments on the sink? Because the way the door opens and would hit a bigger vanity, this one is the right size but is really old. Not sure if I should keep it or not.

p.s.s. the window is the original window that went outside. A small addition was later built (small mud room?), so now this window open into there.

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If you remove the linen closet, the left side of the window frame is going to look weird. It is truncated to fit next to the closet, so you would need to retro-fit three quarters of the window trim boards.

I can see the appeal of getting the toilet behind the door.
Is there room to relocate the linen closet to the right side of the window? It would be nice to have a closet in the bath (even though this is a very small room). I might consider removing it, if it is possible to relocate it in the opposite corner.

On the other hand, I can see the appeal of removing it entirely to get more space. Do you have linen storage conveniently located elsewhere?

By the way, why are you removing the plaster? You mentioned you want to keep the house as original as possible. Is it just beyond repair, or something? Because plaster can be repaired, you know...

I like your old sink and also the built in ceramic fixtures! The sink does not appear to be in bad shape. Given that the size is right, I'd be tempted to keep it. Function is also important in a master bath though, so if you can get more worktop space or storage space with a vanity cabinet in a style that fits the era of your home, maybe that would be better for you.

In the right side of the last picture it looks like you have some interesting vintage tile. Is that a shower? What are you thinking of doing there?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 2:45PM
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Kimkitchy - I didn't even notice that the window had offset trim! That's why I post here first =)

If I rotate the toilet against the wall and put the closet to the right side, my knees would be pressed against it. Although I kind of want to keep it, I really don't even use it now. A shelf above the toilet would do the job. So maybe #3 might be a better option in case I can get it out in one piece.

I want to remove the plaster (and wallpaper) for 2 main reasons:

1. There is something going on in the area abouve the window. The wallpaper is separating and bubbling in a corner. I have two hunches: 1) there is water getting in there and running down the wall to the basement, or 2) from the steam of the shower since there is no fan in the bathroom.

2. In the basement, there is a leak somewhere, either in the shower pan or the shower hardware (or both). There is a constant wetness under the shower. I laughed when I saw that the shower drain was a Schluter, because I will replace the shower using Schluter Kerdi.

In addition to that, I want to gut it so I can:
-Add an exhaust fan.
-Add a real outlet (there is currently (2) two-prong outlets on the lights about the sink)
-Remove the old asbestos floor tiles (though they are in OK shape).
-Remove the oooooold wall paper. The bathroom is pretty dark and depressing in the mornings.
-Add some lights (maybe recessed).

Although the sink is dated, I may try to get it cleaned up a bit. It goes well with the house.

Yes, the right side is the (leaky) shower. I've attached some pics below. I don't know if I would have called them 'vintage' though lol.....more like "ugly pink tiles" =) If someone offered to help me gut them, they could help themselves to the tile. I'd like to keep the shower similar (all tile), but go with Kerdi so that I don't have to worry about leaks or the mud pan. Originally, I was thinking of putting in a claw foot 48" tub, but it's not really feasible right now unless I expand the bathroom some how. (I left space for a wooden bathtub upstairs, similar to my folks place...see below).


Under the shower:

Wooden bathtub:

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 3:26PM
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Hmmm... given that you don't use the linen closet now and that if you relocate it to the right of the window you'd bump your knees on it, I do think I would just remove it and restore the window trim. It is kind of shoe horned in there as it is and even though it is old, it isn't that aesthetically pleasing. Keep the boards and hardware for use elsewhere.

The wallpaper is truly hideous, so the first thing I'd do is remove it. Then you'll know what's going on with the wall. You could have a leak or an ice dam on your roof if there is a valley where the addition was added on and water running down the walls. Or, as you say, it could be from shower steam. Or, it could just be failed wallpaper paste! We removed old wallpaper, added two fans with vents to the outside and all new wiring in our 1913 bathroom without removing the old plaster. It can be done. What is in the space above the bathroom? Is the bathroom on an exterior wall? Do you have balloon framed walls? Gutting the walls and installing drywall creates an horrific mess and if you can repair and preserve the plaster while still obtaining the new vent and wiring, I'd do that.

Actually, your shower tile looks to be in pretty good condition and (on my monitor) more beige than pink. I attached a link below to a kitchens thread that contains a link to antique baths about a quarter of the way down... those ugly tiles were in vogue back in the old days because people knew what colors to put with them. But, boy I see what you mean about the leaking. Looks like the floorboards under our old leaky toilet that kicked off our bathroom remodel. I'm no expert on showers, but it does look like you are going to have to tear it out and start over. Have you visited the "bathrooms" forum? It is very active and Kerdi is a frequent topic over there.

A wooden bath tub. Not my cup of tea, but interesting. Everyone needs to have a way to soak. Our bathroom spaces were so small, and we don't intend to sell our house until we are ancient, so we just have two showers and we soak in our spa. Works for us.


Here is a link that might be useful: quirky kitchens thread w 1920s bath link

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 5:48PM
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Thanks for the advice. I may try to carefully take it apart and maybe put it somewhere else.

This used to be an exterior wall, but not any more (see the pic with the range). Though I think the area that the addition's wall meets the house, there might be some drainage/siding issue --- I won't know unless I take the plaster off. I was thinking of maybe leaving the lathe and simply putting 1/4" drywall over that. We did this for the bottom half of a wall and it came out really good.

I'm actually 100% sure what is above this bathroom....the layout is sort of confusing with the addition. It's either a bedroom or another bathroom. Although I would probably try to save the plaster in any other room, this bathroom is in bad shape and I'd be better of taking it off. The mess isn't a big deal because I haven't really unpacked yet.

Thanks for link. I haven't even started thinking about kitchens, but I do lurk a lot of the forums...mostly Old House, Bathroom, Remodeling, and Disasters =) The Bathroom one is where I got a crash course in all thing bathrooms (remodeled 2 upstairs) and where I learned about Kerdi. Though not too many people does it here, so I think I'm going to give it a shot. Worst case is that it leaks the same as the current bathroom.

The wooden bathtub was pretty cheap (a few hundred $), so my folks grabbed it. It needs some maintenance to keep the wood moist, but everyone seems to like it. I have several tub/spa ideas for the future (item #685 on my to-do list).

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 8:44PM
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You might find this funny, but I'm thinking about doing my bathroom in pink tile. The original 20s tile is long gone and my 50s plastic tile is falling off the wall. I would LOVE to have your pink tiled shower. So jealous!

So, before you tear it all out, you need to check out "Save the Pink Bathrooms" website. At the very least, you can see how others have managed to update their old pink bathrooms.

Here is a link that might be useful: Save the Pink Bathrooms

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 6:35PM
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Thanks for the link! That is funny that pink is in vogue again. Honestly, I have no problem with the tiles, but water leakage underneath demands attention, and so does the wallpaper. So between the two, I don't have a lot of choice but to gut it =(

And no, and I won't be going with new pink tiles.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 7:03PM
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hee hee, all you wanted to talk about was the linen closet, didn't expect all the excitement about your tile :)

I have a bathroom with old blue tile, set running bond, prolly from the 50's. I actually quite enjoy it now, but the bathroom will be relocated when we do our kitchen. I will assuage my guilt by putting all the blue fixtures and whatever tile I can remove without breaking on craigslist and retrorenovation. Even though the bathroom is newer than my house by decades, I love the old feeling of it.

If I had your bathroom, I might gut it, but IF I could address the leak by only disturbing/replacing the floor tiles in the shower, I might also just replace the wallpaper with a cool brunschwig and fils pattern, or, if you are not faint of heart, a strong william morris pattern like compton, blackthorn, or windrush. Too bad snakeshead doesn't come in a wallpaper. If you went this way, you would have a very spicy, distinctive bathroom. A lot of the newer bathrooms are rather bland.

Oh, and the ceramic niches above your sink are really great!

Here is a link that might be useful: william morris compton wallpaper

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 9:16AM
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Just another vote for your sink and ceramic niches - love them! I am another fan of the old bathroom colors. I admit I wouldn't put it in on purpose, but if it was already there I'd definitely work around them if I could. Sounds like you might not be able to, in which case there probably are plenty of people that need some of those tiles to fix their own ;)

Does that window open to a kitchen addition? It seems to open to the kitchen above the stove? And if I'm seeing this right, it's above the toilet? Am I wrong? Have you considered a fixed stained glass window there once you get the venting in?

As far as the closet, if you took it out does it improve the use of the room? If it were my bathroom and it didn't make a big difference, I would leave it in, but that's because I wish I *did* have a closet in my bathroom! I don't work so well with pictures trying to imagine how much space there is or could be, so keep that in mind. Also, I'm not a fan of having a toilet behind a door in that way. But to each his own :)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 7:09PM
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I appreciate the feedback guys (and gals).

Slate - I did think about keeping the bathroom intact, but it just doesn't make sense with all the things that it needs. Plus, hopefully I'll learn a thing or two.

Blackcats - the sink and niches will probably stay. I will what I can do to get the sink cleaned up (it might need nothing). Do you think it's worth trying to save some of the tile for someone?

Concerning the window, yes it opens to "mud room" which is the addition to the kitchen (see the pink wallpaper to the left? I'm starting to think the PO's wife picked all the colors). Right now the fridge and range are in this mud room. I was considering closing 1/2 of it off and expanding the master bath, which would allow me to put in a claw foot put. I'm not concerned about window/privacy issue just yet because it's just me. I kind of like how the original outside window is still there.

For the closet, I think it would make a difference. I like openness, and seeing how small the bathroom is, removing it would add a lot of room. I was thinking of maybe adding pocket doors, but I think I'll keep the original doors throughout the house for now.

If you guys like the bathroom, you'll love the original double bay doors (with a silver dollar nailed above it) and my first floor doors have an opening above them where there used to be glass (for a breeze).

It's my new money pit.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:55AM
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Ya... you know you can't tease us like that...
If you think we'll love the doors of your money pit, you need to post pics so we can ooh and ahh!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 11:07AM
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Ask and you shall receive =) Sorry that they are sideways.

If you look at one of the pictures with the blue room showing. those are the original windows leading outside that were boarded up when the addition/garage was built in the 70's. The bedroom and den have these. My next thread is probably going to be to ask for ideas on what to do with them....I came up with a few....aquarium between the between the bedroom and living room, a nice large picture from my travels, a tile design, simply opening them up (w/ frosted glass for the bedroom), or do nothing.

Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 10:10PM
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Your doors are cool. As you said, it looks like they all had transoms originally, even the double doors. Those are really neat. I see some good old victorian hardware too covered in paint. If it were my house, I'd probably be making plans to eventually strip the paint off the doors and door hardware and to replace/restore the transoms. Your home looks quite interesting. Farmhouses tended to "grow" over time, so you can embrace that and do what's right for the bones and age of the house, while still being practical about what you have. Good luck with it all.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 11:42AM
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