Need help with bathroom floor! (Project #147)

criticalmass048November 9, 2010

The latest in the long list of my home reno projects...

When we moved in, the floor in our bathroom was some kind of ugly green vinyl laminate sheet. We wanted to redo the bathroom quickly, so the wife picked up a vinyl tile she liked, and I did the bathroom.

While laying out the tile, I noticed the area around the toilet was a little sunken. I pointed it out to the wife, who insisted there was no way I was tearing up the floor.

Now, years later, she's sick of the tile, and I told her there's no way I can put down yet another layer, and I wanted to "dig" to see what I could find.

So under the original laminate sheet was some kind of thin layer, presumably some kind of padding for the vinyl they laid down. This was glued to an original porcelain tile floor. The grouting around the toilet area was cracked, as I said, the floor was sunken a little. It appears that the floor from the toilet to the right (towards the tub) was chopped up for about a foot, presumably to access drain pipes, and they simply filled in the area with some kind of material (plaster or cement) and laid down a vinyl floor over it. This seems like a great idea, except the area around the toilet seems to be weak now.

I have no idea if the original damage was caused by a leak or not. The proper thing to do, of course, would be to chop up the porcelain tiles and see what condition the sub floor is in. The EASY thing to do would be to fill in the cracks between tiles, level the floor off, and just put a new vinyl floor over it.

I'm not afraid of the work. I've never removed a toilet, and I know I would have to, but I think I could handle it if need be. My concern is with the tub. If I rip up the sub floor, does that mean I'd have to remove the tub as well, or can I get away with just simply removing the toilet and cutting out a 4'x4' area around it and replacing it with a new subfloor of the same thickness that is already there? Or should I even get involved in this and just take the easy way out as I mentioned above?

I'm certainly not a pro, so while I'm sure I could handle the subfloor and toilet, I'm just concerned with how long it would take me, and whether the risk of me making mistakes might outweigh the risk of leaving well-enough alone! If I screw up the toilet re-install, is it possible I could have another undetectable leak that might damage the floor even worse than it already is? Hopefully someone who's been there before can tell me what to look for and what I can expect. Thanks!

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Once you start ripping stuff apart, you never know what you are going to find. You might discover that you only need to replace a couple feet of subfloor or you might find extensive water damage, mold, rot etc.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 2:50PM
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I would tear into it regardless. Odds are you just have to replace a chunk of subfloor. Toilets are super easy. Get a new wax ring and maybe a flange while you're at it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 5:43AM
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Toilets are super easy.

On one reno I did, the licenced plumber gave up on getting in a w.c. without it leaking. He was used to only working on new apartment buildings. I had to take over and fiddle, fiddle, fiddle.

OTOH, a friend with no experience r&r'd a wc with no problems and was quite proud of his accomplishment. He's a surgeon and has a Phd in aerodynamics. So it's not like he's inexperienced or unskilled in using tools!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Like Bill said, you never know what you're going to find, but this is really not that tough.

You don't say whether you have a second bathroom (or at least a half bath) to use while you are redoing this one. Hopefully you do, and can take your time on this one and do it right and be done with it.

If I understand, right now your layers are vinyl tile, laminate flooring, vapor barrier, tile, underlayment, and then subfloor. Take off everything down to the subfloor and you'll get much better results. Chances are good that the subfloor is the only thing that goes under the tub.
At that point you can assess the damaged area and fix it, then put in some new underlayment and flooring.

There's probably 10 how-to books at your local library on how to do this, with pictures and step-by-step instructions.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 8:28AM
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Thanks guys! I knew that was the right move, but I was hoping someone would tell me I can take the easy way out :)

Ok, my next concern is: What do I need BEFORE I team into this? I already know I will need plywood which will match the thickness of the existing subfloor (TBD), a wax ring, and a flange. I assume I will need to get some sort of new vapor barrier, because the old one is glued to the ceramic tiles and has fallen apart in spots, although I have no idea what to look for. Then, can vinyl self-stick tiles go right on top of the vapor barrier?

Another possible concern: I've seen in other rooms the subfloor is actually made up of planks, so I can assume that the bathroom will be the same. Does this change anything? Will I run into problems because of the grooves in the subfloor?

I just want to have a list of things I will need to start this because I don't want to run all the way to the store in the middle of this project, and I don't trust anybody I'd talk to in the Big Box Store!

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 12:20PM
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I think you need to bite the bullet and budget for a new toilet while you're at it. If I'm reading this correctly, your toilet is an ancient water hog that hasn't been replaced in many flooring changes. As a couple of people have pointed out, dealing with toilets seems a lot scarier that it actually is - the old wax ring is fairly disgusting in appearance if not in actual fact, but you'll live through it. There's a thread on the bath forum at the moment about choosing which new toilet that has lots of good fact and opinion on it that might help in making a decision on which one.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 2:42AM
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