Re-Plumbing the Hall Bathroom

In January 2013, we found out I was pregnant and immediately began converting our guest room into a nursery (more on that later) for the baby who is now a feisty toddler named Nadine.  We started by removing the old drywall and paneling, which lead us to discover that the shower in the hall bathroom immediately adjacent to the nursery was leaking into the shared wall and had created a LOT of black mold on the drywall.  At this point we realized we would need to remove the shower in the hall bath.  Since we were removing the shower, we decided to renovate the whole thing (funny how things snowball).  The irony was that this was the “nice” bathroom (relative to the master bath), because the previous owners had renovated it shortly before we bought our house.

When we moved in we thought that although it’s not our style, it was functional and we had bigger fish to fry (like the leaking roof).  Actually, maybe it was good that there was a leak in the shower because otherwise we would have lived with a functional yet unattractive bathroom for a lot longer.  It also gave us an opportunity to install a bath tub.  While not a necessity for the first year or so, I can’t imagine Nadine living without a bath tub now- she HATES showers (which we discovered while staying with family who didn’t have a bath tub).

So began the hall bath renovation.  Since had decided to start from scratch, we came up with the idea to switch the locations of the toilet and sink.  Originally, the sink was next to the shower (which we were converting to a tub).

BathroomFloorPlan-Before

This layout felt very un-natural to us.  If you spend a few hours browsing bathroom pictures on Pinterest, you’ll find that this combination is really uncommon.  I think it is because the water from the shower/tub can spray onto the vanity, like this (no, we didn’t expand the size of the bathroom… It’s still TINY… I must have just zoomed in on the 2nd try):

BathroomFloorPlan-After

In fact, even though the existing vanity was only a couple years old, it was already suffering some water damage (I’m sure it would be less if we had a proper tub instead of a walk in shower).  In addition, we thought it would be more convenient to perch ourselves on the toilet while Nadine was taking a bath (in reality, we sit on the edge of the tub or the bathroom floor).  The disadvantage of the new configuration is that the toilet ends up right in front of the door.  I personally don’t mind it, but it is a consideration for some people.

Unfortunately our house is on a concrete slab foundation.  For houses on a raised foundation with a crawl space or basement, this probably wouldn’t be a big deal.  Also, we had in-floor radiant heat to work around.  Speaking of which, once we demo-ed the existing tile, we noticed a wet patch on the bathroom floor.  Thinking maybe it would dry, we decided to trace it and see if it got bigger or smaller over a few days.  Sadly, it got bigger and we had to get that repaired first.

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Once we were ready for the actual switching of the plumbing, the first job was to demo and empty out the bathroom, down to the studs, which Andy did. Then, we had to decide where we wanted the new locations of the plumbing for the toilet and vanity.  Toilets are pretty standard, but vanities are not.  So we had to first/purchase find the new vanity and sink (so we knew its size)  and determine its location.  This was lot harder than it sounds.  The room is quite small, and by code, the toilet needs a total of 30″ of space from the tub, leaving only about 27″ for a vanity, so we had to find a vanity that was 27″ wide or less.  I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of options for vanities out there (24-25″ is actually a common size), it was just hard to find one that also looked modern and would be easy to keep clean (my top requirement), had a lot of storage (Andy’s top requirement), would last a long time, and was relatively affordable (both of our requirements since this was a hall bath that will eventually be a kid’s bath).  Once we decided on a vanity, we also had to decide on its location.  How high did we want the top? Did we want it to butt up to the wall, or leave some space between the edge of the vanity and the wall (we chose the latter)?

Once those decisions were made, the actual plumbing work was done by Kevin Sullivan, our go-to plumber/contractor (and also a neighbor).  He owns an Eichler himself and is very familiar with them, including how the plumbing and radiant heat are typically laid out.

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The above picture was taken when the tub, toilet and sink “rough in” plumbing was complete, and before the tub was installed.

I’m really not familiar with the details of how this was done, except that there was a giant hole in the bathroom floor for a few weeks and plumbing tools and pipes and parts all around the house, then, one day he was gone and everything worked.  I am however familiar with how expensive this is to do.  Inevitably, when you start a project, something unexpected comes up.  I think Kevin had to move some radiant heating lines and also deal with the plumbing in the master bath which shares a wall with the hall bath.  We had originally considered re-configuring both bathrooms at the same time (the master bath also has the sink next to the shower), but that would have left us without a working bathroom, and we weren’t sure if we wanted to go through the added expense to do the same switch-a-roo in the master bath.  This was, by-far, the most expensive part of the bathroom renovation, and it’s something that probably goes un-noticed by most people… except other Eichler owners.  Our neighbors (owners of the same model as ours) were visiting the other day and they asked if the bathroom configuration had always been that way or if we switched it.  I think that ultimately it was probably a good decision.

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