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Hidden Problems of a Bathroom Remodel

Bath, Construction How-To, PEX, Plumbing - Directory, Remodeling March 2, 2017 Sonia


Reconstruction of the walls and floor can present problems for a major bathroom overhaul.

By Rob Robillard

Bathrooms are botched more than any other room in the house. With bathroom remodels people often focus on easy-to-see things like tile colors and layout, or special amenities like heated floors. These are all important, but you also need to think about the stuff behind the tile and under the floors—all the hidden conditions that can derail a project.

It is very common when remodeling a bathroom to find walls that aren’t level, deficient wiring, improperly installed plumbing, and floor joists that have been cut, drilled, notched or even removed to accommodate pipes or drains.

Bad wiring can be a fire hazard and bad plumbing a moisture nightmare. Uneven walls or floors—and floors that aren’t properly supported—can lead to cracked tiles and bigger structural problems.

If you are doing a major upgrade to your bathroom consider doing a “full gut.”  Remove all the plaster from the walls and ceilings and remove the subfloor to allow the years of accumulated problems to be rectified.

Expect the Unexpected

When preparing for a bathroom remodel, expect more expense, time, disruption and problems than you planned on. Surprises of one kind or another are so common that they’re actually predictable. When you expect the unexpected, however, you can reduce a lot of stress.

Remodeling a bathroom usually involves some exploratory demolition to locate pipes and wiring hidden behind walls.

Many people have no clue about the hidden costs of remodeling, and a lot of contractors do not advise their clients of them either. (You can scare away a lot of business that way!) Hidden conditions are things like finding and then needing to repair termite damage, improper wiring, outdated plumbing, abating asbestos, or repairing floor joist damage. Any or all of these can stop a remodel process midway and add time and money to the project. Plan for these situations by setting aside 10-20 percent of your budget to address them.

Old or Corroded Plumbing

A bathroom renovation presents a great time to deal with old, outdated systems, things like corroded cast iron or galvanized drains and water supply lines. Even copper water supply lines can be hiding problems if the joints are corroded. Flexible PEX piping joined with “push-fit” connections offer an easy-to-use alternative to soldering copper lines for DIY’ers who need to make a replacement.

Prior to doing any work, shut off the water to the house and open the faucets at the highest level and lowest level to drain the water lines. For the sink and toilet you can simply remove them from the bathroom and rely on their existing shut-off valves, or you can open the walls and cap the pipes.

From plaster and drywall to old flooring and cabinetry, a full remodel generates a log of demolition debris. Make sure you’ve planned for a way to handle the dispose of all the garbage.