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Home Renovations in PoPville – Vol. 81 – Bathroom

by Prince Of Petworth July 28, 2011 at 11:30 am 41 Comments

“Dear PoPville,

I wanted to share with you the master bathroom remodel we recently finished on our rowhome in Capitol Hill. I attached a few photographs of the original bathroom that was “remodeled” by the previous owners about 7 years ago very poorly. We did some of the work ourselves, but unfortunately ran into a streak of bad luck with contractors whose work we ended up having to fix ourselves and by hiring a carpenter who ended up being great.

Our main goal in the remodel was to keep the bathroom historically accurate, but also incorporating modern elements. We installed one inch hex tile on the floor, 2×6 subway tiles on the walls, and used plumbing fixtures with crossbar handles to keep the historic charm. We had a soapstone shower pan fabricated and surrounded it with marble tiles and a frameless glass enclosure to bring some modern elements into the space. It was important to us to keep original details intact so we stripped all of the original woodwork, cut it to accommodate the new space, and then repainted it. We saved the original claw foot tub that was in the bathroom and will using it in a new bathroom we are creating elsewhere in the house.

The overall cost was around $8,000 with the soapstone showerpan and the glass enclosure being the most expensive. Looking back one thing I would change would have been to do the hex floor in a carrera marble as the white tile gets dingy very easily. While the bathroom has a small footprint, the improvements have made the space much more enjoyable.”

If anyone else has a renovation project they’d be willing to share send a few before and after photos to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com and if you’d be willing please share a rough cost estimate and what contractors/materials were used.

Before shots after the jump.

  • Anonymous

    That’s definitely worth 8K.

    Did the carpenter end up doing the majority of the work?

    Just curious, if I could get this built for me for 8K I would pay it instantly.

    • slgdc1433

      The carpenter mostly fixed the new wood window that was installed poorly by the first contractor and adjusted the original woodwork throughout to make it work.

      I spent a ton of time searching the internet for good deals on fixtures and supplies for the project which helped keep costs down. We did the tiling ourselves.

      • petvet

        excellent job on the tiling. That’s harder than it looks!

  • Anon2

    Wow that’s gorgeous. Congratulations!

    Can you share the name of the fabricator who made the soapstone shower pan? Never saw one of those, but it’s a great way to deal with a “shower on floor” installation where you want something seamless.

    • slgdc1433

      I did contacted a lot of companies to get a quote to fabricate the shower pan and went with M. Teixeira out of Pennsylvania http://www.soapstones.com/.

      There were quite a few problems in getting it fabricated. Once they started fabrication, the sales rep suddenly realized that a pan required 4 sides and hadn’t figured that cost into the equation. They wanted to almost double the price, but I fought with them and they honored the original price they quoted me as they had already began the fabrication.

      We ended up using a clear silicone to seal the edges to the pan to prevent any leaks.

      A word of caution…this sucker is heavy. Especailly going up a flight of stairs.

      • BF

        It’s an interesting solution. Several years ago in a house far far away I built a large walk-in shower with tiled floor. Learned how to build up the floor by studying materials on the internet. It was a lot of work, a little stressful, but if done correctly a tiled shower floor simply can’t leak due to construction design. It is probably cheaper to do it that way than to have one fabricated as you did, but the lower stress level may be worth the extra expense.

        Really nice job on the whole bathroom!

        • slgdc1433

          My husband really had it in his head that he wanted soapstone and it really does feel amazing on your feet. I like the fact that it dries quickly and scratches and dings can be buffed away easily.

          All in all, I would say the expense of the shower pan was worth it.

  • jason

    Great work! OP do you have the contact info for the carpenter? I too live in Cap Hill and need one for a small job.

    • slgdc1433

      The carpenter helped us fix the window and woodwork issues mostly because he was doing a major project for us (residing the back of our house and building a deck). Unfortunetly, he is out of state until at least the fall on a job.

  • dt

    Just curious, if you were going for “historically accurate”, why didn’t you keep that awesome clawfoot tub? I’d *love* to have something like that in my bathroom!

    • slgdc1433

      We are using the clawfoot tub in a bathroom we are creating right now. That bathroom will be the guest bath. I love the look and charm of the tubs, but they aren’t practical for our puposes so we decided to go the shower route in the master. I figured as long as the tub stays on the same floor everyone can be happy.

  • Anony

    I love your bathroom!! Congrats!

  • Emmaleigh504

    Looks great!

  • KC

    This looks great. I’ve heard removing/moving a cast iron clawfoot tub can be really tough, was it a challenge to move it to another room? We have a similar small bathroom in our rowhouse that needs remodeling and we’d like to take out the tub, for the same reasons you stated, but keep the look of the rest of our house (which was built in the 1920s).

    • slgdc1433

      It was a bit of a pain. It took 4 guys, but they managed to do it. We did, however, end up with a 5 inch long scratch in the wood floors in the hallway during the process. Not great, but it can be fixed when we refinish the floors which we want to do in the next year or so.

  • Herb

    I’m seeing more and more master baths with a large shower and no tub. I removed the tub also in my mine and was concerned at first that this would be a turn-off to buyers some day. Sounds like it might not…

    • slgdc1433

      I think it depends on the buyers. I realize buyers with children will want a tub so that is one of the reasons we are using it in another bathroom. That bathroom will also be an en-suite, but since the bedroom is smaller it is more suited to be a guest or child’s room.

    • Jessica

      I think in a small master bath, a shower only is perfectly fine so long as you have a bathtub in another area of the house if the market is for families.

    • Anon2

      I am facing the same dilemma thinking about renovating the one bathroom in my apartment. There’s not room or plumbing for a second bathroom and while my clawfoot tub is pretty it also takes up a lot of space and is never used for taking baths.

      One of my neighbors warned me that a bathroom without a tub would mean no women would even consider buying my apartment. She said it’s impossible to shave one’s legs in a shower. Is that true? Would other women on POP consider buying a place that was tub-free?

      • Caroline

        That’s nonsense. I’ve shaved my legs in showers, including the very small showers on cruise ships and Navy ships.

        Personally I’d prefer a walk-in shower to a tub.

      • Herb

        If you have a large walk-in shower you can have a tiled shower bench installed. Problem solved! My legs look nice and smooth now even without a tub!

      • parkster

        I think it’s good to have a ledge or something other than the wall to brace a leg against when shaving, but it doesn’t need to be a full tub. I would buy a place without a tub.

        • slgdc1433

          A ledge is one thing I wish I would have put in to help with shaving. It is do-able as is, but a ledge would improve things.

      • Smilla

        Is your neighbor unable to bend over sufficiently to reach her toes?? I shave my legs in the shower all the time! I’ll bet many women do.

        I would definitely buy a place that had just a shower and no tub — but I only take showers and don’t like baths. Clawfoot tubs look nice, but I don’t think they’re the most practical fixture. I’ve always found them too deep to bathe kids in comfortably and too narrow to shower in comfortably (the curtain gets in the way).

      • textdoc

        I’d disagree on the “no tub” = “no woman will buy your apartment”… but no tub _does_ make it somewhat less desirable.

        I rarely use my tub/shower as a tub, but I like knowing that I can if I want to. Having a shower-only bathroom if it’s the only bathroom in the apartment _is_ kind of a drawback.

        • Local PW

          It’s harder to wash a baby or toddler in a shower than a tub. No tub, no child bearing buyers. But having a 2nd bath fixes that problem.

        • Jessica

          I think you have to consider the demographic likely to buy your condo. Ours is very small (500 square feet) and has basically no room for a baby (where would you put the crib?). So for us, no tub would be perfectly fine. If you live in a 2 bedroom-1 bath, I think it’s different.

          I personally would PREFER no tub – they always seem a waste to me because I don’t use them that way and they are harder to clean.

          It’s hard to find a contractor that will remove a tub from a condo, though. Ours wouldn’t and we just renovated. We did subway tile as well and it’s SO nice.

          Lastly, I think clawfoot tubs do look great but aren’t easily functional as someone else said. They’re not easy to get in an out of if you’re shower, or the area is a little slippery. I had one in grad school – and the area around the tub gets super dirty too easily for me.

          • Anonymous

            I feel the same way about jacuzzi tubs. They have high sides which make them hard to step in and out of if you have short legs. Most people never use theirs, and they’re harder to clean because mold grows quickly in the jets. Furthermore they look ugly and tacky. My bathroom came with a jacuzzi tub but I’ve only used it twice. It’s hard for me to justify using that much water– my hot water tank runs out before it’s even totally full. I’m hoping someday I’ll have the money to rip it out and install a walk-in shower.

      • IheartGabeByrne

        Depends on the woman. Older women, overweight women, women with bad backs – no tub ledge would make it hard.

        No tub can also be a tremendous disadvantage if you’re looking to sell in an area frequented by young families.

        Handle is a shout out to Smilla’s tag. I love him in that movie!

      • SF

        When we reno’d our 1 upstairs bath recently, we decided to keep the tub. The only other bathroom is in the basement, and it’s shower only.

        FWIW, we probably wouldn’t buy a house without a tub. There’s kids to consider later on, sure, but I’m gonna keep it real–I need the occasional long soak in the dead of a DC winter.

  • PetworthRes

    Nice renovation! I love the tile on the walls – we plan to do something similar when we renovate our bathroom, and like the mix of old details w/ modern features. Is that a Spacepak air conditioning vent on the ceiling in the bathroom (2nd photo)? If so – we did the same thing. Best renovating decision ever…at least until we finally renovate our bathroom.

    • slgdc1433

      It is Unico, but basically the same thing. I concur…the best $15,000 we have ever spent.

      • Lei

        Would you mind sharing who put the system in for you? It seems the going rate for Spacepak is 20 grand…so am very curious about your system.

        • slgdc1433

          We used Air Cool & Heating Systems out of Alexandria @ 703-360-7840. The owner Rich Abernathy was awesome to deal with. The install technicians were polite, efficient, and never complained despite the fact they spent days crawling around in our 100 degree attic crawl space. Highly recommended!

          • Lei

            Thank you!

          • slgdc1433

            They do Spacepak as well and will recommend what they think will fit the space the best.

  • Nx

    I am a woman, and I would never rent nor buy a place without a tub. (Indeed, when searching for my last two rentals my spouse and I rejected a number of gorgeous places we loved for this reason alone.) I just like soaking in the tub after a long day at work, in the winter when it’s cold, and/or when I can’t fall asleep. I find it inexplicable that so many people intentionally make their apartments LESS functional, and it’s somehow supposed to be considered a plus.

    • Herb

      Being 6’3″ 240 ish a regular tub/shower unit is too small and cramped. Taking out the tub and building a large kick-ass shower increased the functionality of my showering experience.

  • Anonymous

    Very nice. The marble on my bathroom floor is whitish but with streaks similar in color to the marble on your shower walls. What paint brand and color paint did you use, and how did you choose it? It brings out the marble’s color really nicely!

    • slgdc1433

      The paint is Valspar and the color is Silver Wing.

      We knew we wanted a grey color and wanted it to blend well with our towels which were a wedding present we had yet to use. Mostly we pulled a bunch of samples and mixed them with the marble and towels. The color is slightly more blue then we anticipated, but it still works.

  • AtticusGrinch

    I have a bathroom that looks like it is about the same size as yours (on Capitol Hill too) and we would like to do something similar. We have gotten quotes from $25,000 plus from contractors. Any chance that you could provide some really detailed advice for us as to how to keep the costs around $8,000? Did you forego permits? Use day labor? act as your own general contractor? How much work did you do yourself? Did you have to gut the bathroom down to the studs?

    I have a ton of questions. Sorry. I just don’t want to spend as much as a nice Honda for my bathroom when I don’t have to.


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