Bye Bye Bye to 80s Tile - Bathroom Renovation Part 1

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If you saw my upstairs house tour, you know there was one room, in particular, that needed some serious help. The upstairs bathroom, while technically functional, had been renovated (maybe in the 80s or 90s?) in a way that made it totally stand out from the rest of the house. From the fat upper trim to the pink-and-cream tile everywhere, we were determined to tackle this early on so that we could enjoy the bathroom.

Here is what we were working with at first:

For some reason, this tile simply looks dirty to me. Even after I'd given it a good old fashioned scrubbing, it had a grungy, grime-covered look to me. Not exactly what you want to see in a bathroom, where you're supposed to be getting clean.

On top of just being dirty looking, awfully colored tile, it was put everywhere. Even the countertop was tiled, which is one of my pet peeves in homes because it is so dang difficult to clean, and it's really easy to stain tile grout with makeup. They also brought this tile all the way around the walls of the room.

So, stage one of this bathroom remodel was to get rid of everything bad in the room, i.e. wall tile.

First, I removed the medicine cabinet/mirror that was hung above the sink. This was pretty simple - just a process of removing all visible screws and pulling the medicine cabinet out of the wall to reveal the lathe behind it.

The next step was to remove the trim. It had been caulked on top, so I used a box cutter to score a line in the caulk. This loosens the grip there so that the trim can be pulled off more easily.

Then, I used a chisel and hammer to get underneath the trim from above until it was a bit removed from the wall.

Occasionally, switching to a bar helped me get more leverage against the wall.

Once there was a visible gap between the trim and wall, I pulled it off with my gloves on.

We weren't sure if we were going to re-use this trim or not, so we wanted to keep it intact and orderly - just in case. I used a permanent marker to write the location of each piece on the back, to avoid confusion later on if we decided to use them.

Once the trim was off, we also removed the light plates so that we could get to the tile underneath them. Then, we got to work on the tile, itself.

We used a chisel and hammer (and occasionally the bar) to remove the tile from the wall. The chisel was placed at a very slight angle, almost flat against the wall, and pushed up against the side or top of a piece of tile. We hit the end of the chisel with a hammer until the tile pieces came loose.

Note: If you are doing this, wear gloves! Chipped tile can be very sharp, and it's easy to get cuts all over your hands, so wear some leather work gloves for protection.

The first wall (above) was fairly easy to remove the tile from. Pieces fell off easily, and some even fell off in pairs.

As we worked our way around the room, however, we ran into some problems. Whoever did this bathroom remodel (clearly quite a while ago) had done each wall a little differently.

In some areas, the "1980s remodelers" put a piece of drywall up against the plaster wall and glued the tile to the drywall. Where this was the case, the tile was ripping the drywall, but this wasn't much of an issue - we simply removed the drywall piece along with the tile, revealing the smooth, intact plaster wall behind it (see photo above).

In other places, the "1980s remodelers" skipped the drywall and simply glued the tile directly to the plaster. Where this was the case, removing the tile caused the plaster to rip and crumble, revealing the lathe behind it (see photo below, and my terrified face).

So, we ended up with a mostly clean break where there had been drywall, but one wall looked awful and would clearly need to be repaired (hmm... guess which wall?).

We considered doing this ourselves, but ended up calling someone to come help us hang and screw in the drywall. After completely botching the removal, it seemed wise to get a little help. He hung the drywall and then mudded and sanded around them to make the patching look smooth.

Next, we got started on installing what would be covering up those walls. 

What do you think it was?!


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