Beach House – Small Bathroom

We did the small bathroom remodel last fall – and I’m catching up on the post. 

We could only fit in a very small floor plan – under 6′ x 6′. I think this is just about the smallest square footage possible for a sink, toilet and shower without code variance. 

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My daughter and I did the demo. This was behind the first wall we pulled down. We immediately decided to take everything down – too risky not too. We found some scary stuff, but we had fun finding it and fixing it.

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Here is the area fully demo’ed out. The ceiling was at 6′ 8′ – really low. Pulling out the drywall made it feel a bit less cramped.

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I framed the back wall about 6″ out from the one behind it. This allowed me room for a niche, the vent plumbing, plus a large heating duct to the upstairs.

There wasn’t any heat upstairs before this. Although the wood stove kept the upstairs warm, it didn’t meet modern code. Over years of remodeling, I’ve learned two things: bring everything you can up to code or better; Don’t think you will wait until sometime in the future and then hope to figure it out – do it now while it’s easy.

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We laid the shower walls up on hardi board. We used RedGuard waterproofing on all seams and fasteners. The main tile was on clearance for about $1 per s.f., and mosaics came from Home Depot for $8 s.f.


I can’t for the life of me figure out how putting a piece of plastic behind the wall board will make anything waterproof. You put it there, drive screws through it and cut a big hole for the shower valve. Also, it will hold moisture in, probably causing other problems. Image 2016-08-14 - 1978Sometimes code is dumb, and you should do much better.

Red guard is waterproof membrane approved for wet areas. When we put it over a screw, the screw is now not going to see any water. We did two thick coats on all breaks in the surface, and three on seams that needed to be taped.

In addition, we put epoxy grout in wet areas, which is waterproof. So we have glass and porcelain tile with epoxy grout over a surface that has any opening sealed. Finally, we silicone caulk all corners over the grout. If you are going to get a crack form, it’s most very likely going to happen at the corner.

One more thing I do. I put strips of tar paper on the studs before putting the wallboard on them. Why? Tar paper seals around the fasteners, and it makes a moisture break between the shower and the studs. I don’t run solid tar paper, I want any moisture that may get back there to dry to air.

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The best way to get the niche exactly where it needs to go:

  • Frame the support behind the wall a bit larger
  • Lay the tile up to where it’s easy to mark the niche
  • Cut the hole
  • Block in with wood
  • Put the wall board into the niche
  • Tape and waterproof it

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Here is the finished tile work. We are adding a bathroom upstairs, so I put the drain in while I could. It had to sit low because the ceiling joists are 6″ deep.

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Some manufacturers say to put mortar under a shower, other say it’s optional. On this one by Delta, it was optional with the thin pad they give you. I put mortar under it. It fully supports it, no questions asked. If it cracked some day, I would have to tear the whole shower out. So for a $4 bag of mortar and 10 minutes to prep it, it’s an obvious best practice to follow.

Once the tile was done, we put the tongue-and-grove boards on the walls. We also put the floor tile down.

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We pained the walls behind the sink and toilet before installing them.

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I bought the sink for $75 from someone who couldn’t fix it – it was leaking pretty badly. The production date stamp on the underside is American Standard, 1933. I took the valves totally apart, and replaced the washers and screws. Believe it or not, Home Depot still sells the parts to fix these.

I built the cabinet from an inspiration piece in the pottery barn catalog.

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The rest of the pictures are of the finished room. This was a 3 month process from start to finish, mainly done on weekends.

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The shower stall turned out great. I don’t think I had an extra inch to spare.

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We trimmed out the glass block  window in barn-board.

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We put false boards on the ceiling and trimmed the joists out. It made the tight space feel just a bit nicer that if we would have put sheetrock back on the bottom of the joists.

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My DW loves old glass. We picked these up at the ReStore for about $1 each.

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Finally, I built and installed the doors. We are replacing all the doors in the house with this style. They will all have the same upper square, which will get chalkboard paint, and the bottom designs will vary. I will keep pairs of them similar.

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Time and Money

  • Almost all the materials used were reclaimed, on clearance or from liquidators. The total cost was just under $2,000.
  • As I said above, it took about 3 months – around 12 or 13 working days start to finish.Half the time there were two of us working.


There is no way around it, the bathroom is small. But, everyone who has used it tells us they love it. It turned out to be a very fun room, kind of having the feeling of being on an old ship. I wouldn’t like it for the main bathroom, but it makes a good backup.

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