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How to Demolition Your Bathroom

Another important part of the bathroom-remodeling project is the demolition of your existing bathroom. You need to have a plan. There is a process to the demolition phase and it usually does not require a sledgehammer. It requires a plan and patience. Below is planning guide to the demolition process.

Step 1:

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  • Remove the mirror.
    • To help keep a frameless mirror from shattering, I recommend applying tape from corner to corner creating an “X”.
  • Run tape from top to bottom and side to side through the center of the “X”.
  • You may need to take a razor blade to scribe between the wall and mirror to loosen paint, glue, and etc.
  • Once the mirror is cut around all four sides gently break the mirror and carefully dispose of the mirror in the dumpster.
  • Remove towel bars, toilet paper holders, shelves and etc. from the walls.

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Step 2:

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  • Remove the vanity top.
    • Disconnect water lines. Just in case, check to be certain you know where the main water shutoff is for the home. Make sure the shutoff valves for the sink are closed before disconnecting the water lines. Open the hot and cold water for the faucet and let the waterlines drain.
    • If there are not any shutoff valves for the vanity sink, you need to shut the water off for the home. Check this by turning some faucets on and making sure the water stops running. Remove the water lines. Cut the copper pipe as needed and install a compression fitting shutoff valve. If you are not sure what to do, I strongly encourage you to find someone who can help, such as a licensed plumber. Be very cautious when dealing with water!
    • Disconnect the drain line for the sink.
    • Use a razor blade to cut loose any adhesive holding the vanity top to the vanity.
    • Put vanity top in dumpster or a safe location if you are reusing the vanity top.

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Step 3:

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  • Remove the vanity / cabinet.
    • Remove screws holding the vanity to the wall. If you are reusing the existing vanity, I recommend removing the vanity anyway. This will help give you a professional finished look for the floor tile and make it easier to install the floor tile.
    • If water shut off valves were originally installed after the vanity was installed, you can cut the water shutoff valves off, or you can carefully cut the vanity back open to allow the vanity back to slide over the shutoff valves.
    • If you decide to cut the shutoff valves off, you will need to shut the main water off to the home. Be sure to cap the water lines or install new shutoff valves before turning the water back on.
    • Remove base trim along the bathroom walls.
    • Break the vanity down and throw in dumpster or place in a safe location if you are reusing the vanity.

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Step 4:

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  • Remove the toilet.
    • Turn the water off at the shutoff valve.
    • If the toilet does not have a shutoff valve follow the process above in step 3 for installing a shutoff valve.
    • After the water is shut off, flush the toilet several times to remove as much water as possible.
    • Use a wet shop vacuum or a sponge to remove the remaining water.
    • Remove the nuts and caps at the base of the toilet.
    • The toilet should lift straight off; the old wax ring should be visible.
    • Use a putty knife to remove the old wax ring. Stuff the opening with a rag to prevent sewer fumes from entering the home.
    • Dispose of the toilet or set aside if it is to be used again.
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        Step 5:

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        • Remove the bathtub / shower surround.
          • Remove the trim for the tub / shower faucet.
          • Remove the fiberglass shower surround by cutting down the corners with a reciprocating saw. Use a short blade and do not cut into the wall in the back. Remember, you do not know what is in the wall behind the shower.
          • If you have tiled shower surround use a sharp razor blade to score / cut the drywall all the way through at the top of the tile and along the sides of the tile. You will have to run the razor blade over the drywall a few times to cut all the way through. Pry the tile and the backer boards off the wall. The backer board is held on with screws. These screws will be removed after the backboard is removed.
          • Remove the tile and backer board in larger sections, if possible, to eliminate dust and trips to the dumpster.
          • Do not remove the drywall where the tile is not installed. You want to remove the tile and the backer board behind the tile only. What you remove now you have to replace later.
          • Disconnect the bathtub drain and remove the bathtub. If the bathtub is cast iron, have a two wheeled cart to help carry the bathtub to the dumpster, as cast iron tubs are heavy. You can break the cast iron bathtub into smaller sections in the house, but this will make a mess. You can cover the bathtub with a blanket before breaking the tub apart to help contain small pieces and keep the mess to a minimum.
          • If the bathtub is fiberglass, cut the tub into manageable sections to remove from the home and dispose of into the dumpster.

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        Step 6:

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        • Remove the existing flooring.
          • Depending on the age of the bathroom and how the flooring was installed will affect how easy the removal process will be.
          • Below is a couple of the most common ways I see the floor tile installed.
            • The tile may be set on cement board. The cement board is often set on thin set, and screwed to the sub floor.
            • With this you may have five layers of flooring:
              • Tile
              • Thin set
              • Cement Board
              • Thin set
              • Sub floor – the sub floor will stay. Everything else should be removed.
            • The tile is set on a layer of thin set that is about one inch thick.
            • With this you may have three layers:
              • Tile
              • Thin set
              • Sub floor – the sub floor will stay. Everything else should be removed.
          • Every bathroom is different and until you start the demolition of the floor you do not know what you will encounter. In either case, removing the tile and tile backer down to the sub floor is not an easy task.
          • One option you may have is to remove the tile only and set the new tile on the old mortar bed. This option may raise the current height of the tiled floor from 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch. I do not recommend this option as it does not give you the opportunity to inspect the existing sub floor for damage.
          • There are a variety of thresholds available to transition from the tiled floor to the adjacent floor. Check with your local flooring store to see what threshold will work best.
          • Keep in mind the toilet flange will need to sit flush with the sub floor or the finished floor. If the flange is higher or lower than the finished floor, you may need to replace the flange. This, of course, will add to your expenses.

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        At this point your bathroom should be empty, except for the light. We will keep the light for now and install a new one later. It is now time to start putting the bathroom back together!

        I strongly encourage you to check and double check your work to make sure everything is done correctly. If at any point you are not comfortable, take a step back and hire the proper professional. Always be sure to follow the local and national building codes.

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