How To Get Started On A DIY Bathroom Renovation In Thirty Easy Steps

One of the pros of being a fan of DIY is that you can save lots of money. Another pro is that there is a sense of pride and ownership in what you’re doing: it’s a little like sweat equity (Okay, it’s a lot like sweat equity because it IS sweat equity.). One of the cons is that a DIY bathroom renovation can take lots longer than if you hire a professional. We recently got started on our mostly-DIY bathroom renovation and if you were thinking about doing one in your house, here’s how to get started…in thirty easy steps.

1. Buy a house with which you are completely in love, all except for the ugly, 1969-original, salmon-colored bathroom.

Bathroom = Stuck in 1969

2. Talk to friends for four years about how much you hate that bathroom.

3. After four years, start making plans to renovate the ugly bathroom.

4. Get sidetracked financially by major foundation repairs, thus canceling any hopes of a bathroom renovation for the time being.

5. Talk to friends for seven more years about how much you hate that bathroom.

6. Discover that your original tub faucet assembly is suddenly not shutting off properly unless you push it in and to the side, each and every time you get out of the shower.

7. Discuss with husband how a tub repair is coming up, and nod when he suggests that the entire bathroom renovation should start to happen since the plumber will be making a visit anyway.

8. Put off the tub repair as long as humanly possible, living in denial that one day you will have no choice but to repair it.

9. Accidentally discover that it really would have been a great idea to schedule the plumber before you really needed him, when your downstairs bathroom ceiling springs a leak (caused by the tub faucet assembly leaking into the wall and down to the floor/ceiling) the day before you’re going out of town for the fourth of July holiday.

10. Call plumber and ask him to do a temporary repair that will fix the leak while rendering the main bathroom out of commission until the tub you have ordered through him can be installed.

11. Plan to return from trip ready to demolish your own tub rather than adding it to the plumber’s to-do list, saving yourself about $500.

12. Get fired up about the idea of busting up a bathtub. How hard can it be?

13. Put on proper gear. Safety first!

Goggles and gloves (not pictured): safety first!

14. Rip out all of the tile and drywall surrounding the old tub. Tell each other, “This is fun!”

15. Cover the bathtub with a tarp at the plumber’s recommendation, because the porcelain outer layer of a cast iron tub shatters into a million pieces when you demolish it, and you want to prevent the shards from attaching themselves to your body like a swarm of killer bees.

16. Get pumped when your husband pulls out the five-pound rubber mallet and takes aim at the tub.

17. Experience, with your husband, a “Duh” moment when the five-pound mallet does not do anything to the tub. Think to yourself, “Is the tub laughing at us?”

18. Go to the hardware store and buy a twelve-pound sledgehammer.

19. Reset, and get fired up all over again.

NOW we're talkin'.

20. Take turns hitting (and hitting, and hitting) the tub with the sledgehammer and all your might, until you are finally rewarded by the sound of it breaking.

21. Remove the tarp and realize that one break does not bust up the whole tub. Settle in; it’s going to take longer than you thought.

22. Realize that you should probably take the dishes out of the kitchen cabinets, which are on the other side of the wall from the bathtub. Go do that.

23. Come back and repeat process of covering tub with the tarp, hitting (and hitting, and hitting) it with the sledgehammer, and removing the heavy pieces from the scene…over and over again for about two hours.

What a mess.

24. Groan a little when your husband says, “Uh-oh, I think I broke the drain pipe.” Mentally estimate that a new drain pipe will probably cost about $550, which is $50 more than what you could have paid the plumber to demolish this tub.

25. Figure that you’re being ridiculous: a new drain pipe or repair of the old one couldn’t possibly cost that much money…could it?

26. Finally finish removing the tub, put a bucket under the faucet JUST IN CASE, get ready to clean up the shards that are all over the subfloor, and marvel at how interesting the space looks, while thinking about how that insulation hasn’t seen the light of day in 42 years.

All done!

27. Let the plumber in the following morning so he can install the new tub. (Edited: Sigh with relief when he tells you that the drain pipe broke “correctly” and he doesn’t charge you extra to fix it.)

28. Stare at the new tub with an idiotic grin on your face for about ten minutes every time you go upstairs for something.

So much better.

29. Get itchy to finish renovating the rest of the bathroom, but realize you’re going to have to wait a few weeks to get “un-busy” first.

30. Cross your fingers, HARD, that you really do get “un-busy” in a few weeks, because you really don’t want the rest of the bathroom to take another twelve years.


  • Heather Davis

    We are in the throws of an insurance-sponsored bathroom remodel. Apparently, we inhaled some of our neighbors funny tobacco that he thinks no one knows about in his backyard and decided we could do it ourselves. We are not DIYers even on our best day. You’re a better woman than I am.

  • Tara R.

    Yes, yes, okay, uh huh, hmm… yes… to it all. I guess the Mister and I are on track for our own bathroom DIY project. How do you feel about a working vacation in Florida?

  • Liz

    I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to road-test your work. Also, not to have fallen through the floor and dripped all over Julsie. That would have been REAL awkward 🙂

  • Tracey

    LOL! Makes me laugh. Just found your blog and read this entry which makes me think we were knee deep in bathroom renovation at the same time.

    I still don’t have a toilet paper holder on the wall yet though. That might take a few more weeks.

  • Roger Wright

    Great step by step, this made me laugh pretty good. I am in the middle of a DIY bathroom job and have always been a DIY person with cars. I figured a home can’t be that hard. Well I think I may go with the pro, mainly because as I am getting older I need a bathroom that is elderly friendly as I want to stay until I well you know. I commend you efforts and good luck on finishing it off. Great post!