Kids Bathroom Renovation

As our kids have got­ten old­er, they have out­grown their shared hall­way bath­room. So we decid­ed to give them two sinks and some more stor­age space.

Wall cab­i­net in place and bath hard­ware mounted

In all fair­ness, “ren­o­va­tion” is prob­a­bly not the best word for this project. We did­n’t exact­ly tear down the room to bare studs or any­thing. How­ev­er, it did touch on just about every DIY skillset I have! And we agreed that if we were going to do this project our­selves and not hire any­one, we were still going to make sure every aspect was done right. 

Begin­ning demo — the clos­est thing to a “before” picture

We used a sim­i­lar IKEA cab­i­net with draw­ers to the one we installed in our down­stairs bath update. This is the IKEA Hemnes van­i­ty and wall cab­i­net, along with the match Odensvik sink. We also used a pair of the Ensen faucets from IKEA. These cab­i­nets are great for stor­age but be pre­pared to do some mod­i­fi­ca­tions to your plumb­ing lines as they almost cer­tain­ly will have to be cut shorter!

How­ev­er, where that had a pedestal sink, this bath­room had a full cab­i­net with a closed base. The new cab­i­net was short­er in depth and also had an open cab­i­net. Upon pulling out the old cab­i­net, we imme­di­ate­ly real­ized that the tile was place after the cab­i­net and there­fore did­n’t con­tin­ue beneath it. Angela was able to locate some match­ing tile used in the bath­room. We had to remove some of the tiles that had been cut around the cab­i­net foot­print. A grout removal blade on a cord­less oscil­lat­ing mul­ti­tool made this an easy job (I start­ed off try­ing to remove the grout by hand and it was near­ly impos­si­ble with the epoxy grout). My son helped out plac­ing some under­lay­ment. The com­pos­ite vinyl tile used floor adhe­sive and sil­i­con grout (which is hon­est­ly way worse to place than nor­mal tile grout). We were able to most­ly match up the grout, though.

For light­ing, I added a sec­ond light mount in series with the orig­i­nal. The builders of this home used pos­si­bly the worst light mount box­es, so I end­ed up replac­ing the orig­i­nal with an old work box. I drilled through a cou­ple of studs to run the wire, which was dif­fi­cult at best1. The oth­er elec­tric work con­sist­ed of mov­ing an out­let a few inch­es out of the cor­ner so that it would­n’t be blocked by the wall cab­i­net. I used my mul­ti­tool again here to quick­ly cut out the old box and then cut in a space for an old work box about 5″ to the left. Seems like a lot of effort for not much dis­tance, but it makes the out­let much eas­i­er to get to.

With the elec­tri­cal out of the way, it was time to patch up the walls. I’ve learned a bit about dry­wall repair and I can say from expe­ri­ence that dry­wall com­pound is far bet­ter to work with than spack­le for any­thing larg­er than a nail hole. For cov­er­ing larg­er open­ings, also use a met­al mesh patch. The one down­side to dry­wall com­pound is that it’s a ton of sand­ing and there­fore a huge, dusty mess. But the results are worth it. My wife and daugh­ter paint­ed the room a blue-gray once all the sand­ing was complete.

Ains­ley and Angela paint­ing trim

Next, it was time for plumb­ing. Unlike our down­stairs bath, the sup­ply lines and drains in the wall stuck out too far for the IKEA cab­i­nets. In order to cut back sup­ply lines, we had to shut off the main water sup­ply to the house. We had for­tu­nate­ly nev­er had to do that before so locat­ing it was a headache. In our defense, it’s upstairs in a hall clos­et where our water heater tank is locat­ed and does­n’t look like any oth­er water shut-off valve I could find on the inter­net! Once we got the water shut off and the pipe pres­sure relieved by open­ing a tub faucet down­stairs, I could cut the lines. Actu­al­ly, Angela end­ed up cut­ting the sec­ond and putting a new shut-off valve on since I had to run to the store to get some more com­pres­sion rings (the old ones weren’t com­ing off and I only had one for some rea­son). The drain was easy to cut back using the mul­ti­tool again (it’s a great demo tool!). I installed the line split­ters and fit up all the drain lines for the two sinks after that.

The open cab­i­net meant that I need­ed to place floor trim all along the wall where the old cab­i­net pre­vi­ous­ly was. I was able to pur­chase some match­ing MDF floor mold­ing and shoe mold­ing. I cut it to size, sneak­ing up so it would make a nice, tight miter in the cor­ner. Of course, the walls were not real­ly straight at all. The one new tool major tool I pur­chased for this project was a bat­tery pow­ered trim nail­er and it made installing the mold­ing a breeze. With that in place, we could hang the cab­i­net and set the van­i­ty top.

Cab­i­netry being mount­ed using three lag screws

The last thing to do was to hang the wall cab­i­net with the mir­rors. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, both Angela and I had­n’t real­ly thought through all the dis­tances. There was enough space for the full cab­i­net between the top of the faucets and the bot­tom of the light fix­tures, but just bare­ly. That is, you would­n’t actu­al­ly be able to put your hand on the faucet and turn it on! We even tried turn­ing the lights to point up (keen eyes may have not­ed that in the first pho­to), but it still was­n’t going to be enough space for the wall cabinet.

I had a plan, though. I took the wall cab­i­net apart and did some a lot of mea­sur­ing. I then took the sides and back pan­els out to the garage work­shop. I was going to sim­ply remove the bot­tom shelf and there­by short­en the cab­i­net 6–1/2″. The sides were actu­al stained pine, so I did­n’t have to wor­ry about a veneer tear­ing too much. I made the cuts to length using the miter gage. I then cut about the final inch off of those off-cuts. This would give me a drill tem­plate for the dow­el and screw holes in the “new” bot­toms. I then cut the back pan­els down by the same amount. The cab­i­net went back togeth­er per­fect­ly. There was even a con­sis­tent gap all around the mir­ror doors!

The last major piece to install was a new toi­let. The old toi­let was a short height, round bowl (i.e., a “kid­dy” size toi­let — this pho­to does not do the size dif­fer­ence jus­tice). We opt­ed for a rea­son­ably priced Delta toi­let. I was a bit ner­vous about the removal and instal­la­tion, but it went pret­ty eas­i­ly and was far less unpleas­ant than I expect­ed. That being said, the Delta toi­let is pret­ty lousy and I would­n’t rec­om­mend it to anyone. 

New toi­let installed and old toi­let ready for the dump (pun intended)

We hung up some match­ing hand tow­el and robe hooks for the kids to fin­ish off the room. So there you have it: demo, tiling, elec­tri­cal, plumb­ing, dry­wall, paint­ing, and car­pen­try all in one small bath­room ren­o­va­tion! But it real­ly has inspired our con­fi­dence to tack­le even more projects. I’m pleased with how every­thing turned out and that I know every­thing’s done cor­rect­ly, too. 

  1. In fact, I near­ly drilled right into a live 110v line to an out­let using a spade bit. For­tu­nate­ly, I was going fair­ly slow­ly. How­ev­er, that could have eas­i­ly gone very bad­ly for me. []
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By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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