Time to put another giant hole in our house! Here is how we demolished the rotting bathroom and rebuilt it ourselves for under $2,000. A bit better than the $10,000 average contractor cost!

Purchasing a home is marginally intimidating. Hopefully you: chose something you like, didn’t buy at the top of the market, don’t find some sort of catastrophic damage to the home, etc.

Even more daunting is buying a fixer upper for the first time. You don’t (I didn’t) realize how many decisions go into fixing up a house, let alone the actual labor hours for a full remodel.

Also if you’re an insufferable people pleaser like me, going to Floor and Decor and spending many hours making many design decisions that will affect the sale of your home (and invite in mixed judgements from others!) will leave you very agitated. LIFE IS SO HARD.

Minus the carpet, which we ripped out within 24 hours of owning the house, this is what we started with:

Bathroom remodel

Bathroom remodel
Rotting floor zone.
Bathroom remodel
The floor was so rotted out here that Dan wondered if the toilet + a person on top would fall through.

The Approach

1. Look for inspiration online. I used Pinterest, Houzz, and Google images to get an idea of what was “in style” and “modern” and other cringe-worthy terms inserted here.

2. Research the cost ranges of what you like – see Rempros (a nice cost calculator) or Houzz or NKBA. All said and done our bathroom remodel starting from the studs cost $1900.

Our master bathroom is small, about 40 square feet. Know what’s realistic for your budget and the size of your bathroom.

3. Shop around for supplies outside of Home Depot or a bath/kitchen store. We found a better tiling selection with better prices at a flooring/tiling store. We found our vanity and bathroom fixtures at an auction (Roller Auctions). We’ve also had previous luck on Craigslist.

Bathroom remodel vanity
Un-assembled vanity found at an auction for [relatively] cheap. It was good quality wood, which outweighed my ambivalence toward the colors. The vanity somewhat determined the color scheme of the entire bathroom…
4. Watch YouTube tutorials. These are helpful for how to tile and grout, how to install a concrete shower pan, how to install a glass shower door, etc.

The Cost

Below is a cost breakdown for our bathroom remodel. All fixtures listed are brushed nickel (is this still a thing people like?). This does not include the cost of tools we already own and have used to remodel the rest of the house.


Sink + toilet + fixtures

Construction materials

Total ~ $1900

The Process – Pre-building Stage

So first, destroy the rotting bathroom. This is the easy and fun part! It involves taking a sledge hammer to the thing you want to destroy. Some finesse is needed in your technique to not destroy the joists.

We tried to leave as much of the drywall intact because as we have learned, installing new drywall and mudding is not a small task.

Bathroom remodel demolition
Goodbye rotting shower.
Bathroom remodel demo
Dan pulled up the floor after this picture was taken = giant hole in house #42.

Second, go to a tile/floor store, maybe 7 times? Decide on tile for the floor, shower, shower floor, the grout color for each, and the trim for the shower. Hope that you know how to make things match at the very least. Even slightly better would be creating something that someone would pay money for. How do you do that second one? Please help.

Third, look for bathroom fixtures at an auction, Craigslist, or Ebay. If that doesn’t work, go to Home Depot and buy brushed nickel shower fixtures, towel racks, faucets, etc. Have chronic anxiety because in 6 months it will probably be out of style. Or was it ever in style? Question yourself incessantly over every detail because yes, worrying a lot does indeed improve the outcome!!

Fourth, be Dan and create a bathroom.

The Process – Building Stage

1. Build a shower pan.

I think this was the most difficult + time consuming project of the bathroom remodel. Home Addition Plus has a good video tutorial on building a shower pan. The Handyman and Floor Elf are good websites to explore on the topic, too.

2. Fix the plumbing.

That’s all I know about plumbing.

3. Install cement board for the shower.

Cement board is moisture and mold resistant, and provides a strong, water-durable base for shower areas. Each sheet weighs 40 pounds so it’s good to have some help hanging the larger sheets.

Hanging cement board

Bathroom remodel shower pan
Cement board is up and the PVC is installed. Now time to fill the shower pan with mud and slope it toward the drain.

4. Install a new floor.

Dan installed new plywood, then cement board, then the travertine flooring we found on clearance. Dan cut the tile with a tile cutter and a tile saw we borrowed from a friend. He then mixed thin-set (an adhesive mortar made of cement, fine sand and a water retaining agent) to the right consistency (peanut butter), and applied it with a trowel. After setting the tiles on top of the thin set, Dan checked that the tiles were correctly spaced and level.

Home Depot has a tutorial on how to install floor tile.

Bathroom remodel floor installation
Applying and combing the thin-set.

Bathroom remodel floor installation

He then installed the shower floor tile:

Bathroom remodel shower floor tiling

5. Tile tile tile.

Here is a tutorial on how to tile a shower, thick Midwestern accent included.

Bathroom remodel tiling

6. Grout grout grout.

You do it in threes. Floor, shower floor, shower wall. See, I’m not only trying to be annoying.

This is a nice tutorial on how to grout.

7. Prime and paint the walls and ceiling.

Bathroom remodel
We whittled these choices down to four, turned them over, then picked at random. Choice fatigue in full effect.

8. Install the toilet and vanity.

Here is a tutorial on how to remove an old toilet and install a new one.

Here is a tutorial on installing a sink slash vanity by a guy with a serious soul patch and an outfit reminiscent of my teenage soccer days, hairband included. He’s more entertaining than most..

9. Install the shower faucet and the glass shower door.

Here is a Home Depot tutorial on how to install a shower faucet. Here is a sleepy-voiced Kohler tutorial about how to install a shower door.

Bathroom remodel

10. Celebrate because 9 steps only took 80 hours!! Yay new bathroom!

Bathroom remodel
Finished product.
Bathroom remodel
Before + after.

On to the basement!



  1. I forgot to mention that I was just looking through some of your older posts and this caught my eye because we are in the process of renovating bathrooms. Unfortunately not as handy as you guys!

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