It’s Demolition Time!

Posted on July 10, 2013. Filed under: Home, Master Bath Remodel |

It’s crazy at our house! I mean there’s a black hole off of our bedroom with some pretty scary stuff going on in there. And be warned, this post is a doozy at nearly 2,000 words – WITH editing.

We finally put on our big girl and boy panties, swallowed our fear, grabbed our hammers, and tore it all up in our master bathroom. Blue bathroom, meet your destroyers:


It was exhausting – for one of us (cough, cough… Adam)

I was the clean-up crew. I was tired, but not nearly as tired as my main man who had to chip away at mortar all weekend.

How we Prepped:

Wednesday and Thursday we moved from the master into the hall bath. We’re lucky that we have another full bathroom to use during the renovation. I hate getting ready in the gym enough as it is. The move didn’t take too long and required us to box up some things we don’t use very often – fancy soaps, unopened toiletries, etc. – to store in the basement. I’m ashamed to admit that I found a plethora of unopened toiletries. We don’t need to re-stock for a while.

On Friday night we cut off the water to the bathroom, emptied out the remaining items,


removed the hutch, the toilet, the sink and vanity, the shower shelves, the blinds, the medicine cabinet, and the shower doors plus their track.

We used an old rag to plug up the toilet drain and taped over it like it was nobody’s business. I don’t know about you, but I don’t EVER want to smell that. We covered the exhaust fan and the AC vent so they wouldn’t suck up demolition dust.

On demolition day, Adam ate his Wheaties, gathered his tools, put on his gloves, goggles and mask and headed to the work site. I lovingly taped him in with a plastic sheet and painters tape.

While he began beating up the bathroom, I rolled up our area rug, laid down a canvas drop cloth, and covered the wood floor out to the stairs in craft paper.


Call me excessive, but I didn’t want anything happening to our floors and the less clean-up later, the better.



We really didn’t know what to expect, but we prepared ourselves for finding all sorts of nasty behind those walls. We suspected our tile was attached to the wall with mesh and mortar. That’s not good, people. The article about removing mesh and mortar on says “[the removal of] wall tile mortar and mesh can range from hard to very hard.” Wow. Thanks. We figured we were in for a treat.

A little sneak peek on Friday night confirmed our worst fears:


Yes. That’s about 1.5-2” of concrete on wire mesh. Fun times.

That’s what the backside of mesh and mortar tile looks like.

Adam used a crowbar, a normal hammer, a 6 lb. hammer, and a lot of brute strength, blood and sweat to break off all of the ceramic wall tiles. They hardly ever came off whole, but in itty bitty pieces. Because it didn’t take long for Adam to be standing in a pile of rubble, he would take a break from destruction and I would enter the hazard zone with my mask, goggles, and gloves to help bag up the debris. We used contractor bags we bought at Lowes, but we couldn’t even fill them halfway because they would be too heavy to carry.


If you think all of this sounds strenuous, try carrying 30 bags weighing 50+ pounds full of concrete and ceramic down a half flight of stairs and across the front yard to our parking pad. My poor husband will probably be in traction for a week. Adam says that hauling the debris out of the house was the worst part. We had to stop every hour or so to bag it or Adam wouldn’t have had solid ground to stand on.

Once Adam had the wall tile removed, he started to tug on the mesh. Please wear heavy gloves if you ever meet wire mesh. The mesh is very sharp. It was nailed to the studs in a billion places so if it didn’t budge by pulling, Adam pried the nails off with the hammer or crowbar. He rolled it up and laid it on the canvas drop cloth. We bundled it up and carried each blob of mesh out in the canvas to protect our hands. That $20 drop cloth was the best purchase ever. It really came in handy for carrying the mesh out of the house.

After day one this is where we were at:




All of the wall tile was gone, about half of the wire mesh, and some sheetrock.

On day two we started later because we were slightly tired and we weren’t as excited to jump back in the ring. Gee, I wonder why? Adam began to break up the floor tile with the 6 lb. hammer and we thought everything was going well until we realized that what we saw under the tile was not subfloor, but 3” of concrete. Our bathroom was a bunker. We cannot believe our bathroom didn’t fall to the ground floor already.

A call to Adam’s dad for advice and my subsequent trip to the Home Depot tool rental department brought us an electric jackhammer.


I foretold this when I mentioned nothing was going to clean our shower tile except for a jackhammer. I was right.

Rewind here though. Picture me all dusty, no make-up, hair all frizzed out at the Home Depot rental center, standing at the tool chest perplexed because the guy tells me I get to pick out bits for the jackhammer. Say what?! Of course this resulted in some picture messages to Adam with lots of question marks. I played it safe and got a sharp pointy one and one that was more wedge shaped with a sharp edge – like a flathead screwdriver, but giant. Oh those unpredictable experiences. . .

Once we had the jackhammer, things went A LOT faster. Now we know for the next bathroom remodel that we should start with this puppy right away. It was the smallest jackhammer at Home Depot and it still did the job. Adam used the sharp, pointy bit to poke holes in the tiles.


It broke everything up in about 2 hours through a combination of the bit plus all the vibrations. (Note: secure all breakables, wall art in adjoining rooms and anything below the room you’re jackhammering.) That time included all the pausing we had to do, yet again, to clear out the debris.

The biggest obstacle was the shower curb. This thing would have survived Armageddon. It was ensconced in the shower membrane (which we discovered after tile and 3 inches of mortar of course is made out of LEAD and it’s extremely heavy). I think the membrane would also serve as an emergency dinghy in case of a flood if you want lead poisoning. It was heavy-duty, guys. But back to the curb… The curb had the normal amount of tile and mortar on the outside (a lot), but it was solid concrete on the inside. You should have heard Adam when he finally cracked it open. I think his words were, “they put f*## bricks in here!” Well, he was right:


On closer inspection and after I vented my frustration on the curb with the 9 lb. hammer (even the jack hammer wasn’t doing much damage to this thing), it was nearly impossible to tell whether they were bricks or poured terracotta. But our research told us it’s common to fill shower curbs with bricks. Go figure. Adam and I took turns beating the crap out of the curb until we finally got it broken down.

We shoveled and shoveled and broke up the shower tile. And let me tell you something. Not once did we find any mold. Not once. I was shocked. But the mortar in the shower was wet. In the last half-century, I bet it’s been wet more often than it’s been dry and that’s gross. But that’s how mud showers are designed. Adam suspects with the Zodiac boat membrane and the 3 inches of concrete, the builders figured nothing would leak. I guess they weren’t too concerned about the wet mildew smell it would emit after 50 years’ worth of showers.

We finally managed to get most of the tile and concrete out of the lead shower pan. Yes, I said lead. That was the norm in 1964. Adam pried it up with a crow bar and pushed and rolled it in on itself. We used heavy-duty scissors to cut the membrane around the drain to loosen it up. We determined it was way too heavy for me to carry with Adam so we left it for another day.


By this time, it was 7:00 p.m. Adam removed the rest of the mesh and I started shoveling up leftover bits of concrete. We took several loads outside and I told Adam to go sit down while I cleaned up.

Clean-up was a lot of scooping up concrete bits with a dust pan, sweeping, and using the shop vac to suck up dust. I did find a lot of these guys in the wall behind the medicine cabinet:


I didn’t know this, but people used to shove their used razor blades into a slot in their medicine cabinet and the blades would collect between the walls. I guess this was for safety so no one would cut themselves if the blades went into the garbage. Personally, I think it’s gross. There were tons of them.

Once I had a great deal of dust and debris up, I peeled up the last layer of mesh and what looked like roofing shingles to reveal the subfloor. Then I vacuumed some more.

The next day a good friend helped Adam remove the pan and this is what we had:




Despite using plastic sheeting to block off the bathroom, there was still tons of dust in our bedroom from our frequent trips in and out for hauling. So at 9:00 pm I was using the shop vac, the regular vacuum, dusting, and a swiffer to get rid of as much dust as I could.

We covered our bed with a big blanket, so we didn’t have any dust on the bed, thank goodness. But it was pretty much everywhere else.

The next few nights after work, we hauled out the remaining bags and pulled hundreds of nails out of the studs.



We also plan to replace the insulation. I vacuumed every night for a week to get rid of the dust. We were very sore, but pretty proud of our progress.

So if you’re ever thinking of renovating your mid-century bathroom, this post will probably scare you off. Don’t let us discourage you. We still managed to do it in one weekend.

Now that the bathroom is down to the studs, we’ve got to fill ‘er back up again. I can’t wait to show you what we have picked out for this blank slate!


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[…] saw in my demo post how Adam went about destroying practically everything in here. It was cathartic. We eradicated the […]

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