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LESSONS LEARNED WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER: DEMOLITION OF THE BATHROOM TO PREP FOR STEAM

After planning, designing, and purchasing the materials we thought were needed for the bathroom remodel, the sledgehammer anxiously awaited his call to action; however, a few other tools needed to properly prepare the site.


Prepping for demolition:

As mentioned in a previous post, our existing bathroom had carpet tiles, which were on top of peel and stick vinyl tiles, so to avoid the collection of demolition debris in the flooring, I removed all existing flooring.  The carpet tiles were easy, but the vinyl tiles clung to the floor with all their might.  To aid in their removal, I purchased my first tool of the remodel: an oscillating cutting tool.  If considering demolition (or any remodeling project), this tool has many great benefits, from cutting through adhesive beneath tiles to undercutting door trim or other wall materials to make room for tiles and many more functions.  Having removed the tiles, I proceeded to install the new ventilation fan/ceiling light combination unit.  Upon removing the old unit, I found two things:

1. The original unit’s duct work was not connected from the fan to the exhaust opening.  I made sure to connect the hose, as the exhaust fan would likely be clearing construction dust and fumes from the bathroom during the remodel, though an open window was the primary ventilation.

2. The original unit required a mirrored installation of my new unit, which meant I would need to cut a hole in the ceiling, using my new oscillating tool, to install the new fan/ceiling light. 


Note: I chose to replace the exhaust fan due to a desire for a ceiling light and a quieter unit.  A well-constructed steam room does not require additional exhaust, as most steam will be kept inside of the steam shower and will condense as cooler water mixes with the steam during a shower after the steam bath.


Finally, I identified which circuit in the electrical panel cut power to the shower light, and I turned off both water supplies to the shower.  If you are new to remodeling, remember there is a hot and a cold line running to the shower, and forgetting one can make for a big mess later.  Also, double check the plumbing to know if the toilet and sink lines are fed before or after the shower cut-offs.  If they are before the shower cut-offs, then you will still have full function of the toilet and sink.  If they are after the cut-off, then the valves will need to be opened to use the facilities. 

Exhaust Fan Duct


READY FOR THE SHOWER:

Demolition Begins I love the shows on HGTV, DIY, and other home improvement shows, but my demolition was not nearly as exciting as the shows make it look.  While the shows often show a hammer crashing through a shower door, a mirror, or other fragile items, I needed to carry the debris from the basement through the house, so I wanted to avoid sharp fragments as much as possible.  To have the safest, easiest access to aggressively remove tile from the shower, I needed to remove the shower door, so I was pleased when I saw I simply needed a razor knife for the caulk (which was already failing in some parts of the installation) and a screw driver.  With the glass still in one piece, I carried the door to the curb to allow pickers to have a free shower door or for the trash truck to collect.

Now that my work area was clear, it was time for the rough stuff, or so I thought.  Being careful to avoid plumbing fixtures and the shower light (electrical), I felt my inner Thor and started swinging my 10 lb sledgehammer, and I was amazed at how quickly I got tired and how little progress I had made in the demolition.  I had cracked and removed a few pieces, so I was committed to proceeding with the project, but I needed to change my method.  I switched from the 10 lb hammer to a Stanley Fubar, which is a 3 lb wrecking device.  It was much more manageable, and it features several tools to assist in demolition.  Perhaps one of the best benefits of using a smaller tool was control, as I was working in a small shower (42”D x 36”W), so I needed to be careful not to hit plumbing or any unintended targets.  When it was time to remove the shower curb, I saw it had been constructed using 3- 2x4s stacked and nailed together and into the concrete, and the wood was showing signs of water damage and appeared to have been part of the water damage problem outside of the shower.  Since it had been secured so well, I used a circular saw to cut the boards into smaller sections before wielding the 10 lb hammer.  As expected, the boards were easily removed with this method.


Exposure results in better understanding:

When the construction of the shower was revealed, I began to understand why water damage existed outside of the shower in the surrounding drywall, and why some of the 2x4 framing showed some water infiltration: no waterproofing membrane.  Even though sealed tile is essentially waterproof, and grout lines help to prevent penetration of water, over time, water vapor from hot showers or water beating on a wall from daily showers can cause water to penetrate through the joints.  Once through the grout and behind the tiles, the thinset and backer board will help prevent water from penetrating into the walls; however, neither of those products are intended to waterproof, without some type of modification, so without a waterproofing membrane, a shower may eventually allow enough water to wick through the cement board to reach the walls behind.  My shower had 26 years to allow the damage to occur, and had I sealed the grout lines more frequently (every 5 years or so), we might have been able to help slow the damage.

Each city/state will have a code requirement for construction of a shower, so be sure to check what is acceptable in your community before proceeding.  As shown in a multitude of Youtube videos and home improvement shows, acceptable wall construction for a standard shower (and also important for a steam shower) includes the use of a waterproofing membrane or a vapor retarding membrane in the construction of the shower.  Some methods use a polyethylene plastic sheeting (commonly referred to as Visqueen) mounted on top of the studs and before the ½” cement board.  Another method is to mount the ½” cement board to the studs and waterproof/vapor proof between the backer board and the tile.  When choosing this approach, there are several approaches, but two of the common approaches are to use a paint-on waterproofing membrane or to use a polyethylene sheeting with engineered webbing which is applied using thinset to the backer board and tiles adhere to the engineered webbing using thinset.  The Schluter Kerdi system is often used in home improvement shows, like Bath Crashers, but I chose to use a product called TruGard, which is from a company based in Georgia.  The decision of which application is right for you should be made after researching code, costs, and what product you believe to be the best solution based on your research or the opinion of experts (which I am not).
TruGard Waterproofing Membrane


Reviewing the existing plumbing and electrical to prepare for installation:

AT-3T-T100 Spec Sheet After identifying some of the problems with the framing and construction of the shower, I reviewed the existing plumbing and electrical in the shower. The copper pipes for the shower did not show signs of corrosion or damage, so my only plumbing concerns for the steam shower was how to bring the steam line into the shower and where to place the generator for easy access and installation of electrical, water supply, steam supply, and auto-drain & pressure relief valve drain.  As for electrical in the shower, I decided to keep the existing light in the shower, for when more light was needed (perhaps when cleaning), but I was also going to include Chromatherapy lighting to help create a relaxing environment.  After reviewing the installation instructions of the light and the generator, I learned I could provide power for the light from a low voltage light connection on the AT generator, and the T100 light switch would operate the on/off function, so I did not need to worry about adding electrical outlets above the shower; rather, the connections for the Chromatherapy lights would be simply "plug and play.”


Time to reflect and to plan:

With demolition completed and the existing construction reviewed, I took a few days to complete research and to plan for how I needed to proceed with installation.  The adage of "measure twice; cut once,” seems appropriate with many actions in construction, so I learned my timeline was less important than making the right decisions.  

To learn more about steam generators, contact your local dealer or request a brochure.  




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