Revamping a 60-Year-Old Bath
Interior designer John Kelsey describes the decision-making process behind a six-week gut remodel of an old bathroom in a Dutch colonial home.
Synopsis: Interior designer John Kelsey describes the remodel of his 1960s bath, a $56,000 project that was years in the making. The article includes a list of the original bathroom’s shortcomings and how each of these design flaws was solved in the remodel, an explanation of how the decision-making process evolved over the course of the project, and a rundown of products used in the updated bath.
Our 1917 Dutch Gambrel house might be likened to the cobbler’s barefoot kids. Though we are interior designers, home projects often take a back seat. Renovating our second-floor family bath was on the list of deferred projects for far too long. That changed about a year ago, when our firm, Wilson Kelsey Design, was selected to be a member of the DXV (an American Standard brand) 2018 Design Panel. As a thank you, we were offered our choice of bathroom fixtures. It was the motivation we needed. My wife and business partner, Sally Wilson, and I finally redesigned the old bath, which hadn’t seen an update since 1960.
Whenever we take on a renovation project, we assume there will be surprises when the walls, floors, and ceilings are opened up. Here, we were most concerned about the possibility of structural rot around the bathtub, but we were lucky not to find any. Another pleasant discovery was that the space required almost no squaring up before hanging the blue board and cement board. The electrical work was another matter. With the exception of an addition to the house and in the kitchen, where we had done an extensive remodel, the original knob-and-tube wiring ran throughout. We knew we’d have to replace it in the bathroom to meet code. When the walls were opened, we learned the wiring and switching for the adjacent dressing room and the entire stairwell and foyer also ran through the bathroom’s walls and ceiling— this is a classic example of why a contingency budget is a must. Ultimately, we bit the bullet and had all of the knob-and-tube removed.
Other surprises were minor: The framing around the chimney running through one corner of the bath was too close to meet the 2-in. clearance code. And, for some unknown reason, the jack studs on one side of the window had been cut.
The initial bathroom construction estimate was just over $50,000. We carried a contingency of 20% ($10,000). The final cost was just over $56,000, including the change orders for repairing the jack studs, fixing the framing around the chimney, removing asbestos in the attic, painting (which was not part of the original plan), and installing the Porcelanosa tub surround—the panels for which needed to be custom-cut on-site. The installation took two people two days to finish, making it three times the cost of a conventional ceramic tile install. From concept to drawings, specs, schedules, and construction, the project took six weeks to complete.
From Fine Homebuilding #287
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More bathroom remodels:
One Bathroom, Three Ways – Three architects reimagine the same space to suit different needs.
Bathroom Remodel Reality Check – A no-nonsense look at the complications of common bathroom upgrades.
Bathroom Remodeling on Any Budget – Keeping your budget in check is a balance of good design and thoughtful material selection.