How I Demoed Our Basement Bathroom Myself
Last week, I shared my design plan for our basement bathroom. The time has come to start to bring that space to life. First up? Demoing the existing bathroom. Even though it’s a small space (about 35 square feet), it was quite a task. But, I’m proud to say that I did it all by myself and I have the sore muscles and rough hands to prove it.
Our Condo Bathroom
It’s been a few years since I’ve demoed a bathroom and worked hard to remove floor tile. Back in 2018, Finn and I renovated the bathroom in our condo, ourselves. It was our first really big DIY project and we learned so much along the way.
Together, we demoed the entire space in a weekend and it was hard, backbreaking work. This time around, I wasn’t going to have Finn around to help me, since the guy has to work, so I made a plan to get it done myself.
How to Remove a Toilet
First up, getting the toilet outta there. Guys, this thing was gross. I have no idea how old it is, but it has seen better days. I was eager to get it the hell outta there. Removing a toilet isn’t difficult, but it can be a tad heavy. Here are my tips…
- Grab a drop cloth so you have somewhere to transport your toilet.
- Turn off the water by turning the knob all the way to the right.
- Flush the toilet to get rid of as much water from the tank as possible.
- Disconnect the water supply line from the toilet.
- Grab a wrench, take the toilet bolt covers off, and loosen up the nuts.
- With the nuts removed, lift the toilet straight up and off of the bolts.
That’s it! It’s not hard, but you will have some water still left in the bowl, so be careful about splashing that gross water. I’m hesitant to even share this picture with you (so scroll by quickly if you want), but here’s what the wax ring looked like underneath our toilet. It was old, gross, and disgusting. I was excited to get that thing off of there.
With the toilet gone, the sewer pipe will be exposed, so make sure you stuff in a rag or cover it with a bowl, as we did, to prevent those sewer gases from stinking up your house. Usually I would use a rag, but because this is the basement, it goes directly to the sewer line and the hole is huge! I didn’t want a rag to fall down in there and get stuck.
How to Remove a Vanity
With the toilet off, it was time to remove the vanity. Again, it’s not difficult at all. It just takes a few steps.
- Turn off the hot and cold water lines by turning the knobs all the way to the right.
- Disconnect each water line from the faucet.
- Disconnect the pipe from the wall to the sink.
- Most vanities are attached, via screws, in the back of the cabinet. Unscrew these to loosen the vanity from the wall.
- Use a utility knife to score the caulk on your countertop.
- Tug and pull to get the vanity off of the wall.
With the vanity away from the wall, I got it onto a drop cloth and I was able to pull the drop cloth to get it out the door. I did have to enlist Finn to help me get the vanity to the alley (where it was picked up by a garbage picker, hooray!), but other than that, this was doable, solo.
Tips to Remove Floor Tile
Okay, onto my saga to remove floor tile in this space. The toilet and the vanity were quick demo projects. Maybe 1-2 hours tops. The floor tile was another story, completely. This took me about a full day of backbreaking work to complete. Let’s get to the goods…
Safety Gear Up
You want to protect yourself when you’re smashing things to bits, so wear eye protection, ear protection, a mask, close-toed shoes, and gloves. At first, I wore regular safety glasses, but I quickly switched to ski goggles (Use what you got, right?!) because they offered better coverage.
Oh, and here’s my NUMBER ONE tool when it comes to removing floor tile. Get some knee pads!! Holy moley, these are an absolute must! It brought me back to my junior high volleyball days, but they were so necessary to remove floor tile. You’re kneeling on hard ground for hours and it’s impossible without knee pads.
These large format tiles were fairly easy to remove – for the most part, at least. I would take a crowbar and wedge it under the tile, and then tap the top with a mallet to get under there. I was thrilled to discover that most of the tiles were coming up easily, thinset and all. I got through 60% of the bathroom in about an hour! Hooray!
But then, I got to the other side of the room…
A Stubborn Area
Near the old vanity, the installers decided to use a boatload of thinset for the tiles. Like layers and layers of it underneath the tile. This made it so difficult to get the tiles up. You want your floor to be as clear as possible, without any tile or thinset on it, before installing new tile. I worked on a tiny portion for hours trying to get the thinset off. Nope.
Renting a Demo Hammer
On demo day, I was already heading to Sunbelt Rentals to pick up my wet saw for the second half of this project, and I decided to add a demo hammer to my order. I thought it would be kind of like a handheld hammer with a flat bit on the end to help get the thinset up. When I arrived at the store, I was shocked. The demo hammer was HUGE!
I told the rental specialists that this was just way too much for my small project. Luckily, they walked me through how to use it and said this hammer drill (that you use on the stand) is actually a lot safer and easier to use than a handheld one. They gave me the confidence to give it a try and I loaded up both my wet saw and this big bad boy into my car.
When I got home, I put the demo hammer to use and it worked like a charm to get the stubborn thinset off. It likely saved me hours of work, chipping away at the stubborn thinset with my crowbar. Heck yes! You just plug it in, set the angle of the blade, and slowly go over the area. It uses force to get underneath and scrape it from the ground.
Finding a Hole?!
With the thinset mostly gone, I realized why the original installers had used so much in the first place. They were covering a hole in the floor! At first, I was very alarmed. I thought, “Why is there a hole in my bathroom floor and the foundation of our home?” I called my plumber, showed him the hole, and he said it was likely a very old pipe that was no longer needed and they cut it off and covered it up. He gave me the green light to go ahead and cement over it. I’ll show you how I did that on Friday…
Our Bathroom Now
Well, everything is out of this bathroom and I lived to tell the tale! My body was sore in many strange places, but I felt proud that I was able to get all of this old stuff out myself.
On Friday, I’ll share how I prepped our cement floor for tile, which first involved filling that strange hole. Stay tuned…
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.