Q&A / 

Bathroom Remodeling Sequence

DEAR TIM: I'm adding a bathroom in my house. The framing is complete and I am a little confused as to the order of the rest of the tasks. When do I install the plumbing pipes? Do I tile before or after the tub is installed? When are the vanity and the toilet installed? When do I drywall? Mark O., Chicago, IL

DEAR MARK: Adding a bathroom is tough enough, but the job can be even harder if you goof up the sequence of events from start to finish. Not only can you make things more difficult, there is a chance of ruining completed work that is already in place. As you might expect, there is a logical order that professionals follow to maximize profits and minimize the amount of time spent working.

One of the first things that should be done is to determine the proper placement of the bathroom walls. This requires precise planning as many model building codes dictate minimum clearance requirements in and around toilets and bathroom sinks. I hope you have your walls in the right place, if not, you may have to start over.

For example, a toilet must be centered in a space no less than 30 inches wide. The actual space can be larger, but in no instance can another fixture be closer than 15 inches from the centerline of the toilet. The minimum distance from the front edge of the toilet bowl to the wall you face while resting on the toilet must be 18 inches or 24 inches depending upon your local code. This same minimum distance requirement applies to the front edge of the sink countertop as well. Always check your local codes as you create your plans. Apply for your building permit as soon as your plans are complete.

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If the floor to this new bathroom is constructed with wood floors joists and a wood sub-floor, the walls should be constructed before plumbing drain lines are installed. The opposite is true if the bathroom will be located on a concrete floor. In this case, all below floor drain lines need to be installed first. Triple check the pipe placement before you pour the new concrete floor. Keep in mind that some states and local governments only allow licensed plumbers to install drain and water supply pipes. Check your building department to see if you are permitted to do your own plumbing work.

The day after the concrete is poured, the walls can be framed. Keep in mind the location of the tub and shower faucet. The center line of the tub or shower should be the center of the space between two wall studs on this wall. This allows you to install the faucet without cutting a wall stud. When all of the walls and ceiling studs are in place, install the remaining above grade plumbing drain lines and vent pipes. It is now time to install the tub or shower. After the tub is in place, keep it covered with heavy drop cloths to prevent scratches and nicks. With the tub in place, complete the installation of all of the water supply lines.

The next step is to rough in any heating and cooling ducts, heat piping, and ventilation piping for fans. Once this is complete, install all of the rough electrical wiring. Make sure that wall mounted light fixtures do not interfere with medicine cabinets, mirrors, or side walls. Insulate all exterior walls for energy savings and consider insulating all interior walls for sound control. It is a great idea to pack insulation around the underside of the tub as well. This will keep bath water nice and warm for extended periods of time.

It is now time to install cement board on any walls around the tub that will be covered with ceramic tile. Consider installing moisture resistant drywall on all walls. Regular drywall can be used for the ceiling. Finish and sand the drywall. If you have a wood floor system, it is now time to install cement board on the floor. The tile in the tub and shower area should be installed and finished first. Follow that with the floor tile. Tile the entire floor in case someone decides to install a pedestal sink. When the floor tile grout is dry, install the bathroom door and trim. Consider painting the room at this point. After the paint is dry, carefully install the toilet and sink. Cover the floor with drop cloths during this process to avoid hurting the new tile. Complete the job by installing mirrors, towel bars, and accessories.

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10 Responses to Bathroom Remodeling Sequence

  1. I am doing a bath remodel. The original floor was vinyl over particle board. I've removed the vinyl but what I need to know is should I remove the particle board and replace with a cement board or just try and cover the particle board with plastic or paint?

  2. I am re tiling around my bath tub. The backer board is installed. Should I be water proofing anywhere or in the corners at least. And if so with what. I bought REDGARD waterproofing, but the instructions say that you cannot use premixed tile adhesive over it. Also, when I start tiling, what do I do with the growing gap from the bottom of the first row to the tub, as I tile towards the drain. Do I just have a larger caulk line there. Sorry, my computer isnèt slowing me to use question marks

  3. What is NEC Code for running water lines (pex) and electric lines near each other? My question, I guess, is how far apart do a water line and an electrical line in the basement or in a wall have to be? Can't seem to find the NEC Code on it.

  4. We are doing a master bath Reno. Took the existing wall tile off and will be installing new ones. Do we paint the walls before installing the new wall tile or the other way around?

  5. The house that my parents live right now only have one bathroom and they are looking to add another one. They are hoping that it can raise the price of the house, and help it to feel a little more livable without wasted space. I will have to mention how the toilet has to be centered in a space no less than 30 inches. I will also have to suggest that they rent a dumpster to throw away all the old fixtures that are unusable.

    • Sugar,

      It is normally! Issues like this are solved when you write the contract. You mention EACH and EVERY step and item that's part of the job. You list EXACTLY what you expect the contractor to do and how much he will get paid. You never HOPE or ASSUME something is going to be done.

  6. We are going to tile our 4x4 shower ceiling with 12x24 tiles.
    1. Do we install the fan/light first and tile around or tile first?
    2. Any magic tricks or advice you'd like to pass on?

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