Too ambitious to do bathroom repair myself??

32 Replies

Hi all, 

Bought my first owner occupy multi family, and decided to live in the most runned-down unit to do some repairs.  I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, but have little to no real estate repair experience.  I enjoy reading up and learning how to do fixes, and want this experience as I dive into real estate. 

Need some feedback and advice here, is this job too big for a newbie?  What are the main safety concerns?  What is the material/tool list? 

I did get a general contractor to quote the job, he said 1 week, $2k to redo floors, $6k if I want a new tub and toilet. 

- Wet rot down to bottom most layer of floor boards

- Cracked tiles

- Rotted beam next to tub

- Re-sheetrock and put shelving back together

- Bath vanity set aside but not damaged

- Tub is metal shell type, not solid

- I can live without a bathroom for a few days to 2 weeks. A friend can help when I need 2 people. 

Any feedback is appreciated!!

@Jennifer Cheu I would recommend having the contractor complete the tile and floors. To include a new toilet (in addition to the floor) and have him install that as well should cost less $250.

From there I would recommend hiring a glazing company to reglaze the tub and tile. 

After that, install a new vanity and this will put your bathroom rent ready condition.

nah you can do it... but smarter to budget a month without the bathroom.

once you start the demo you will keep going until your down to studs and joists.

do everything new, you wont regret it.

the chamber pot system worked before it can work again.

I also vote do it.  You will learn so much, it will be invaluable.  Watch You Tube videos until you find one that matches your needed repair.   Even if you end up hiring out future repairs, you will have some experience to help you manage your workers.  

Shower at the gym.  

The subfloor looks pretty bad. I would rip everything out, including the tub and toilet. Fix all the dry rot in the floor and/or walls so you have a nice stable floor to support the new tile, fixtures, vantity ect. Otherwise, you will be doing the job over again very soon.

What floor is this on and what it below it? You say a "rotted beam", I assume you mean a rotted floor joist? If so, where does the joist run? Is it a 12' joist that runs further than the bathroom? Have you ever done a floor joist repair? Does the plumbing of the tub or toilet pass through the rotted joist? 

I think it is doable, but there is a lot of investigating you should do before going full throttle into it. If it's one straight forward joist, some plywood subfloor and then cosmetics, tub, toilet and finish it, it won't be bad. If the joist isn't a straight forward job, that could be fairly difficult, and may require bringing in a sub (unless your persistent enough to just get it done).

I have done plenty of rotted subfloor work (an entire kitchen, second floor baths, termite damage, etc) but have never needed that room for taking my shower/bath, and have experience doing the work.

If you enjoy doing hands-on work and you want the experience, then I think you should take a stab at it.  The experience you'll gain is invaluable.

Make sure you ask a lot of questions.  Talk to people on BP that have hands-on remodeling experience, talk to guys in Lowe's and Home Depot that know how to do plumbing and tile work, and talk to anyone else you know locally that could give you some pointers.

As an example, most professional tile guys don't like putting tile down directly over wood subfloors (unless they are really, really sturdy; no flex).  If they do tile over top of wood, there is a special thinset (tile adhesive) that is made specifically to adhere better to wood.  Better yet, installing a layer of Hardi-board over your new wood subfloor would be a better alternative, then tile on top of the Hardi.  

This is just one of many tips/hints that someone with experience would know that will help you complete a successful project.  Ask lots of questions!  Best of luck on your remodel.

@brian

The rot at the worst part is down to the lowest level of the original flooring. The vertical floor joists should be in decent shape if there's any rot on it.

I don't have much repair experience at all and my main concern is falling through the floor as I'm doing the repair. It's also a good call to expect 1 month no bathroom.

I think the best bet is if I can find a friend to talk me through the process and check I on my progress every few days.

But overall it sounds like I should find a way to do it for less than 2k.

@Russ Smith they sell an add mixture you out in the thinset which allows you to install on plywood, however I prefer to put down cement board first.

@Jennifer Cheu is this a first or second floor bath? If first and the basement is open, get down below and start digging into the joists before you start tearing our.

toilet and install should be less than $150

Tub and install less than $300 unless there are issues 

@brian

It's a first floor and I have access to the basement. Great idea I'll try to look closer from the basement.

It looks like the water damage might also affect the subfloor underneath the tub. If you can see from basement, check that out. If that needs to be replaced, the tub needs to be removed.

This is a big job.

I'm very much a DIY person, but this is a huge job to do yourself as a first project.  That could be great- you will learn a ton!  But this is also something you want to make sure you do right.  

Can you repair the floor with the tub in place?  Does everything need to be dried out before you can start?  Do you have to replace the joists or can you sister them?  Is there moisture in the walls causing them to need to be replaced as well?

If you have a friend with rehab knowledge who can help that would be best.  And worst case scenario, you start the project and realize you need to hire some aspects out.  No matter what (if you can live w/o a bathroom for a while) there's no harm in starting the project on your own.

Please keep us posted!  My husband and I bought and rehabbed a 4 unit last year, and we really miss doing construction work.

Its a bigger job than you think.  If you have the time...

@Jennifer Cheu I re-did my bathroom this year and was only comfortable doing non-plumbing things like installing the sheet rock and doing the tile work.  We hired a plumber to install the tub and change out the toilet (but videos on toilet installs make it look very easy, I feel we could have done that ourselves).  I say that to say that maybe you should try to complete some of the work and figure out what may be too overbearing to take on with this first job and hire out those select tasks, kind of like being your own general contractor. 

if is your first bathroom ever. I would Definitly hire someone to do it. Pay to get first hand knowledge. The time that your going to spend by watching videos and guessing if you are doing the right thing... is going to add up to your over all cost. Not sure what the price on material is up there but some of the numbers mention on the threat were a bit low ( I think) $250 to $400 would not cover material cost much less labor. I wouldn't risk doing the plumbing yourself. It can end up costing you much more if you have to tear down and re do.. this is assuming you want to up grade the whole bathroom ie.. new water valve, maybe raise the height of the shower etc. I would Definitly go with doing everything new. if you are going to continue doing remodeling your self.start keeping track of all cost (system) it will Definitly help you for the next time. hope this helps. Good luck.

I'll agree with those who say it's a much bigger job than you think and it touches on a lot of trades that you'll have to lead all at once.

It would take a pro 3-5 days to gut and rebuild. It would take an avid DIYer probably 6-12 days. It'll take you likely a month.

I would start with hiring most of it out. Pick one or two items that you want to learn and do yourself. Maybe floor tile and finish plumbing (install the vanity/sink/toilet). Hire out the rest.

Figure out how you do and if you enjoy it. Next project you do, pick up another trade and learn it.

There is so much to know and learn, I really think you'll find yourself overwhelmed.

Bathrooms are a hard beginner project. The rotted subfloor and joist are a big issue. Where was the water coming from? There's no point in fixing anything if you have a leak that's going to ruin it all again. There's no point in doing new tile if a rotted joist is going to sag the floor. Get some help making sure the joists and subfloor are fixed right. Make sure the plumbing isn't leaking behind the walls. Then if you want to save money DIY sure.
Originally posted by @Michael Plante :

toilet and install should be less than $150

Tub and install less than $300 unless there are issues 

You can't buy a decent tub with surround for under $600 parts only. Plus the cost of new plumbing fixtures. A licensed plumber will charge several hundred to install. Toilet, maybe someone will do a cheap toilet for $150. I wouldn't go bottom of the line with parts that need to last 20 years. Just my opinion. Maybe some flippers install junk like this but a landlord wants to avoid problems down the road.

@Jennifer Cheu For what it's worth, I'd hire it out and use a contractor.  Either way it's not the end of the world.  If you get in too deep you can always use a contractor down the road.  I think what would concern me is what you can't see in that picture.  What happens if/when you tear out the tub and everything else.  That could change the scope of your repair and/or the estimate from the contractor.  

On a practical note, if you want to do this to learn the skill and plan to use the experience over and over again...go for it.  If you're just doing this one time and don't plan on reusing the skill that you learned, definitely get a contractor.  You go through more bumps and bruises the first time doing something.  

So if you're think about doing the BRRRRRRRR (I always get the number of R's wrong) or flipping, then I'd do it.  If you want to buy and hold late model builds it's probably not worth the hassle.

My two cents...from the perspective of someone who wouldn't do it...

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :
Originally posted by @Michael Plante:

toilet and install should be less than $150

Tub and install less than $300 unless there are issues 

You can't buy a decent tub with surround for under $600 parts only. Plus the cost of new plumbing fixtures. A licensed plumber will charge several hundred to install. Toilet, maybe someone will do a cheap toilet for $150. I wouldn't go bottom of the line with parts that need to last 20 years. Just my opinion. Maybe some flippers install junk like this but a landlord wants to avoid problems down the road.

 Didn’t say tub surround

Also didn’t say fixtures 

Actually ihave have them in The house I️ live  in.   Perfect shape for many years

Those are actual prices I pay so yes they are available

Don’t  assume because you have to pay more that everyone else has to pay more 

Rented out my first house over 30 years ago so I am familiar with rental quality fixtures

Please tell me why you would think you need a licensed plumber to change out a toilet?

If I wanted I could  do it myself I less than an hour 

@Jennifer Cheu Go for it! I'm all about learning on the job. If you can afford the time, take your time and learn. Sub out the important stuff like plumbing and structural. Or try it yourself and have a pro check your work. It'll cost you a little for their time but cheaper than contracting out the whole project. Safety is key so if you don't trust yourself, don't do it.

I agree with it being a bigger job than you think. I've done dozens of bathrooms and it always seems like a pretty easy, self explanatory job at first, but usually isn't. Not saying you can't, by all means give it a whack, but with the subfloor problems, and setting tubs and plumbing it might be a bigger undertaking than originally thought. With that being said, yes it would be a wealth of learning to do it on your own, but sometimes mistakes on something major like a subfloor could result in a much bigger and costlier fix later on. Possibly ask around if you have a friend/relative with this type of construction experience that you can pay to do the work, but with you, learning at the same time. If you try and shadow a contractor or stand in the doorway during the work the entire time to learn, you'll probably find yourself bugging the heck out of the contractors and might not see them again if you need further work.

Originally posted by @Michael Plante :
Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock:
Originally posted by @Michael Plante:

toilet and install should be less than $150

Tub and install less than $300 unless there are issues 

You can't buy a decent tub with surround for under $600 parts only. Plus the cost of new plumbing fixtures. A licensed plumber will charge several hundred to install. Toilet, maybe someone will do a cheap toilet for $150. I wouldn't go bottom of the line with parts that need to last 20 years. Just my opinion. Maybe some flippers install junk like this but a landlord wants to avoid problems down the road.

 Didn’t say tub surround

Also didn’t say fixtures 

Actually ihave have them in The house I️ live  in.   Perfect shape for many years

Those are actual prices I pay so yes they are available

Don’t  assume because you have to pay more that everyone else has to pay more 

Rented out my first house over 30 years ago so I am familiar with rental quality fixtures

Please tell me why you would think you need a licensed plumber to change out a toilet?

If I wanted I could  do it myself I less than an hour 

Obviously any tub needs a surround (or tile) and fixtures. Cheap toilets don't flush well and mechanically break under wear. I have gone the cheap route and now go middle of the road on all plumbing. I have had rentals long enough to see issues from low cost plumbing fixtures I installed new less than 5 years before. Tenants are even harder on things than you would be in your own home. 

Don't assume because you paid less that you are better at finding good deals. You get what you pay for. I can find a tub at Home Depot for $150 and a random dude on Craigslist to install it too. I just choose not to.

I never stated a licensed plumber is required to change a toilet, but have someone competent do it. I have changed over 30 toilets and never had an issue. Two areas of caution: Use a thick wax ring and line it up properly. Don't over-tighten the bolts to the floor.

In most parts of the country, ripping out a tub and floor would be considered a bathroom remodel and would require a permit and licensed plumbers. Usually in your own residence you can do the work yourself. 

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