Bathroom remodel, 1 of 3: "Damage and Demolition"

In the prologue to this series of posts, I gave an overview of how this bathroom remodel project came about.

This post will be about the water damage that made this repair and remodel necessary, and the removal of the existing installation. I'm calling it "Damage and Demolition" because that's alliteration, and, as we all know, the use of literary devices like alliteration TOTALLY justifies having a DIY series on a writing blog. It TOTALLY justifies it. TOTALLY. (So does repetition.)

Hypothetical reader of this blog post: Enough with the self-justification. Are you going to tell me what the hell happened, or not?

Tony Noland: Do you want the long version or the short version?

Hrotbp: I want the long version, but show me some more pictures first. I'm getting bored.

TN: What's the matter, my descriptions aren't good enough for you? Oh, gee, I forgot that we're in the 21st century and everything is all pictures now.

Hrotbp: Don't be a smart ass, Tony. I could just as easily be watching YouTube videos about installing tile instead of reading this, you know.

TN: Right, sorry. The first set of pictures show the damage to the wall caused by water seepage. Don't forget, you can click to enlarge any of these pictures. I've provided a wide view and a closeup of each side of the shower, so you can get a sense of the scale of the damage.

Left side, wide view
Right side, wide view

Left side, closeup
Right side, closeup

Hrotbp: That is some ugly bathroom, Tony.

TN: Tell me about it.

Hrotbp: I haven't seen anything that ugly since I was judging a beauty contest and the only entrant was your moms!

TN: A "your moms" joke? In a DIY blog post? Seriously? That's just pathetic. Leave the humor to the professionals, pal.

Hrotbp: Sorry. So what caused this damage?

TN: The cheap, thin plastic shower liner cracked, letting water run down behind it onto the lip of the shower pan insert. On each side of the shower, water crept up around the lip of the insert and was wicked up into the drywall.

The crack that did the damage
Failed caulk, bulged wall

Regular drywall is used in areas that aren't exposed to moisture. For bathrooms, walls are made of a special kind of drywall, what's called greenboard.

Hrotbp:Why is it called "greenboard"?

TN: Because it's green.

Hrotbp: Oh.

Like I said, the walls of this bathroom were made of greenboard, which is suitable for use in areas with transiently high humidity. However, when the plumber installed this shower unit for us, he did so directly on top of the greenboard. There's a nice quote which addresses this practice: 
Using greenboard drywall in a wet location is a recipe for disaster. 
Ah, it's so nice to have a single sentence that sums it up so succinctly, isn't it? If only I'd had this information when I was originally having this work done, I might have pointed this out to the plumber.
Contrary to what some people may think, greenboard drywall is not used in shower stalls. ... While greenboard drywall's paper covering is water-resistent, it is not waterproof. Not only that, but the brittle gypsum core is not suitable for wet applications. At the very least, severe mold growth will occur, if not outright failure of the product.
So true.
"... outright failure of the product."

So very, very true... 

Hrotbp: Tony?

TN: .... yes?

Hrotbp: Tony... are you crying?

TN: No. No, of course not. I just ... I have some drywall dust in my eye, OK?

Hrotbp: Because if you'd like to take a break before you go on, I could go watch some YouTube or something. Come back later when you feel up to continuing.

TN: No, it's fine. I'm fine. (takes a deep breath)

So much for the damage. Faced with various options for how to proceed, I decided to disassemble the chrome shower frame, set aside the glass panels and doors and re-use them. My plan was to tear our the plastic liner, remove the damaged greenboard, replace it with concreteboard (which the rest of the world stubbornly insists on calling cementboard), and put in tile instead of another plastic liner.

Disassembling the shower unit looked like this:

Everybody needs one good screw
The plastic liner, glued onto the greenboard

Hrotbp: For someone who bad-mouths the 21st century penchant for photographic recording, you sure took a lot of pictures. You've got three pictures just of taking apart the shower handle and control valve.

TN: Not only that, there are more that I'm not showing you. But I didn't take these pictures so I could blog the process later, although that's a nice side effect.

Hrotbp: No? Then why did you take so many pictures?

TN: So that I could have a record of which piece went where, and in what sequence. I did the same thing when I repaired my LCD monitor and brought it back from the dead for only $19. It made the reassembly much easier to have the pictures to compare to. I've never done a bathroom before, so I wanted to be careful. The installation manual was good, but the pictures helped.

Hrotbp: Hey, that's a good tip! I'll remember that.

TN: You do that.

Once the shower unit was carefully removed and the pieces set aside, the demolition of the liner and the wall was mostly uneventful. I got out the hammers, prybars, utility knives and screwgun and went to work.

Down comes the liner
Attacking the greenboard
Exposing the studs

One of the studs was in really bad shape, completely friable and rotten. Other sections of the studs were stained, but structurally OK. The full cleanup took a while, and it was messy as hell. Once it was done, though, all the junk was cleared away and I could rework my plan based on what was actually behind all that damage, instead of what I originally thought was back there.

Next up: rebuilding the structural elements, insulating, vapor barrier and concreteboard.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. We had vinyl flooring for our tub surround. It worked well - until the caulking failed.

    It was also ugly, so I wasn't entirely sorry the caulking provided the motivation to tear it out.

    Photos are a brilliant idea to remind yourself how things come apart/go together.

    But oh, how these jobs put a monkey wrench in one's schedule, for things like writing and other important adventures.

  2. Water is pernicious stuff.

    But oh, how these jobs put a monkey wrench in one's schedule, for things like writing and other important adventures.

    More like a neutron bomb going off. The buildings and frameworks of my big writing projects are all still there, but there's no life at all. Eventually, I'll move back in and re-inhabit, bring it back to life, but this was a priority job that whacked it back to the stone age.

  3. There's two reasons old manses and the like continue to survive to the present day:

    1) No indoor plumbing.
    2) No indoor cooking.

    But seriously, this is my favorite part of projects at FAR Manor, when I take crowbar in hand and rip out chunks of a house I didn't want.

  4. Great tip on the photos... I shall pass that on to the master of this house, the one who actually does the work.


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