ORC: Basement Bathroom Week 2


If you read last week’s post, you know that we are taking on a huge project for this Spring’s One Room Challenge, hosted by Linda at Calling it Home. Welcome to Week 2 of the ORC, already 1/3 of the way through this design challenge to complete a room makeover (or build, in our case) in just 6 weeks! If you missed it, we actually tore up the corner of our basement in January to put in the second bathroom that we’ve been dreaming of for 3 1/2 years. Now we are hoping to kick it into re-build gear to get the bathroom as close to done as possible by the ORC final week, May 12th! Catch up on the initial plans and before photos, here.

As a quick reminder, this is what we started with:

Living Room Before bathroom remodel

I figured this week I would fill you in on what we have done to get the bathroom to the state it’s in today.


After we had our layout and dimensions figured out, we were ready to start demo. Now, this is definitely the largest home DIY project that I have ever taken on, and Jesse and I really had no idea where to start. Luckily, talent runs in my family (if I do say so myself), and my step-dad Kerry is an extremely skilled carpenter slash general handy-man. The one thing that we were instructed to get done before he showed up was to pull up the carpet and hang a plastic drop cloth to mask off the rest of the living room. Naturally, my next question was, “How do we pull up the carpet?” (Like I said… no idea where or how to start).

Turns out, all you have to do is use a pair of pliers, start in the corner, and pull. up. the carpet.

Jesse pulling up carpet

Kelly rolling up carpet pad

We also pulled back the carpet pad, which was glued to the slab so it didn’t come up super clean. The tack strip and the glued remnants of carpet pad were difficult to pry from the slab, until Kerry showed up with his tool trailer.

Kerry tool trailer

He and Jesse made quick work of removing these from the floor with some flat bars and hammers, and also carefully cut and removed the base board from the walls around the bathroom area.

Basement walls with baseboard removed

We already had our overall room measurements, which we marked out on the ceiling and walls with a chalk line. It’s a good thing Kerry was not shy about making the first cuts for demo, because if it were up to me I might still be standing there, worried that we weren’t going to get it right. He used a fancy oscillating cutter like this.

Kerry cutting into ceiling

I did enjoy swinging the first hammer, and the ceiling and walls came down pretty quickly after that. You can do all of this with a couple of hammers and pry bars.

Kelly punching holes into ceiling demo

Jesse tearing down ceiling

We then hauled all of the drywall out to the trash, and cleaned up.

Demoed walls, Jesse picking up drywall scraps

Drywall demo, exposed crawlspace

Next, we removed all of the screws and nails that had been used to attach the drywall to the framing and were now exposed.

Kelly removing nails and screws from exposed framing

Once we had everything pretty well demoed and cleaned up, Kerry took some quick measurements, made a list, and we were off to the lumber yard.

Jesse, Kerry picking out framing lumber


Again, I would have been lost without my step-dad’s expertise, so I’m not going to go into detail on how to frame walls. However, I will share a couple of tips that I learned and could be helpful for any DIY wall framing project.

  1. Redwood lumber is a great material for the sill plate (base) of your walls if you are building on slab-on-grade. This is because of its natural resistance to rot due to moisture (it is also resistant to insects like termites).

Laying out and nailing redwood

2. If you want to create a better sound barrier with your walls, use a 2×6 sill plate rather than a 2×4. Then, stagger your 2×4 wall studs back and forth along the two faces of the wall, so that you will be able to weave batt insulation in between the studs. This will give you a thicker wall overall, with much better sound insulation (to muffle farts and stuff) since your studs only touch one side of the drywall. For framing doors, you will want to use 2×6 studs. Like so:

Staggered wall stud diagram

Staggered wall studs for sound insulation

3. If you are framing a door, you will create what is called a king stud (2 2x4s nailed together at each side of the door frame). If you are putting a door right next to a corner, you may want to increase your king studs to include (3) 2x4s, so that you have enough room (4 1/2″ actual width) between the door opening and the adjacent corner for your finishing door trim.

Bathroom walls framed and new doorway 2

Sidenote: does anyone else think it’s ridiculous that “2x4s” are 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″? Remember that when you are figuring framing dimensions.

Kerry and Jesse got the new bathroom wall and shower wall framed, cut the old door header out from the laundry room wall, and framed the new door location since it needed to move over.


Anyone that has been through a renovation project knows that there are almost always some surprises when you get into demo. We were fortunate to uncover an enormous crack in our basement wall when we tore out the drywall along the exterior wall of the new bathroom.

Crack in concrete foundation wall under window

We were aware that something might be going on here, since we had water seeping into the basement under the carpet during a particularly heavy rainstorm a year or two ago. Luckily, our reno project exposed the problem, so we could fix it prior to covering it up again.

With a little research, we came across this Crack-Pac Injection Epoxy for repairing cracks in concrete. It is a bit pricey, but seems pretty legit. If it prevents future flood damage in our basement, it is well worth the investment. Also, when you mix this stuff up, it smells just like someone is getting a perm, taking you back to the glory that was the early 90s.

Crack-pac injection fix foundation wall crack

Here’s a handy how-to video that we followed for our concrete foundation crack repair. It’s fairly simple, and seems to have worked.


While we are trying to DIY most of this project, we did not want to mess with the underground plumbing, or the major electrical work. Our plumbing cost came out to nearly half of what our total bathroom (should) cost. Here was a breakdown of the estimate that we got:

  • Materials and labor to rough in the drains and underground for the basement bath: $1815.00
  • Materials and labor to install a lift station in the basement: $1190.00
  • Materials and labor to water pipe the basement bath: $1133.00
  • Materials and labor to set and trim out fixtures: $395.00
  • Materials and labor to move the laundry out from the wall: $365.00
  • Materials and labor to move the ductwork for one register: $165.00

If we had hired all of this work out, it totals up to $5,063 – more than we had initially saved for the entire bathroom!!

Since we Jesse and Kerry are pretty handy, we decided that we would figure out all of the water supply piping on our own. So we only hired the plumbers for the first two items above, totaling $3,005.

The underground work cost included demo of the concrete slab and repair after the plumbing was in. So we let the professionals deal with this while we were at work:

Underground plumbing backfill

The lift station is a big tank that gets installed (mostly) flush with the floor, and basically pumps wastewater up into our plumbing stack to ensure that it is able to drain properly out away from the house to the sewer. We could have possibly done without a lift station, but it would have depended on the elevation of the existing sewer run that leaves the house in comparison to the location of our new toilet and shower drain. Because there is a minimum slope required for proper drainage, it probably would have been difficult to make the layout and piping work on a gravity-drain basis. Also, we want to avoid the potential for a shit backup in our basement at all costs. So, the lift station was a no-brainer.

Lift station for basement bathroom

The plumbers that we hired made probably 3 trips out total over about 2 weeks. They pulled their own permit for the work, and had to get an inspector out to look at the underground work before they filled the dirt back in and patched the concrete slab.


Speaking of permits, we did decide to be responsible and pull a permit for the bathroom work (it probably would have been a bit fishy if we hadn’t and the plumbers did). We should have completed the application and had the permit in hand before we started the work, according to the “rules”. We did not turn in the application until after we had the demo done, and plumbing and framing well under-way. Luckily, the inspectors have been very friendly and we have not had any issues.


As I mentioned earlier, after seeing the plumbing estimate of $1133 to run supply water lines to our bathroom fixtures, we decided that we would take this on ourselves. I won’t try to take much credit for this portion of the work.

What I will tell you is that neither Jesse nor Kerry had ever installed water piping before. We knew that we wanted to use PEX, the red and blue HDPE piping that is often used instead of copper. It is quite a bit easier (and cheaper) to work with than copper pipe because it’s flexible and requires fewer fittings.

Choosing PEX fittings for DIY bathroom plumbing

They spent an hour or so staring at all of the fittings at Home Depot, and a single afternoon figuring out and installing all of the supply lines from our furnace room to the bathroom, as well as modifying our existing lines to add several shut-off valves.

Jesse and Kerry installing PEX water piping

My mom and I did have to run back to HD 2 or 3 times to grab a few more fittings, but we were happy to do that while the men worked. We spent a whopping total of $205 on all of our PEX materials, and had functioning water supply to the entire bathroom in less than a day.

That’s right. We would have spent nearly $1000 more to hire this out. If you’re considering plumbing your supply piping yourself, do it. You’ll be a pexpert (get it??) in no time. This clamping tool is the key. Jesse loved it.

Jesse crimping PEX


I work in the construction industry (pushing papers, as they say), so I was able to call in a professional courtesy and get a couple of electricians to make a trip on a Saturday morning to knock out all of our wiring. They pulled copper mains from the electrical panel in our garage up into the attic, down through the walls and into the basement.

John pulling wiring to bathroom

They then wired up several outlets (inside the bathroom, in the laundry room for the lift station, and several new convenience outlets in the furnace and laundry rooms that Jesse suggested on a whim while they were here). They powered up a recessed light fixture inside the shower, a main overhead light in the bathroom, a vanity light, and an exhaust fan that we had bought, along with switches for all of the above. All of this took them about 3 hours. I tried to offer them beer for their services, but ended up getting out of the deal instead for the bargain price of $300. Seriously though. They did us a huge favor.


The last two items that we needed to complete in order to get our rough-in inspection were to cut a hole in the wall for the exhaust fan, and modify some ductwork.

First, to cut a hole. We bought a simple exhaust fan at Menard’s for $14, along with an exhaust ducting kit. After measuring the distance from the window to where the duct would need to punch through the rim joist and then through our exterior brick, Jesse cut a hole through the wall from the outside in, using a hammer drill.

Hammer Drill to Cut Hole in Brick

He first traced out the circle for the duct, then drilled small holes all the way around the circle. From there, he switched to a flat bit that he used to chisel between the smaller holes to cut through the brick (relatively) cleanly. Then, he cut through the interior layers of the wall and rim joist, until we had a hole.

We ended up going back to Home Depot to get some mortar and a few tools to repair the space around the hole that had crumbled a bit more than we had hoped.

Brick mortar repair

We figured if we are going to do this, we better not half-ass it. After we let our repair setup, we were able to complete the exhaust duct and install the cap.

Install Exhaust fan wall duct kit

And FINALLY, the ductwork issue. As you can see, we had an two odd supply ducts running down through our laundry room and our living room that were in the way of our new doorway.

Demoed walls into laundry room

We found a guy that works for a local HVAC contractor to fix this problem for us. He was able to re-route the duct up through the floor joist above our new door header, and built a custom box to run it in between the floor joists so that we don’t have to build a soffit around it below the ceiling. It came out great, and cost us $150.

Ductwork rerouted into ceiling joists

We called the inspector out just before we made this last modification, to make sure he had no issues with us cutting through a floor joist to run this new ductwork. Because the wall that the joist runs above is not load-bearing, and because we added some strength with a new header, the inspector said it was fine to do this. He gave us the go-ahead and signed off on all of our rough-in work.

PHEW. So that is where we are at. Ready to start a shower pan and drywall this weekend, and then get to the really fun stuff!

Hope you are having a great week, and don’t forget to check out the other ORC projects going on over at Calling it Home!

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