ORC: Basement Bathroom Week 3


It’s a good thing we went into full-on weekend warrior mode this past weekend, because this One Room Challenge is half way over! Holy crap. We made some serious progress on our bathroom, so let’s get right to it.

If you read last week’s post, you know that we did quite a bit of work a couple of months ago to turn one end of our basement living room into a bare and dirty, but framed-in and roughed-in bathroom space. This past week as we were getting ready to actually close up the walls, we had a last minute change of heart over the walk-in shower that we had planned.


We were thinking that we would build a 3/4 height wall with an open space at one end to step into the shower, and either leave the top of the wall open or install a window to allow natural light into the shower. Something like this:

Basement Bathroom 3 quarter shower wall

Our master carpenter (AKA my step-dad Kerry), insisted that the exposed edge of the wall would need to have a column that extended to the ceiling, for structural purposes. Here is what it looked like framed:

Walk-In Shower 3/4 height wall

Something about the column and the proportions of the wall once it was framed in just didn’t seem right to me. I first thought we should raise the height of the wall about a foot so that the window space was narrower, since I didn’t really like the nearly square proportion of this opening. We had several discussions about whether or not someone in the shower should be able to see over the wall or not (what if your spouse is on the toilet while you jump in the shower!?), and decided that a taller wall with a window just for light would be a good option. I was also slightly concerned about how we would finish the outside of the wall. We are planning to install a 4′ tile wainscot around the bathroom walls using gray subway tile (same as will be used full height on the shower walls and ceiling), and I wasn’t sure whether to carry this height across the outside of the shower wall or not. While I love the look of the gray subway tiles, I was worried that it would be too much, and too dark in this small space.

Then just last week, Jesse mentioned that he thought we should consider putting in a full glass panel. At first I thought he was crazy. But I realized that I know of several bathrooms that have fully transparent shower walls, so it’s not that out of the ordinary. We also kept coming back to this inspiration photo, and figured what the hell. A glass wall is going to look great, full spouse-on-toilet view or not.

Home Bunch bathroom, gray subway tile shower, hex floor tile, gray vanity


We decided it’s a good thing that we let the bathroom sit for a couple of months instead of finishing it right away, so that Jesse could come up with such a brilliant idea. So, we took the newly framed wall back down.

Jesse taking down shower framing and nails

The weather forecast last week was threatening a blizzard for the weekend (20+ inches of snow and high winds), so my parents drove up Friday evening to get ahead of the storm. We headed off to Home Depot to get our supplies.

Jesse and Kerry loading up drywall, lumber

About an hour and a half and $518 later, we were back home with insulation, drywall, cement board, some framing lumber, vapor barrier, and a mortar mix for the shower floor.

We woke up Saturday to a disappointing dusting of snow, but we were ready to get to work. We did have to make a morning run back to Home Depot for a few tools, cement board tape, and additional mortar mix (because we realized that we underestimated the shower pan process… more on that later).

The first order of business back at home was insulating the exterior walls.


Jesse sealed around the newly installed exhaust fan duct with some expandable foam, and added some around the window frame for good measure.

Bathroom exhaust fan duct expandable foam

The old 1″ furring strips on the exterior concrete foundation wall needed to be re-attached in a few places, and we added new 1″x4″ backing strips to support the corner shelf that we planned to build into the shower.

Installing 1x4 backing for shower shelf

We then cut and installed 3/4″ rigid foam insulation panels in between each of the furring strips along the exterior walls.

Exterior bathroom wall rigid insulation

Next up was vapor barrier. This is apparently only necessary on exterior walls, since the main concern is keeping groundwater out of the walls. Jesse and Kerry used a single roll of 10′ x 25′ 6mil clear polyethylene sheeting, and stapled it up about every 18″ along the two exterior walls.

Installing vapor barrier in exterior wall

During our demo, we found that someone had renovated the basement in 1983, so we added our mark next to theirs on the floor joist before putting the ceiling up.

J+K bathroom addition 2016

Once this was done, we were ready to rock. Sheet rock, that is.


Cement board is more durable than drywall, and is able to stand up to continuous exposure to water. It also makes a great tile-backer, so it is the best product for tiled shower walls and ceilings.

Durock cement board shower walls

Although the internet is very confusing and has some contradictory information about Green Board vs. Blue Board, here is my basic understanding of the two:

Green Board is drywall with a special paper facing that is moisture resistant. This is pretty straight-forward and consistent across everything I’ve found.

I’ve read two different major points about Blue Board:

  1. Blue board is drywall with a special paper facing that adheres well to veneer plaster. From what I’ve read, veneer plaster is different than joint compound in that it is applied in a continuous coating over the entire wall, but it does not require sanding, and is more resistant to dents and scratches than regular drywall.
  2. Blue board is a newer and improved (over green board) moisture and mold resistant drywall. The product that we bought is called M-Bloc, which has AzoTech fungicide for added moisture and mold resistance in both the paper facing and the gypsum core, which green board does not.

I can’t tell you whether all “blue board” drywall includes both of the above properties or not, but if I read any more internet forums about it my head might explode. Just be sure to look for “moisture and mold resistant” in the description of the specific drywall that you’re looking at if you’re on the hunt for sheet rock in a bathroom application.

SO, there’s your construction lesson for the day.

We started with the ceiling (cement board over the shower, blueboard over the rest of the room), and then went to the walls (to tha windoooooow, to tha WALL)

Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz


The guys measured and cut out holes for the lights, fan, switches, and doors and window as they went.

Cutting holes in drywall for fixture penetrations

I also put in a few screws! Seriously, these guys make my job easy.

Kelly attaching cement board to shower wall

Because we are planning to put up a tile wainscot around the room, Kerry strategically cut and placed the drywall panels sideways (rather than standing the 8′ length up and down), so that almost all of the joints will be hidden behind the wainscot. This way, we don’t have to worry about getting the joint compound and sanding perfect because the joints won’t be visible. Brilliant.

Blueboard drywall for bathroom walls

When it came to the interior walls, we installed regular drywall on the outside first (facing the living room and laundry room).

Jesse Installing batt insulation on interior bathroom wall

Jesse then put R-13 batt insulation in, weaving between the offset studs. I explained how we framed the wall and the reason behind it in last week’s post. Once this was done, the guys finished closing up the interior walls with blue board.

We also got step 1 of the shower pan done, which turned out to be more of an ordeal than I expected. I plan to expand on the whole process of pouring a custom shower base in a future post.

Durock cement board, 40 mil membrane shower floor

And finally, on our third trip to the home improvement store, we bought some doors! This was not originally in the plan for this weekend, but Kerry was not going to be able to make another trip back for a few weeks, and explained that the bathroom door and trim should be in before we start tiling.

Kerry shimming up door frame

This is so that we can tile right up to the trim on the walls, and line the edge of the floor tile up under the center of the door. So by Sunday afternoon, we had an actual door, and what is now looking like a real room!

Jesse and Kelly bathroom renovation

Here’s a look at the to-do list (from where we started two weeks ago that I am just now laying out):

  • Finish framing/furring strips
  • Insulation
  • Vapor Barrier
  • Drywall/Cement Board
  • Shower pan/curb – In progress
  • Build shower shelf
  • Mud and Tape Drywall/Cement Board – Jesse started last night
  • Order wall tile
  • Texture walls
  • Prime walls
  • Paint walls
  • Hang doors – 1 of 2 done!
  • Install Floor tile, grout
  • Install Shower tile (ceiling and walls), grout
  • Choose/purchase shower curb finish material
  • Order glass panel shower wall
  • Install Bathroom wainscot tile, grout
  • Finish trim/baseboards
  • Have glass panel shower wall installed
  • Set, trim plumbing fixtures
  • Install fixtures/electrical trim
  • Purchase towels, accessories
  • Hang mirror, hardware, final touches!

Lots (like too much?) to do. Let’s hope we keep making progress like we did this week. Hope you are all having a good one!

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  1. I know your post was quite a while ago, but I am starting a basement bathroom renovation in Wyoming and needed to know about the vapor barrier. You’re the only person who had my answer – Thank You!

    1. Hi Breanna! Awesome, I’m so glad that you were able to find my post and it helped you out! Speaking of vapor barrier (because it is confusing trying to figure out what to use where) if you are planning to tile a shower, I would recommend using RedGard on the inside of your cement board or tile backer, behind the tile. It’s liquid that you roll on like paint, and it dries to a rubbery waterproof membrane. I just went back and checked if I ever mentioned it in my other bathroom blog posts, but I didn’t get that far in my progress on the blog. We did use it in our basement bathroom shower, and are just now finishing up our main level bathroom remodel and used it there as well! It may not be totally necessary, but is extra peace of mind that you won’t have water from the shower creeping in through grout and damaging the inside of your walls. Best of luck with your project, and thanks for stopping by!!

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