Bathroom Demo – Our Step-by-Step Bathroom Demolition

One of the most enjoyable parts of home renovation is demo day (or weekend). Our bathroom was a disgusting, miserable space where dreams went to die. Not only was it small and cramped, but it was dirty and haphazardly “renovated” by the previous owners, who rented the house out. We knew it would be the first room we’d renovate. We also knew that there were a lot of structural issues in this room from past water damage. During our bathroom demo, however, we found that these issues were much worse than we thought. Read on for our step-by-step bathroom demo process.

Demo day isn’t nearly as satisfying if there are no before pictures, so without further ado, here is a 360˚ photo of our bathroom before the demo:

Not pictured: our moldy shower, a strange empty space between the shower and the wall where a bathtub used to be, and an almost inaccessible linen closet behind the door.

Step one: closet removal

Even though demo day is basically controlled destruction, the keyword should be “controlled”. With any demo, you need a plan of attack in order to be the most efficient and safe throughout the process. Our bathroom demo was no different.

We decided to start with the closet. In this project, we decided to take out the built-in closet in the bathroom as well as the adjoining closet in the bedroom. This creates more space in the bathroom, where space is always an issue (especially for single-bathroom homes). We took out the built-in shelves and worked with each other on both sides of the interior wall. This was arguably the easiest part of the demo.

Demo on the bathroom closet, with a rotten stud in the foreground

After the walls came down and the floor panels came up, we started uncovering the extent of the water damage fairly quickly. The floorboards under the closet were rotten through. With the drywall gone on part of the wall, we could see rotten studs.

The rotten floor in the closet

Bathroom demo step two: wall

After taking down the closet, the natural next step was the wall. We were starting to see some of the water damage on the wall already. As with most wall removals in an old house, we identified where the cords would be first. We pulled down some of the ceiling tiles as well. After cutting off the power, we got to work.

It didn’t take long (like 2 seconds in) to see the extent of the water damage on this wall. We knew it would be the worst place in the house because the floor dipped right where this wall was. Our suspicion is that the bathroom had flooded previously and there was standing water right along this wall. As soon as we started taking down the drywall, the studs started jiggling and moving with each hit of our hammers. The whole bottom half of each of them were rotten all the way through.

A half-torn wall as part of a bathroom demo project
The wall after removing 2 of the rotten studs

Step three: pulling up the flooring and removing the sink

After unveiling the rotten studs while taking the wall down, we started removing the flooring to get a better look at the damage on the floor. What once was a lovely hardwood floor was a total disaster area. There were patches of subfloor glued into where the floor had rotten through previously, with other remnants of water damage and rotting left unfixed.

Leaving the floor alone, for now, we turned our water off and started removing our sink and vanity. I have hated this vanity since we moved in. Not only was it unnecessarily bulky and the sink was just tacky, but the vanity door had also broken off. This was a total demo of the whole room and nothing survived!

Bathroom demo step four: the shower

With all our discoveries of water damage in the bathroom and the time it took to get through the demo thus far, we decided to wait on demo-ing our shower. We knew we needed to address the floor issue first. As live-in renovators, we have to be smart and strategic about how we go about things sometimes. After some discussion, we decided to fix the floor before removing the shower so we could have a shower while we fixed the floor.

We’ll discuss the floor fix in a post of its own soon, but three weeks later, we were ready to finally finish demo-ing the bathroom and remove the shower. This took almost a whole afternoon! After shutting off the water, we started by removing the glass door. After that, we removed the plumbing and walls around the shower.

There are no pictures of this last step of the shower removal because, frankly, it was disgusting. The shower pan had been DIYed by folding plastic up and cutting slits for the corners. Water from the shower seeped into these corners and under the homemade shower pan. Furthermore, the drain had been glued into the floor and it took us a long time to get it out. Even though it meant we no longer had a shower, it was a huge relief to get the old one out.

Final bathroom demo step: drywall

Since we were doing a total renovation in this room and would need to access and adjust the plumbing and the wiring throughout, our last step in the bathroom demo was removing the drywall on the remaining walls. All of these walls had – no joke – at least 10 layers of paint on them. There was also really ill-fitting and thick trim throughout. Removing drywall is the easiest part of demoing a room and arguably the most fun!

Drywall removal

Not all demos are the same

This demo was a little different than the traditional one-step total demo. Since we live in our home and this is our only bathroom, we worked around our toilet. The floor fix definitely threw a wrench in our plans of demoing the whole room in a weekend and working on building it back up in the coming days. In fact, we thought we could get the whole project finished in the time between Christmas and New Year’s – what a laugh!

Coming up next, we will share our floor project in our bathroom renovation. Now, this is the real demo!

Braden standing in what’s left of our bathroom

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