Bathroom Update! OH HEY, FLOORS!

If you were unfortunate enough to catch my last post, you will be relieved to know that I started work on my bathroom! Even though I keep talking about this as a “small” renovation, a “light refresh,” a “quick and cheap fix,” I’m not sure this room has any truly quick fixes. You’ve seen it. It’s rough. As a result, the entire house has been thrown into total chaos and immediate disarray. This phenomenon seems to happen every time, and each time I regard it with a renewed sense of wonder. It doesn’t seem like this task would require every tool and supply I’ve ever owned, and yet…all the DIY paraphernalia now scattered around the upstairs begs to differ.

I think the lesson broadly might be that bathrooms are no joke, especially if you only have one. They just involve more than, say, a bedroom, plus they’re small which makes the work awkward and uncomfortable. When you’re working on a living space, it’s easy enough to just avoid living in that space until the work is done…but it is not easy to avoid going to the bathroom. I, for one, typically have to do it several times a day. Which is why I’m definitely glad I’m not gutting this bathroom right now, and also already cannot wait for this to be over. Ha!

GOOD. BYE. FORMICA. You have served valiantly as the shower surround but it is time for you to depart. I got lots and lots of helpful suggestions for the bathroom after my last post (thank you!!! y’all are smart.), which ranged from “try to work with the Formica!” to “OMG KILL IT WITH FIRE,” and I fell more into that latter camp. It was barely clinging to the walls so taking it down was a no-brainer.

Next, I had to get rid of that dumb wall at the end of the tub. “Had to” is strong wording—I wanted to. REALLY wanted to. If the bathroom were a littttttttle bit wider, it probably would have made more sense to keep, but that space it created was just so narrow and deep and awkward and dark and skeevy, I just wanted it gone. The wall was built whenever this tub was put in, and the side facing into the shower was made up of scraps of plywood which were then skim-coated in joint compound and then covered in Formica. Fancy!

IS IT BEAUTIFUL YET? Yikes. The plaster walls under the Formica are luckily in very good condition, all things considered.

By the way, while we’re taking in this spa-like view, several of you suggested/insisted on changing the swing of the door, and you know what? You’re absolutely right! I even noted the awkward swing of the door 6 years ago when first writing about this bathroom, but completely forgot it bothered me over the course of the intervening years. It’s funny how you just get used to things. But now that it’s been brought to my attention again, it’s all I can think about…add it to the list.

WELL, WELL, WELL, WHAT HAVE WE HERE? Removing the wall at the end of the tub allowed me to see under the tub for the first time, and I saw wood floors! And not, like, wide and gappy and soft wood subfloors that I can see from below, but nice finished hardwood. It also allowed me to see that these hardwood floors were residing under only one thin layer of plywood subfloor and vinyl tile, not the several layers of mayhem I suspected I’d find. INTERESTING.

So, I had PLANNED to just peel up the existing vinyl tiles, do whatever I needed to do to prep the plywood subfloors, and put down new peel-and-stick vinyl tiles. I’d found these Stainmaster black “obsidian” large-scale hex tiles at Lowe’s, which seemed like they’d be fast and affordable at about $2/square foot, and they’re cute! It’s nice to see something different than 12″x12″ vinyl—AND, these are GROUTABLE? What is this sorcery? The product shots in finished rooms look pretty great and I’d bought 5 boxes and was prepared and weirdly stoked to go for it.

Upon seeing the wood floors…I was still prepared to go for it? A glimpse of hardwood is not the same as seeing the whole room of hardwood, and someone probably covered them up for reason, like rot, that I don’t want to face. Plus, removing the plywood subfloor would entail temporarily removing that sink—or somehow just its legs, which rest on the floor—a prospect that strikes complete and utter fear into my heart.

I’m not sure I can stress this last point enough. The sink is super beautiful and old and theoretically valuable and fragile and I cannot and will not risk it for the purposes of this renovation. I don’t even really understand how it’s mounted, particularly the backsplash piece which I think might be mortared to the wall like a big tile. Someday, I will have to face this, I suppose. Today? Hell no. This is also why I didn’t even really consider tiling the floor with ceramic or porcelain tile because that would add thickness to the floor and necessitate removing and re-mounting the sink a little higher. There is seriously nothing in this world I would rather do less than fuck with that sink.

In addition to the sink, there’s also a radiator in the room and that presents kind of the same problem. It would be nice if radiators were easy to remove and put back on a whim, but it’s a pain and I wanted to avoid that as well.

So now I am not even one full day into this DIY event and at a crossroads that is causing IMMEASURABLE stress. I am not at all dramatic, why do you ask?

I changed course and spray-painted the radiator while I debated my options. I cleaned it well and then used Rust-Oleum’s High Heat Engine Enamel in gloss. Looking slick, radiator!

Don’t ask me how; I couldn’t tell you. But I got the floor out. Lots of careful cutting with my handy Dremel MultiMax MM50 to get the subfloor into pieces small enough to shimmy out from underneath the legs, which can be carefully maneuvered this way and that without the whole thing crashing down. It was intense. But everyone survived, most importantly the sink.

ANYWAY, floors!! For the most part, the floors were in pretty great shape. There was a little water damage near the toilet and a big patch where plumbing had been run behind the sink, but overall…I’ve seen much worse!

Then I started sanding them, and…what’s this?! The floors in my house are all yellow pine or fir—both very common wood types for flooring here—but I think these are…maple?! Huh! I almost never see maple floors in this region. Interesting!

By the way, even though I just refinished that little floor in my closet, I WAY underestimated the amount of sanding here. Maple is so much harder than pine. I found that if I hand-scraped the old finish (shellac, I think?) before sanding, it went a little faster and saved me from having to replace the sanding pads every 5 seconds, but it was still slow and kind of awful to do with just a little orbital sander.

I took up the old patch behind the sink, which I think was made of shipping pallets? Super rough and uneven wood; not worth saving.

I didn’t have any maple, but I did have boards from the yellow pine patch that I pulled out of the living room when I installed the faux fireplace several years ago in there! The boards are the same width as the maple, and this floor is so full of “character” anyway that a conspicuous patch job doesn’t really bother me. I actually think it’s kind of charming?

So do you, admit it.

NOT BAD, RIGHT? I loved the light tone of the unfinished maple, so I used some leftover Bona NaturalSeal before applying poly. The NaturalSeal has a little bit of white pigment in it, which lets the wood maintain an unfinished look rather than darkening with polyurethane. Then I followed up with two coats of Bona Traffic HD in Satin, which I also had on hand in the basement.

Oh HELLO, floors! I am very pleased. I know that wood floors aren’t everyone’s ideal for a bathroom, but I am more than happy to have these in here. Plus, aside from some sanding pads, they were free! I’m sure I will still have no problem spending my $1,000 budget, but being able to return the vinyl floor tile definitely helps.

A couple more random and possibly interesting things about the bathroom! I didn’t notice that it wasn’t showing up in photos, but the lower half of the walls in this bathroom are not smooth plaster, and they aren’t painted tile either—they’re Keene’s cement! Keene’s cement is a very hard and durable plaster developed in 1838 that was often used in public spaces and other areas needing a hard-wearing surface. I think it maintained popularity until about the 1920s or so, but it’s still in production! My Keene’s cement looks like 6×6 tiles in a running bond pattern. A lot of you guys recommended simple subway tile or something similar for the shower surround—which would be perfect and really affordable—but I got super hung up on having real tile right up next to this more subtle fake tile walls. Maybe that’s dumb? It just seemed…not right. I also got concerned that the toilet, sink, and tub are all different shades of glazed white, and I’d regret adding yet another shade of glazed white. Maybe that’s also dumb? Regardless, I’m taking the opportunity to do something different and kind of unlike me and I think I’m into it.

Anyway! Also of note in that image above: that wall was covered in Formica, so I’d never seen what was hiding underneath—which looks distinctly like years of someone painting around a radiator! A tall and narrow radiator tucked into this corner rather than this lower/longer one that’s here now must have been nice. I wonder what happened to it. It’s cool to see the original beige-y paint on that Keene’s cement, though. Dare I say, I like it?

Also, I took down the mirror to get to work on the walls! The backing is embossed with this “The Brasscrafters” logo, which appears to have gotten its start in 1899. They made all the bathroom things: mirrors, soap dishes, shelves, towel rods, hooks, toilet paper holders, and so on—I really enjoyed scrolling through this catalog from the 20s and finding my mirror!

The clips that hold the mirror backing into place dates the patent at 1904, although it looks like these mirrors were in production for a few decades so I’m not sure when mine was actually made/installed.

I don’t see any manufacturer stamp on the sink itself, but a commenter named Margaret pointed out that it sure looks a helluva lot like a JL Mott sink, which some googling confirmed. Look at this one, which they say was made in 1892! Cool cool.

The shelf brackets are stamped “S. Sternau & Co Brooklyn NY,” which was started in 1893 and later became Sterno, the brand name that’s synonymous with their signature product, canned heat!


I gotta get back to my bathroom now. GO GO GO.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 6.12.19
    Sara L. said:

    OMG THE FLOOR. Gorgeous. Carry on.

  2. 6.12.19
    Sterling said:

    LOVE the floors. Love. Love love. Bold choice and I love it. Interested to see what your wall solution will be in the end.

  3. 6.12.19
    Anne said:

    HUGE APPLAUSE. This looks so much better already. Phew.

    I’m trying to visualize where this is in your house…this isn’t the death bathroom (downstairs), correct? Is this upstairs? Is it in a newer part of the house? Thank you for satisfying my nosiness.

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Anne! It’s directly above the death bathroom! That bathroom was originally a little open-air porch, and this bathroom I’m working on was built above it—I think around 1900. When the house was divided into apartments during the Depression, the little open porch got enclosed and turned into a second full bathroom. I think originally, there was likely a window where this bathroom’s door is now. There’s a crappy floor plan in this post that might help!

    • 6.12.19
      Pat said:

      So in looking at the old floor plan of the second floor….
      1 is now your bedroom (with the closet you just updated)
      2 is random storage? or your home office? or is it still Mekko’s bedroom/guest room?
      3 is the TV room with the W/D in the closet (that used to be your office with the gold wallpaper)
      4 is the room with the spray foam insulation and is unfinished
      5 is the bathroom you are working on now
      am I close?

      (this also means that the second floor is nearly “done” (or done for now). Hurrah!

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Well done, Pat, you know your way around!! Ha! #2 is *kinda* functioning as a home office right now, but still needs to be renovated and currently isn’t especially practical. But yeah, I’m getting closer to having a “finished” second floor which is exciting!

  4. 6.12.19
    Melissa said:

    I am so glad you got started! The floor under sink patch job may even ‘disappear’ with a narrow long basket full of toilet paper

  5. 6.12.19
    Hannah B. said:

    OMG. SO MUCH BETTER ALREADY! I feel 10x less skeezed out than I did before. Keep truckin sir!

    • 6.12.19
      MB said:

      !00% agree with Hannah. Lookin’ awesome and way less gross already. And all you’ve done is subtraction! Hope this is putting a bunch of excitement wind in your sails to do the addition parts. Can’t wait to see where it ends up!

  6. 6.12.19
    Shannon said:

    Woowwww those floors!!! Love love love. I grew up with wood floors in our downstairs bathroom – they can be so so lovely.

  7. 6.12.19
    Andrea said:

    OH MY GOD! I’m so excited for you and also so so happy about the floors! Also, just the feeling of relief to see that tub wall come down. It must feel so much better. Loving this. :-)

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      It feels sooooo much better. And so much brighter!

  8. 6.12.19
    SheLikesToTravel said:

    OMG those floors! Was bummed when you said you weren’t going to chance the removal of the sub floor. Completely understandable, but bummed. And then you did it!! Yay! I can’t believe you got the sub floor out!!!

  9. 6.12.19
    nancy said:

    That. Floor.
    This is so exciting!

  10. 6.12.19
    Caitlin said:

    Does the stain provide waterproofing/resistance for the wood? Curious as to how it will hold up, but loving your progress so far!

    Also, are you listening to any good music/podcasts/books while you work? I’ll take any recommendations that might help gain a fraction of your energy and drive!

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Yes! Kind of! Sorry, this got confusing—Bona is a two-part system, so first you use the sealer (in this case, NaturalSeal with the little bit of white pigment) and then follow with polyurethane (in this case, Bona Traffic HD). The sealer does provide some protection but the poly is really what waterproofs and protects from damage and all that. It’s a commercial-grade finish I’ve used a bunch of times…it’s really easy to use, dries fast, and should be totally fine with a little exposure to water and stuff.

      And oh gosh, yes! I feel like I’m kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel podcast-wise (RECOMMENDATIONS WELCOME!) but I listened to Last Seen and The Shrink Next Door and am almost done with Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me on audiobook…which is over 18 hours long, ha! Thanks, true crime! ;)

    • 6.12.19
      Caitlin said:

      Makes sense for the stain/poly!

      An older audiobook rec I have is anything by Malcom Gladwell (like Outliers or The Tipping Point) if you liked “This American Life”-type stories. I listened to them a few years ago and they had a lot of stories and/or concepts within them that I still think about today. They can help kill a few hours :)

    • 6.12.19
      Heather said:

      A pod cast that might interest you is Casefile True Crime — Crimes from around the world and very interesting/heartwrenching at the same time.

    • 6.12.19
      Hil said:

      Great progress! Taking out the wall makes a huge difference…

      Not sure if any of these will be new to you, but my favorite podcast is Reply All and another good one from gimlet is Every Little Thing – both are funny/lighthearted. In the Dark is also really good (investigative/crime reporting). And I learned a lot from Slow Burn (first season is about Watergate and the second is Clinton’s impeachment). I’ve also been listening to The Daily from NYT (news/current events). Decoder Ring is also good – deep dives into random topics that end up being way more interesting than you’d ever expect. And this will sound strange if you haven’t heard of it, but My Dad Wrote A Porno is really funny (and a little gross).

    • 6.13.19
      Lynne said:

      If you like true crime podcasts, check out White Lies – tho the crime parts comes with a hefty side of civil rights history, so it can get pretty heavy at times.

      Looking back at the floor plan post is just crazy! It really has come so far since then! What has happened to that ornate overhead light fixture pictured in that post?

    • 6.13.19
      HQB said:

      I recommend the “Ologies” podcast and the “Bad Blood” audiobook (John Carryrou). Captivating!

    • 6.14.19
      Didi said:

      Have you listened to “You Must Remember This”? It is a great podcast about old/Golden Age Hollywood. She didn’t a whole season on the Mason family, if you want a “true-crime” bend.

  11. 6.12.19
    Cate said:

    Whoa, so now you have wood floors? AMAZING. WONDERFUL. WOW THIS IS AMAZING. You are so lucky. Space needs a corner tub — is it finished at the end? — or a clawfoot. Re the sink, it is most likely on metal hangers (like a wall hung sink) as well as sitting on the floor (and you can always put the legs on some casters or blocks or whatever if needed — or get some big guys to help disconnect it temporarily) but I agree it’s a keeper. The reason the toilet is on a platform is because the plumbing isn’t level with the floor and to change the level, if you wish to, you will most likely have to go in from under the ceiling below. (It was most likely originally on a stone slab, theoretically to prevent issues with rot from condensation — we’ve had endless problems with this in our bathroom.) If you need any more info about clawfoot tubs, surrounds, tile, bead board, 1890s bathrooms, or toilet-stone-water-wood floor issues and solutions, please do not hesitate to ask or email me. IMHO a step in shower could be awkward in this space but work better on the first floor. But FWIW here’s a photo showing an old sink not dissimilar from yours and — just visible in the corner — a step in, glassed in shower in a bathroom with subway tile and a marble shower threshold. (Scroll down.) The bathroom is all new, it just looks old.

  12. 6.12.19
    Paula said:

    What a find! I love the patch job. It’s immediately pleasing to the eye. If you ever decide you can’t stand it, just throw a basket with TP on it!

    Also very exciting to see a decent-looking peel and stick tile! But even more exciting that you didn’t have to use them of course :)

    I really feel for the lone bathroom reno situation. We only have one shower, but there is a second toilet at least. Which means we’ve been having baths like a couple of 19th century colonists for two months but it’s fine. And since the tiling didn’t quite happen last weekend, it’s bath time again this week!

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Haha, I feel you!! Once the formica and curtain rod came down, it’s been seated showers with the handheld showerhead until I put this all back together! It’s good incentive to finish it up, I guess! But also is the saddest shower experience of all time. Actually I take that back—the period without hot water was worse!!

  13. 6.12.19
    Jill said:

    Ooooooooo. This is fabulous. Another thing I love?………that door! Swoon!

  14. 6.12.19
    Laurel said:

    The wood floors are beautiful and so much better than vinyl tile! I just caught up on both bathroom posts, and I gotta say there’s something to be said for modern toilets, mainly, water efficiency! Also if you want a toilet that never clogs, get a Toto. They’re amazing.
    Excited to see what kind of tile you pick to go with the existing concrete stuff!

  15. 6.12.19
    Paula said:

    And I would never start half my projects without a healthy dose of denial at the start. Otherwise I’d never start anything! I just see it as step one in my renovation workflow process.

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      T O T A L L Y

      I think a healthy bit of delusion about how long things will take or how difficult or costly they are is essential. Otherwise it’s all just too overwhelming and depressing, haha.

  16. 6.12.19
    Betsy said:

    I am *really* digging on your bathroom “mini-reno” posts so far! I am gearing up to do something kind of similar this summer (I live in a 110-yr old house in Savannah, GA — talk about abused old homes!) … this is gonna be great inspo for me as I get going, I think :)

  17. 6.12.19
    Simone said:

    If you can find the time, look at Esprit founder Susie Tomkins Buell’s bathroom in a story about her house on Remodelista. I think you can find some inspiration there. I don’t necessarily agree that you should change the door. If you change the door, the first thing you will see when you open it is the toilet, that is not always a pleasant sight if you share your house and someone is doing his or her thing there (although I always can appreciate the nonchalance in certain movies when people (pretend to) go to the bathroom on screen).
    When you look at English houses the doors to rooms always open the way your bathroom door does, my impression is that that stems from having staff that can enter the room, they won’t immediately see what is happening in the room. Anyhow, lots of luck with the bathroom.

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Ah, so pretty! The whole house! Here’s the link, for anyone else interested!

      That’s interesting about the door. I think the problem here is that the bathroom is so small—the door can’t even open 90 degrees from the frame without hitting the toilet first. I do think changing the swing will be an improvement here.

    • 6.12.19
      Southern Gal said:

      did anyone else have any problems with the images? most of them will not load (frustrated since one of them is the bathroom!)

    • 6.13.19
      Simone said:

      Yes isn’t that house lovely? It is funny how some things get better with age and how some things come back in fashion. It really is worth anybody’s while to invest in quality and good design. The chairs in the dining room, they are really good quality from the 70’s and I am seeing them making a revival at the moment. My (elderly) neighbors have them with armrests from when they were in fashion the first time. I think they also come in brown.
      In my opinion I think a sliding door would be the best solution for this situation, also because if you lay down a bathmat or something similar the door might sweep it away every time you open it. But I made a similar suggestion years ago for another situation and you said you don’t like sliding doors for this house. So OK. I just want to make sure you are reminded of that option

    • 6.20.19
      Cate said:

      I just have to mention that the house may have originally had sliding pocket doors separating the main two parlor rooms downstairs. The second edition of Bricks and Brownstones may have some decent shots of these openings. You can also see them in a lot of real estate listings for Greek Revival houses in Brooklyn Heights.

    • 6.12.19
      lindsay said:

      I was a proponent of moving the door, and still am. When you open the door you will see the tub, not the toilet. I, personally, think if it swings the other way it would be much better (maybe, with your finally reno, you could ideally do a pocket?)

  18. 6.12.19
    Tanja said:

    Oh this is so exciting! Bathroom Glow-Up 2019 is going to be a huge success. Go Daniel! :-)

  19. 6.12.19
    CMT said:

    Those floors! That vinyl tile would have been Perfectly Fine! but those floors are [heart eye emoji]!

  20. 6.12.19
    Chris said:

    Nothing like progress! Your bathroom project has pushed me to begin fixing up mine… which isn’t as old or as hideous… but is still in need of attention. Darn you, Daniel. LOL

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Ha! Sorry!!!!! You’ll thank me later ;)

  21. 6.12.19
    Marlena said:

    Wow! It already looks so much better!

  22. 6.12.19

    Wow Daniel, you DO keep truckin’, don’t cha?

    Wow, those floors, glad you were able to screw up your courage and just see if you could remove the sub floor and not damage anything. So glad you were able to do just that! Glad you were able to return the flooring and end up using what was there as this may allow you to fix a few items that may well be needed RIGHT NOW that you may not be aware of and still stick to your $1000 budget and have a bathroom that may be even better for the short term than originally thought.

    While you have a ways to go, it’s already looking better than it did. Interesting what you find when you have an old house, aint it?

    Anyway, carry on my friend and let’s see how this progresses!

  23. 6.12.19
    Barbara H. said:

    When I saw the picture with the tub wall removed, I said aloud “Oh my gosh, so much better!” Then the floor surfaced. So glad you were able to uncover the rest and do a good patch.

  24. 6.12.19
    Netta said:

    This project is giving me deja vu. Last year, after NINE years of living in my tiny LA home with a single disgusting bathroom and 70’s nightmare kitchen, I had them both completely gutted and renovated while living there. It took 3 1/2 months, 2 months of which I had no bathroom and had to rely on my work shower, my next door neighbor’s toilet in her detached garage, and the outdoor spigot. It was all worth it though, and you are going to feel so much better about your life when it’s done.

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Hardcore!! Glad it was worth it!! SOMEDAY when I circle back to this bathroom, I’ll have a powder room on the first floor that’ll take care of the toilet and sink part, but I’m sure I’ll get really familiar with the gym shower!

    • 6.14.19
      NestFan said:

      Only a powder room downstairs? I thought you took some room from the pantry to make a shower in there, instead of the death tub. Or maybe it was the other way around – maybe to took room from the bathroom to make the pantry?

  25. 6.12.19
    Heather said:

    I love those floors! And all that old porcelain. It’s always fun reading your posts, you’ve made so much progress, even if it doesn’t seem like it to you at times. I’ve got projects left and right needing to be done in my 1937 home (which I’ve had for 18 years, time flies) that are being put off left and right because 1) laziness, and 2) funds, and, well, more laziness. Your posts are always motivating, and I’ve actually gotten a couple things done due to being inspired by them. :)

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Aw, thanks Heather!

  26. 6.12.19
    Carol said:

    The floor! Hurrah! So very excited for your progress, and can’t wait to see what you do tile-wise – should be fun, like you!

    The floors….

  27. 6.12.19
    Alexis said:

    Huh, those hex vinyl tiles look just like the hex porcelain tiles I just bought for my upcoming bathroom renovation.

    I feel like my decorating choices have been vindicated now.

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      I love a large scale hex!

  28. 6.12.19
    Cindy said:

    Shut up, maple floors?! That is the coolest. I am going to predict that they will hold up unexpectedly well. Although I’ve never put maple on the floor, I’ve built with it, and it’s as hard as hell. This is going to be great!

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, judging by the condition they’re in after 100+ years, I think they’ll do JUST fine!

  29. 6.12.19
    Jeanna said:

    Progress! Love the floors :)

  30. 6.12.19
    Laura Reeve said:

    Ah looking so good. Can’t wait to see the final product!

  31. 6.12.19

    So just like that you fixed the floor! Impressive! Like magic, really.
    Very curious to learn what will be done with the walls.

  32. 6.12.19
    Pam in NH said:

    What a great start! This bath is going to be fantastic…..I love what you do with a tiny amount of money and a week! It’s talent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. 6.12.19
    Kirstin said:

    Wow, another case of us both working on similar things at the same time. I’ve commented about my 1920s house in western MA that has had very similar projects (and purchased in 2013) to yours but at a smaller scale. My only full bath looks just like yours right now — full of tools and bits of debris. I too have the incised plaster that looks like 4″ tile below the chair rail (had this in my kitchen as well). Mine was pretty damaged so I covered in beadboard. I have a curved corner tub with an L shaped shower curtain rod. I think your tub would look great with a low pony wall, maybe topped with a marble threshold piece, and an L shaped rod. Look, here’s one :-D:

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Parallel lives, so funny! I think I would have covered in beadboard too if I wasn’t so freaked about the sink! Mine’s not in great shape but I’m hoping with fresh paint and everything else in the room looking nice, it’ll read more as character than…utter neglect. We’ll see!

  34. 6.12.19
    Sherrill said:

    What a wonderful surprise to find the perfect floor and wall finishes during your demo. I’ve done several remodels and have also found that the as-built way is more often the best way. In our historic neighborhood several houses have that etched tile look in the bathroom. It’s interesting to learn that it was a special type of cement. Do you know about DEA Bathroom Machinery ( They are a good source for old bathroom history and parts.

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Oh my! I didn’t, but I do now! I’ll take one of everything.

  35. 6.12.19
    Jakob said:

    Any idea how the plaster patterns were made? Perhaps the all-knowing Ross can chime in? I have a beautiful diamond pattern below the chair rail in the kitchen and dining room of my 1904 Queen Anne, and need someone to recreate the lost sections someday (water damage, and the ultimate sin of opening up the dining room to living room wall). I have no freaking clue how I’ll ever make up to lost sections. What a lucky find on the maple flooring! I recall something about a piece of slate they’d set toilets on in old houses to protect wood floors…maybe something you can find for your place?

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      I’m very unclear on that…I *think* basically by scoring the plaster as it’s setting up, but it beats me. Let me know if you find out!

  36. 6.12.19
    Emily said:

    Congrats – its going to be amazing! I like patched floors too and never understand home renovation shows where they say, whelp, we have this one bad spot, we have to spent $8k to replace all the floors. Can’t wait for the finished room.

  37. 6.12.19
    Anna Guard said:

    I’ve been looking at those vinyl tiles so I’m a little bummed that you won’t be my guinea pig. The reviews said they were often curled and hard to keep down so I’m a little hesitant.
    Your bathroom looks great so far!

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Ah, sorry!! I was hesitant because of those reviews too—my plan was to use a mastic in addition to relying on the adhesive on the tile, which seems to have worked for other people. It sounds like the adhesive alone isn’t so great. I wish I could tell you from experience!

  38. 6.12.19
    Alexander said:

    That lovely new (old) floor and ripping out the creepy wall made things already SO. MUCH. BETTER. Seems like a different bathroom almost. I’d use it now. Well, not the shower though – yet. Can’t wait for more. On the edge of my seat here :)

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Gimme another few days!!! ;)

    • 6.14.19
      NestFan said:

      I miss the great storage the nook behind the wall provided – it would have been great if cleaned up and finished nicely with long baskets. Perhaps you’ll build some other storage tower in there where the nook was, maybe even rebuilding a more sturdy wall?

      If you don’t rebuilt the wall, you’ll be needing one of those L-shaped shower curtain rods. I had a tub that had one of those – it was an extra long, 1940’s tub, with a gorgeous round corner. The great thing about that shower curtain rod (besides being hung so high that I need to find extra-long shower curtains, which made the room look even taller than it was – they were a foot longer than normal length shower curtains, which was good because the shower fixture was high up, and water would have splashed over the curtain if the rod wasn’t likewise installed extra high) was that it needed two shower curtains to fit around the L. So I got two, and hung them so you entered the tub at the opening at the middle of the long side of the tub (that was where you had to get into the shower anyway, as one short end was against a wall, and the old wall-hung sink was next to the other short end. The good thing about that was that I hung the shower curtains rings so there was a slight overlap in the two curtains where they met, where you got into the shower, so water never splashed out of the tub there, ever, which was great. And it never splashed out at the edges where the shower curtain hit the tile at the other two ends, either, as I wasn’t ever moving the shower curtain there to get in and out. (The fact that the extra long shower curtains I found had little suction cups all along the ends to stick them to the tiles as well really helped with that.)

      About those shower curtains. Since I was buying two extra long ones, and I sometimes like to throw them out of the way to take a bath, and that required throwing them up over the shower rod – I couldn’t just push them to the sides like you can with a regular, straight shower curtain rod, because the L-shaped rods have one (or two, depending on the length) supports that connect them to the ceiling as well, so you can’t shove the shower curtain all the way over to the end of the tub when you want to take a bath (and not be surrounded by shower curtains.) As I didn’t want to be doing this with heavy stuff, instead of getting a fabric curtain with a the liner, or the usual thicker vinyl curtain, I found these fabric curtains that were very lightweight and thin – they looked like dotted swiss fabric, but were either poly or nylon or some other synthetic fabric – that were completely waterproof, yet they were so lightweight they were easy to swing up over the curtain rod without putting much weight on it (I didn’t want to stress the connections from the rod to the ceiling, as I didn’t know how strong they were.) These curtains were so good at keeping out water! The odd thing was that after you washed them in the laundry, you had to iron them on the outside of the fabric to restore the water repellency (as per the directions) – you had to do it – I once tried hanging them right after washing them to see if it would be water repellent, and the shower water went right through the curtain all over the bathroom floor. But after you ironed it, it was like magic – and the water repellency never wore out, no matter how long I went between washing the curtains, but always went away (temporarily) when washed with detergent in the washing machine. (Which had to be done, at times, because a little mold did grow at the bottom corners, as it doesn’t on many shower curtains, but it washed out.) I haven’t seen this kind of shower curtain around lately (I got those about 12 years ago at BB&B) – but they were so lightweight and draped like nice window curtains, rather the rather ugly, shiny, fabric water repellant shower curtains you see around now, like the ones in cheap hotels. Maybe somebody still makes/sells them – they are great with the L-shaped rods.

    • 2.18.20
      hisui said:

      These shower curtains are very common where I live, in Germany. Surely you can order one online? Good luck!

  39. 6.12.19
    Noelle Tangredi said:

    I love the floors and the finish you put on them! Also, that sink and mirror. So beautiful–totally jealous. Thank you SO MUCH for loving old stuff and keeping it :-)

  40. 6.12.19
    Doorot said:

    Yay for discovering those floors, so pretty!!!

    You’ve given me a kick in the butt to start diy-ing in my house again after a 3 year hiatus. Hooray ! The stairs are going whiiiiiite :)

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      Aw, good luck! Have fun! Report back! :)

  41. 6.12.19

    I’ve been following this project closely, as we’re planning on doing a budget renovation to our small master bathroom this summer, too. The house was built in 1923, but there were some obvious updates to the bathroom in the 50s. And we’ve got Keene’s cement walls, too! Can’t wait to see how it all shapes up.

  42. 6.12.19
    Sarah said:

    I wish you had used polyurethane on the floors instead ☹️

    • 6.12.19
      Daniel said:

      I’m not sure what you mean—I did! Bona is a two-part system: there’s a sealer that goes down first and the poly that goes on top of it. There are different options for the sealer, which will dictate how light or dark the floors get with polyurethane. Without the sealer, or with the “ClassicSeal” these floors would look a little darker and warmer—the idea with the sealer I used is that it maintains the tone of the raw wood while still providing necessary protection from moisture and wear and stuff.

  43. 6.12.19
    Cat said:


  44. 6.12.19
    Ryan said:

    Just getting the floor dealt with is major progress but can we talk about why no one has mentioned that weird platform under the toilet? Is it necessary because of some plumbing retrofit or just scary to remove? I feel like that’s the first thing I would have ripped out. But I’m also the person that tiled too closely to the toilet flange in my bathroom and had to fish new toilet bolts up from the basement so I’m not an expert in bathroom fixtures.

    • 6.13.19
      Peggy said:

      Yes, I too was hoping to read something about that little platform.
      Having just finished a complete gut job on our only bathroom, I can relate to the accumulation of tools and stuff in such a small space. We used our laundry sink as a bathtub of sorts and a bucket toilet, normally used for camping, for the potty. Not something I’d want to do again any time soon!

  45. 6.12.19
    Devyn said:

    I am guessing with the formica walls down, you are relegated to tub baths (with extra care to not splash the walls). Brings back memories of my first apartment.

    How interesting that you found maple of all things. Very happy you won’t end up doing peel-n-stick flooring… Even though I suggested it

  46. 6.12.19
    Jacqui said:

    I am so here for this. It’s like a treasure hunt and a mystery story and a romantic comedy all in one.

  47. 6.12.19
    Laura said:

    Interesting about the Keene’s cement! That was in one of the bathrooms at my parents’ house, which was built in the 1950s. But I had no idea what it was called.

  48. 6.12.19
    JavaDiva said:

    Love the floors and black radiator together. I have my fingers crossed for wallpaper above the Keene’s cement. Can you help us understand how you were able to remove the subfloor under the sink legs without the sink tipping down a little from the wall? Magic, maybe?

  49. 6.12.19
    monogirl said:

    Yay for free floors! It looks beautiful!
    Also how satisfying was it to RIP OUT THAT FORMICA?

  50. 6.12.19
    Josie said:

    As I have been reading your bathroom posts I kept thinking about a particular event when we renovated our house as a kid. It is an old Queenslander (google it, they’re beautiful houses!) in Brisbane, built around the 1940s, which is old for the area! Anyway my Mum really loved the old toilet but the porcelain was very stained after 60+ years of use. So she put it in the pool. I suppose because chlorine has bleaching properties?? No idea. Anyway for a summer (probably longer) we swam every day with a toilet just chilling at the bottom of the pool. I never thought about how gross it was at the time! Good news is, it worked! That toilet is in my mums bathroom to this day!

    • 6.12.19
      Gillianne said:

      Love that story! Many comments on Daniel’s delightful posts are worthy followups for entertainment and information value.

      (I’ve admired many a Queenslander from “Grand Designs” Australia and similar shows. You’re lucky to have grown up in one.)

    • 6.12.19
      Josie said:

      Thanks Gillianne! They are definitely special houses.

  51. 6.12.19
    D said:

    first off, holy and immediate MASSIVE improvement. Also wondering though about keeping the sink level/plumb if the subfloor and gross lino were removed underneath? I assume you shimmed it somehow….
    We had a new cheap as hell vanity put in by the landlord when the radiator was leaking into the apartment down stairs and the less than skilled workmen didn’t shim properly. My partner is a splashy person so now there’s a constant pool of water in the already pointless soap depression and it’s, well, depressing….

  52. 6.12.19
    sweetfe said:

    Those floors!!!!! What a fantastic find! They look gorgeous! Are you considering removing the paint from the cement tile? Good luck!

  53. 6.12.19
    Kirsty said:

    Flora look great. Love love love wood floors, especially in wet areas.

    This is kinda off topic, but what’s happening with that giant downstairs living room with the glass doors? I haven’t seen much about it since you first moved in.

  54. 6.12.19
    Lara said:

    Loving what you’ve done so far, especially love the floor! I’ve never commented before (even though I’m a long time reader :)) but HAD to recommend the podcast Crime Junkie, absolutely fantastic and the best true crime podcast I’ve listened to so far :)

  55. 6.12.19
    Kathleen said:

    Awesome!!!!!!! Love the floors!!! Love everything!!! That sink is so special. I think it’s going to be an amazing remodel.

  56. 6.12.19
    Christina Biles said:

    Ooooh that floor. Damn Daniel, you hit the jackpot!

  57. 6.12.19
    Iza Iseri said:

    Hi Daniel,
    That door is annoying in its current direction. It comes from the Victorian era of hanging doors this way to allow for whomever is in the room to have some warning that someone is entering and provide more privacy. It is a lot less abrupt than having a direct view into a room when the door opens towards the wall. Rooms would retain more heat as well as they were individually heated by fireplace. When I lived in the UK, all the doors in my house were hung this way, taking up floor space when opened-drove me crazy.
    History nerd here too!

  58. 6.12.19
    Pam said:

    That floor is incredible! Well done!!! But please wrap that beautiful sink in something protective while you work. A chip or scratch would be so sad….

  59. 6.12.19
    Gregg said:

    Love the Keene’s cement – and now I know what those are called.

    I also like the patched flooring. It tells a story! My flat here in Hong Kong has patches in the parquet from when I moved some walls – and I love them. They’re subtle, but show evolution. Every movement has a meaning … .

  60. 6.13.19
    Sarah Hedengren said:

    “Super rough and uneven wood; not worth saving.” Ha ha! I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you refer to wood as not worth saving! (I mean, I know there’s been other wood that wasn’t worth saving, but more often you as so savvy at hanging on to good little pieces…)

  61. 6.13.19
    Kelly said:

    I’m shocked at how much better it looks already. Loved the floor tiles you chose, but the wood looks amazing!

  62. 6.13.19
    Louise Ericsäter said:

    Great work with the demo, and sanding! I was a bit worried a new plastic floor would look too new compared to the overall finish, I think this is a much better option and wont make the other surfaces look imperfect. I think that is why new and shiny (and fake) look not-so-good in old houses, they do not have enough imperfections and stand out. So curious about the surround, I think it is a good idea to break it off a bit. One thing, I think you should give yourself the gift of a work-caddy. A little empty kitchen trolley like Risatorp to plop your tools in when you are working. Small enough to have in the room, and large enough so you still get an overview. Makes it easier to work and less risk of damaging yourself or the porcelain. Your hard efforts deserve it!I have a similar, I put old kitchen towels in them bc I hate the sound of metal on metal, also it takes care of a little dust and loose screws. Good knows there are a lot of them! =)

  63. 6.13.19
    Jeannette said:

    delightful as always to hear from you. how wonderful to think the plaster and the floors have survived all these years in good shape. it’s nice to think of them being in the sunshine again. please keep us posted, and give the dogs a skritch for us.

  64. 6.13.19
    gary dean said:

    Signature Hardware has nice looking L shaped rods for the shower that I have used. They look somewhat vintage.

  65. 6.13.19
    Mom said:

    Love the floors. OMG, that other flooring was THE most hideous. I can’t believe you lived with it that long. But, I just have a question. Aren’t there now larger tubs that could fit the entire end wall? Just curious if you thought of either that or pulling it entirely and just going with a full size shower?

    • 6.13.19
      Chris said:

      I was thinking that too. i’d really want to find a nice free standing or vintage tub with a finished end. With this tub, you basically have to build an end cap to close up the tub box.

    • 6.14.19
      NestFan said:

      Yeah, I was thinking that too – with a cheap, newer shallow tub like this, I prefer them walled in on three sides. I loved the extra long 1940’s tub with the curved open corner end and the L-shaped shower curtain rod it required, but I wouldn’t do one of those rods, or an open end tub treatment, with this sort of tub at all – I’d rebuild that wall all the way to the ceiling.

      Now might be the very time to get a vintage longer tub – at least just a deeper one if not longer open-ended one (a standard length one would still leave space for storage at the end of the tub) if you (or any guests) ever like to take a bath – an older, deeper tub is so much nicer for bathing, and I like them so much more than any of the new deeper tubs that are available. Even if rebuilding the wall at the end, putting in an old, deeper tub of standard length would be nice here. I had one of those once in a different rental in a Brooklyn brownstone that I loved – besides being deep and set into the wall on three sides, it came with a gorgeous 100-year old stained glass window in deep jewel tones in the original skylight above it (covered over with plexiglass so it couldn’t be broken into from the outside, which was good for security, but which also made it impossible to clean the exterior grime off of, even from roof, alas.)

    • 6.14.19
      NestFan said:

      Or, with a vintage deeper tub, instead of rebuilding the wall, you could just build a deck, like a seat, at the end, from the end of the tub to the window wall, and just use an extra long shower curtain across the whole wall – that could be nice, too.

  66. 6.13.19
    Julia said:

    So so awesome floors! What a great surprise. I lived with wooden bathroom floors and with a treatment like you did, this is not a problem in a bathroom (we once even accidentially flooded ours for about 1hour – don”˜t ask how it was too stupid – and we had no damage at all after carefully drying it (at the end with a hair dryer :-D).

    I was one who recommended subway tiles but I hear you on the ”žtoo many whites/glazings“. You”˜re right. I would now switch to simple paint. I”˜d still love some dark blue but now with a black radiator (you are very foreseeable hahaha), that is no color option I”˜d personally would do (I know sometimes it seems to be a almost relogiosly led debate: black and dark blue? You hate it or love it.)
    With the floor wood color, what would also look good would be some rich dark wooden green…? Or keep it light with some sandy color? But with that I would be worried about a band-aid look… hmmm.

    Anyway, looks great so far and I love to see what you make of it in the end.

    • 6.14.19
      NestFan said:

      I also said to tile the walls, but I agree – with this wood floor, only painted walls will work, not tile. (The ceramic tile walls would only go well with ceramic tiled floors.). The simplicity of the unstained maple would pair best with paint. I’d go with white, myself, not bright white, but one of the the ever-so-subtle nameless creamy off-whites I like (whichever goes with the light, and fixtures, in the room) – but then I like simple white bathrooms, with the color supplied by towels and rugs and window treatments – with the base room neutral and open to adding any color scheme you want. I also don’t mind yellow walls in bathrooms – they make me start my day feeling sunny, especially (or only, really) if that bath has a window, as this one does, and think the right shade of yellow looks good with unstained or lightly stained maple.

  67. 6.13.19
    Alexandra said:

    You’re doing great – keep up the good work! I don’t know why, but I get the feeling that a blueish-greenish color would look awesome in the shower section. Dare to be bold?

  68. 6.13.19
    Pamela Johnson said:

    Are you considering large-scale porcelain tiles? They’re fantastic (I have something like that in my bathroom with a cement look). Less grout makes them easy to keep clean, and they’re both durable and economical, which are two reasons why you see them in commercial/public spaces, but they look really great in homes too. Marble is beautiful but the medium grey or creamy cement colors would also look fabulous with your white sink & tub and “new” wood floor…
    Looking forward to seeing more!

  69. 6.13.19
    SLG said:

    It looks so much better already!

    I’m super curious about the Bona floor treatment, as finishing floors intimidates the hell out of me. Is it a nightmare to do? Does the finish last as long as other standard poly floor treatments?

  70. 6.14.19
    Allison said:

    These are some of your best posts ever. I love. And do you know you have me ogling Hudson valley fixer-uppers now? #cursed

  71. 6.14.19

    I feel another impressive and dramatic before and after coming on! This progress report is fantastic!

  72. 6.14.19
    NestFan said:

    I didn’t realize your hesitation about ripping up the floor had to do with preserving the sink, and not having to remove the radiator – if you’d lived in as many crappy old NYC (and other cities) apartments as I have, you’d know you can cut out almost any depth of flooring around them :-)

    I love maple floors – and these look great – surprised you didn’t get new maple boards to patch the floor nicely with something similar – but perhaps you are waiting for the new toilet installation, so as to be able to remove the toilet platform and patch around there, too.

    Since you want to keep the sink, and are now down to the floor (and so don’t need the horrible stick-on tile solution you were thinking of)) why not just complete the renovation and call it done, not half-done as as you still doing? Why not replace the tub with a nice vintage one, get a new old-style looking toilet (is it even legal to install a really old toilet in a renovation any more? I think it isn’t in many places – ones that use less water are often required – maybe not in Kingston – like you, I like old ones a lot (but not the ones with the tanks up by the ceiling), so I’m just noting that codes have changed on this), get rid of the platform around the toilet (even if that requires some plumbing work, if the platform was there to get the right slant on the pipes rather than just to provide a solid base over rotten floorboards), patch the floor with maple floorboards, put in new faucet hardware (even if that requires a bit of plumbing) and have the room all renovated? You are so close now already to having a totally nice, finished bathroom! I know you want a walk-in shower instead of a tub (and I’m thinking you may be thinking tile floors over that nice maple someday to go with that shower), but you could still do that years later if you still wanted to – though you might end up being happy with the bathroom you’d have.

  73. 6.14.19
    Jeannette said:

    how would you go about scoring a running bond tile pattern into keene’s cement?

  74. 6.14.19
    gretaclark said:

    I am really glad you found no asbestos.

  75. 6.15.19
    Heidi said:

    Love what you’re undertaking! A quick thought on the door swing, oftentimes bathroom doors swing to the reverse for privacy so if someone accidentally barges in on you, you are not necessarily exposed.

  76. 6.15.19
    Kymberly said:

    I cannot agree enough with your do not f with the sink mindset.

    As for radiators we did once have to replace a portion of flooring under a radiator that size in the dead of winter. Taking out the radiator wasn’t desirable (and would be very chilly). So my intrepid husband simply *suspended the radiator from the ceiling and removed the floor beneath it.* As you do.

    Just sharing in case you find it necessary to do the same. It’s surprisingly helpful.

  77. 6.15.19
    Vera Kohout said:

    This is not a suggestion, only an opinion.
    I know you love the sink. And I would like it too; in a grand bathroom. It is just too big for the space, massive with no storage space whatsoever.
    Sorry to be un-popular. Other than that, how could you have lived with that bathroom for 6 years? I am a long time fan. Reading since you shared the dorm space with Anna. Briefly. Vj

    • 6.15.19

      LOL. That was someone else. I think Daniel was about 4 years old when I was living in a college dorm.

    • 6.16.19
      Vera Kohout said:

      Sorry, correction. I know who YOU are, Anna.
      It was Eva. Two short names I missplaced.
      My apologies. Vj

  78. 6.15.19
    Bean said:

    This seems like a pretty tub: Or, this seems like fun subway tile which would have a variety of whites in it due to the different faces on it:

    I don’t generally like wooden floors in bathrooms (for the reasons that you had to use a different wood to patch with), but it’s a gift horse, and I love horses.

  79. 6.16.19
    Molly said:

    I’m wondering about that special plaster you’ve got – is it supposed to be waterproof/repellent? Like tadelakt?

  80. 6.17.19
    Kate said:

    Intrigued by the lovely piece of marble resting on the sink!

  81. 6.17.19
    Nora Maynard said:

    I’m loving this transformation and am eagerly awaiting the next installment. BTW I recently came across a mirror just like yours at Rejuvenation Hardware in their antique vintage section and it is $$$$$. A treasure for sure!

  82. 6.18.19
    Jennifer G said:

    A bathtub idea- on our bathtub, which we had to leave in place, I made a outside surround around the tub wall out of wood and trim. I did a board and batten look, a look which was trendy, but actually was the right period for our California bungalow. You might like a beadboard look.

    I used a 3/4″ plywood piece across the front and toenailled screws into the walls, and also glued it to the face of the tub (silicone or liquid nails). Nailed on trim pieces. And glued a great piece of wide white polypropylene trim (waterproof, and I avoid vinyl and pc) on the top of the tub side, overlapping the the top edge of the plywood (which also covered gaps) Oops, actually I painted the plywood and a lot of wood pieces with waterproof paint before installing!

    It came out great and hugely downplayed the harvest gold color of our tub :-} Especially with the curtain closed… I don’t have a way to share pictures, but a few googled images/sites to demonstrate: