Guest Author

Guest Author

Real People Reno: A New Look for an Older Condo Bathroom

Posted by Guest Author Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:11 AM EST



It's funny, we see so many renos of houses but not so many of condominiums.  Perhaps because the focus is usually on preconstruction condos?  Who knows. But be that as it may, older condos get sold and resold -- especially in bigger cities -- all the time, and those buyers renovate too! 

Often I've wondered, is it any different from renoing a house? I would have thought so...(I'm in a house).  But it turns out that not so much. Chantel Simmons, a contributing writer to, recently took on her condo bathroom, and shares with us her experience...

What is your home like?

"I live in a 1500-square foot condo in downtown Toronto. My husband and I fell in love with our place because it had a 500 square foot terrace that would give us the outdoor space we were hoping for without the grass to cut! When we bought the place six years ago, the previous owners had just renovated, so although the building was 20 years old, our place was practically new.

What didn’t you like about the original bathroom?

"The previous owners seemed to have skimped on the labour. Things they’d renovated slowly began to show their wear.  At one point, the shower had stopped giving us hot water, and long story short, we had to break the wall to fix it.  Then we added up all the other things we didn’t love about the bathroom, and decided it was time for our first-ever home renovation!

  • The glass door in the shower wasn’t properly measured to fit the space and hadn’t been weatherstripped, so water constantly escaped, causing water damage to the walls, tiles (which also hadn’t been waterproofed/sealed) and causing the metal supports to rust.
  • The original white tiles were 20 years old and chipped, not to mention very hard to maintain as they showed every hair!  (Mine is dark.)
  • The bathtub was the original 54 inch basic tub. It was so uncomfortable we rarely used it.
  • While the owners put in a gorgeous double-sink vanity with a blue-grey granite countertop, it looked totally out of place in the generic white bathroom.

Top photo: the "After"; immediately above: the "Before".  Chrome wastepaper basket, $12, Winners; DKNY white towels with blue trim, $19.99, Home Outfitters.

What kind of look were you going for?

"We love to travel so we took inspiration from some of the boutique hotel bathrooms we’ve seen. We wanted to create a spa-like feel, with dark colours that would incorporate the vanity, which we loved.

Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with too many styles in one small space. To keep things simple, we chose one tile – Dal-Tile in Asian Black – that came in a variety of styles and sizes. This allowed us to choose 8x8 for the floor and backsplash around the tub, 8x12 – tiled widthwise in the shower (which makes a shower look larger than if you tile lengthwise) and mosaic for the shower floor. This created a uniform look throughout the bathroom and allowed for the white carrera marble and white vanity, tub and medicine cabinets to be the accents.

How did the project go?

"We went with Home Depot for the entire project.  We choose all our materials there, mainly because they have a great return policy if anything didn’t work out, but also because we were able to find good looking fixtures that didn’t break the bank.  

We hired a contractor upon Home Depot's recommendation, who did a great job hiring trades to work on the plumbing and electricity.  Since this was our first reno, this was really helpful.  The contractor informed us of all the little things we didn’t realize, like we only had one outlet for the two sinks, and that outlet wasn't to code. Also, our old shower light fixture wasn’t intended for showers and had collected condensation and rusted.

Once the shower head was in, I realized that while I could fit under the showerhead, my husband, who is more than 6 feet tall, could not.  Online I found a showerhead arm extension that curves upwards -- for $10, the problem was solved and we didn't need to rip out any tiles!

To changed the existing medicine cabinet -- which was made of particle board -- we had to cut the wall.  New cabinets are larger, and wouldn't fit.  Now however, I can stand my toothbrush up in a little container inside the cabinet.

The renovation took eight days from start to finish. After the bathroom was complete, we had to wait about two weeks for the new glass door and window, which we had custom fit for the shower, to be cut, delivered and installed.  Then 24 hours for it all to settle before we could use the shower.

What was the biggest challenge?

The shower! The shoddy door, rusty metal supports and the concrete walls we discovered beneath the tile, which forced us to build out the back wall to create a niche -- we chose a really heavy, textured porcelain tile for the shower walls, so it wouldn’t work well as a shelf.  We also tried to salvage the glass from the original window and door, but with the new built-out wall, it no longer fit. `

"The tub was also a challenge.  The original bathtub was really small and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, unless we wanted to either cut into our shower stall on one end or our walk-in closet on the other (not an option!), our new bathtub had to be the exact same length as the old one – 60 inches. It also ruled out getting a whirlpool or airjet tub. However, American Standard makes 60 inch soaker tubs. We got a gorgeous tub (Monarch Peanut Tub) with a reclining back and curved sides, for only $360. It was slightly wider than the original tub but we were still able to keep the original fixtures -- another great saving. 

How did living in a condo impact your renovation?

The only regulations that we had to abide by were the working hours -- Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm only -- and the application required if we wished to take down a wall (which we didn't.)  Other than that, because we had the 500 square foot terrace, all the messy jobs of cutting tiles and mixing grout were done outside.  If you don't have a balcony to use, ask the trades people to do all the messy stuff elsewhere.

In the end, we didn't have a big mess on our hands at all.  It took me half a day to clean up, and I continued with the Swiffer for a few days following, for the fine dust that tends to linger.  I'm glad we didn't listen to friends who suggested we hire a professional cleaning crew because it would have been a waste of money.

Are you happy with the results?

We're thrilled with the results – it looks even better than we had hoped!  The only thing I would change is not having waited so long to do it. 


What do you think of Chantel's endeavor?  Any stories of your own condo renovations? 

Topics: Condos, Renovating, Slate, Black, Blue


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