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Main Bathroom Remodel. wiring, tile, ventilation, window, and sink.
~mike gradziel.


I saw fish shaped towel hooks online but they were no longer for sale, so I decided to make my own in brushed stainless steel. This was a challenge with my limited tools- the angle grinder again proved to be indispensible. It can do so many things! It's amazing what one can make in a few hours with a grinder, a drill driver, some tool bits, and a wood box on the back patio. I bought some 1/8" thick, 3" wide stainless steel type 304 and cut out the fish shapes with an abrasive wheel, then ground them smooth, rounded the edges, drilled and countersunk holes, and brushed the surface to a uniform finish with a sanding flap wheel. I built a bending jig with some scrap lumber and a piece of iron pipe left over from making a closet rod, and formed the hook shape. As towel hooks these work nicely, having no sharp edges to catch but still holding towels well, and they are super cute.

Want to make your own? Each takes about 2.5 hours (less if you have better tools than me) and consumes half a 1mm cutoff wheel, i.e. a $3 wheel lasts for two fish. Ordinary metal-cutting jigsaw blades and drill points did not cut this steel so I used the grinder and a hardened steel drill and countersink, and a conical stone bit for final smoothing of the countersink. Here is the pattern I used: pdf of pattern.

I still have to replace a 1-foot long piece of steel pipe that supplies the toilet (will change it to copper), but since that involves opening the wall on the other side, in a bedroom closet, I proclaim the bathroom remodel finished! It cost just $2300 for all the new fixtures, sink, window, some tools, lumber, plaster, and paint, not including our custom made trim tile.
bathtub before starting work fish towel hooks
fish towel hooks
large fish towel hook for bath towels
small fish shaped towel hook for the hand towel small fish shaped towel hook for the hand towel
fish towel hook after bending fish towel hook during bending fish towel hook ready for bending
fish shape smoothed and sanded with flap wheel grinding the perimeter smooth cutting out the fish towel hook with an abrasive wheel


July 2013: The need to have this new work look like it has always been makes all my house projects a good measure more advanced than ordinary remodeling ought to be. I've recovered old tile for use in patching old tile, since the color and finish is not available, and despite my zeal for making things perfect I must allow cracks and scratches their fair place in this 1941 structure else it will not have the same solid comfortable feeling that we now enjoy. I must take great care to hide the joints between new and old so there is no evidence of change, and when all is done no one will notice my efforts which is a good thing.

So it is with the bathroom improvements: I have spent many weeks replacing an obvious white tile patch at the head of the tub with recovered yellow tile. While the wall was open I replaced the faucet too, both to make sure the best quality components are in there so I won't have to open the wall again, and to add a hand shower sprayer and new fittings in a style we like better. Then I tore out the plaster shower ceiling which had cracked and replaced it with fiber cement board. The shower faucet was upgraded twelve years earlier and a "remodeling trim" oval cover plate used to mask the old three-hole penetration through the wall. Not standing for this obvious repair, I cut away the broken tiles and placed pristine new ones in their place, drawing from my supply of recovered tile. Lastly I scraped and re-grouted the joints all around the bathroom.
fiber cement board shower ceiling fiber cement board shower ceiling exposed wood lath after removing cracked plaster
shower ceiling had cracked and attracted mildew surgical tile removal around shower faucet cut the tile with angle grinder, then chiseled out
old three hole shower valve was replaced and covered over with ugly oval trim new tub faucet and hand shower new tub faucet and hand shower
setting tile cement board backing installed behind tub cutting fiber cement board is easy with these tool
new piping in place for tub faucet tub faucet ready for re-piping bathtub before starting work


February 2013: What a treat it is to have mirrors on the wall again! We chose a pale green color for the walls, "almond cream" for the trim and doors, and a brighter shade of white for the ceiling. I put up the mirrors and had clear acrylic cut to size and polished for the shelves in the nook. The shelf spacing follows a polynomial equation to satisfy my inner need for natural order. I made a plastic cover for the ceiling air vent and hung it from stainless steel carriage bolts that thread into metal inserts pre-installed above in the ceiling. Over the bathtub, I put up a 3/4" iron pipe which I painted with white enamel and mounted to strong blocks of wood screwed into reinforced parts of the wall. Wet clothes can be heavy, especially with kids pulling on them. Not that there are kids right now, but it seemed like a plausible scenario. Now it's ready for anything. I refurbished and replaced doorknob hardware and latches, caulked around the edges of the room, and did a final cleaning. But it's not done yet - I still have to install the new tub faucet and handshower, and then once we have the handshower available for use I will replace the shower ceiling (originally lath & plaster) which has cracked. The shower is separate from the tub, a real plus for diy remodeling.
custom air vent cover, shelves finished, ready to decorate see the shirt hanging on the new drying rod over the tub
shelf nook


December 2012 - January 2013: Plaster, tile trim, and paint! It's been a long time coming, but with the last rough electrical inspection done (second bedroom) to keep my permit active, I got back to finishing the bathroom. I removed the old red tile trim which in my opinion clashed with the cool-toned yellow tile hue, repaired the plaster, and set new tile that we purchased custom-made with special colors. The tile shop works like a paint store in that they have dozens of colors and finishes, and they glaze only to order rather than keeping everything in stock. Costly, but it looks great. I do wish I had thought through the joints more before starting work, because some of the corners have short pieces of tile that could have been eliminated. I finished the plaster, trimmed the window using the old trim and some new pieces of wood fitted to match the old ones, and then painted the walls and ceiling after thoroughly sanding and cleaning them with an alkalai wash. Next I put up mirrors. Soon to come: the finishing touches of towel hooks and shelves. Also, I still have to put in yellow tile, recovered from elsewhere in the room, in the tub faucet area where previously there was white tile installed after a plumbing repair. It didn't look right, and while I had the wall open we decided to install a new faucet with a handshower and a better temperature control.
bathtub before starting work removed old tile and tile patch around faucet new lath around window
rough plaster coat rough plaster coat setting tile
new trim tile rounded corner sawing cap tiles thinner
sawed through 120 linear feet of tile tiled and plastered, masked for painting tiled and plastered, masked for painting


September 2012:
After a long delay with the unfinished bathroom livable but not really very comfortable, I resumed work to replace the old window before winter rains arrived. The single pane textured glass was impossible to clean, cracked, and with no screen we never opened it anyway. Also, I needed to raise the sill for a clean installation of my new tile trim. A $100 vinyl window from the big box store would be a little smaller than the old window. I framed up a new window opening using all redwood - even for the exterior planking - and put up a layer of Tyvek home wrap. I built wood trim to go around the outside of the window so it would match the other windows, installed a metal drip cap, hung stucco wire, and did my first stucco job ever. The texture actually matches reasonably well though of course you can see the different areas of stucco. The outside is painted now, but inside the wall is still open.
old bath window demolition framing up for new smaller window
redwood planking homewrap in place stucco wire
my first stucco experience it turned out pretty good finished painting


May 2011:
The black granite sink installed around 2001 felt wrong for the color scheme and was uncomfortably small, so we decided to put in a two-basin white porcelain sink. It is on a cheap particleboard base but it looks nice and will work well for the moment. The plumbing was a huge inconvenience to install, working with corroded iron drain pipe and a mismash of copper supply lines and fittings all packed tightly together behind the sink, but I used new material where possible, got it leaktight, and it works great!
setting tile new sink installed new sink, new light; mirrors not installed yet


September 2010:
The original 1939 porcelain bathroom tile is a pleasant shade of pale yellow, the cast iron bathtub has been resurfaced and looks fine, and the whole room is done up in a thick wire reinforced mortar bed that seems to be indestructable. Taking it out and hanging cement board would result in an inferior wall, would produce a mountain of debris, and would be expensive; besides, it looks nice the way it is except for the tile trim which I will replace. Plus, we only have one bathroom here (maybe some day we will add a master bath off the bedroom, and a third bedroom with a laundry closet). We decided that the tile, tub, and toilet would stay. However, just about everything else would be upgraded: some tile came off for re-wiring, a new double-basin sink went in along with a ventilation fan and new lighting, and plans are in place for a new smaller and better insulated window, new mirrors, new shelves, new tile trim, and fresh paint once everything else is done.
the way it was when we bought it original bathroom closet closet cut open to run air return
closet cut open to run air return air return custom built and installed closet closed in, painted, sealed
First, as part of the air duct project I did some work in the bathroom closet which resulted in it being freshly painted and slightly smaller. Next, I began re-wiring. This quickly became a larger project. Most light switches in the house are 54 inches above the floor, to the top of the switch, which is 6 inches higher than is common these days. The switch just felt too high, and smaller children wouldn't be able to reach it, but to move it down I had to remove some tile. The tile backsplash was so tall that the wall outlets I planned to install behind the sink would be rather far from the countertop, but more importantly the mirror lower edge would be high, again to the disadvantage of small children. Off came the tile, a tedius job because I wanted to save as many tiles as possible to repair damaged tile elsewhere in the room.
closet finished; wiring started the bathroom pre-demolition bathroom without medicine cabinet
bathroom demolition for wiring laying out newly cut tile rented tile saw


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