The Next Renovation

Posted in DIY with tags bathroom , electrical -

It’s been awhile since we’ve done any major remodeling work to our house (yeah, right!), so it was time for us to embark on our next gigantic project. The thought was that we would do both upstairs bathrooms at more or less the same time. The kid’s bathroom was supposed to be “easy” since I was going to leave the shower pretty much alone, just update the fixtures and the shower head, but concentrate mostly on the floor, toilet, and vanity. Our master bathroom was going to be a little more involved, new toilet, floor, and entirely new shower save for the shower pan. Well, plans changed…

This past weekend we started the destruction phase of the kid’s bathroom, which has expanded significantly since now we are taking down all of the shower tile and re-plumbing it. We also decided to take out the 80’s vintage light soffit and replace it with a more modern light fixture and let the wall go all the way up to the ceiling.

Destruction always seems to take a little longer than you expect. We also had a couple of casualties in the process. The floor, toilet, and vanity came out without too much issue. The shower door was easy enough to coax out, but the shower tile was a little difficult and resulted in some scarring on the bathtub, which we still hope to keep. The other challenge was the light soffit which was maddeningly well built! It eventually caved to my sawz-all and repeated beatings with a hammer and wonder-bar, however!

Before Pics - Destruction

Nice floor, eh?


Shower Tile Out

Soffit Removed

On Sunday, demolition completed and the new cement-board floor installed, I was faced with the choice of either starting to lay the tile floor or to focus my efforts elsewhere, like the drywall and electrical, which I elected to do (see what I did there?).

Brace yourself, this is going to get a little convoluted, but it’s for my own purposes so I can look back and regale this story over and over in future years! I needed to run new wires from the switch box to the new light location, and from the new light location to the current light nearer the shower. The old wires were too short. That in itself was a bit of a project, but nothing insurmountable. When I finally got around to shutting off the power and hooking up the switches, I decided to also replace the working GFCI outlet. Boy was I in for a surprise…

Toasted Outlet

Clearly a fire had occurred at some point. My sincerest hope is that it happened before we bought the house, and I have anecdotal evidence that it did. See if you can follow my logic. When we moved in, we hired a guy to fix our backyard fence. He had power tools he wanted to use, but the outside outlet didn’t work. Last summer, I finally looked into why that outlet didn’t work because I wanted a working outlet for the new deck we had put in. I traced the wire up through Ethan’s bathroom when we had the drywall off, then it disappeared into the upstairs, which had drywall on. That wire was dead, but I still wanted to find it. At the time, I cut bait and re-routed power from somewhere else to power the outside outlet. After seeing this, however, I think I have found the terminus of that wire and have a theory as to why it wasn’t working, while the outlet in that bathroom still was.

Again, more electrical nerdery here, so bear with me. If you look closely at the outlet, it shows that there was a fire on the neutral side of the outlet. You will probably also notice that for a GFCI, it is not wired correctly. Both wires are hooked up to the “LINE” feed, when the downstream wires should clearly have been on the “LOAD” terminals. Regardless, what I think happened is that there was a ground fault, possibly water in the outside outlet, and the GFCI, wired incorrectly, didn’t trip, but instead a fire took place, jettisoning the neutral wire, causing the circuit to die. The strangest part is that the outlet continued to work, which is why I never suspected it in the first place.

One day I will prove all of this by hooking those dormant wires back up and testing them. Until then, I have wiring I can trust in that bathroom now with new switches and a new GFCI that is actually protecting against ground faults.

More to come on this. The next steps are to drywall and to lay the floor before tackling my first big plumbing project. We’ll see how that goes!

Written by Brandon Grady
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