Look – our house has a lot going for it, but its sore spot has always been the kitchen and bathrooms. We redid the kitchen soon after moving in, but the bathrooms have not been a priority. They aren’t broken, and we weren’t really planning to do much to them aside from new mirrors, a coat of Wordly Gray paint and a couple cute rugs from At Home to fix them. However, after a summer popcorn ceiling removal mishap involving a husband, a very pointy-footed stepladder, and the 80’s fiberglass master tub, we were left with a quarter sized hole and some decisions to make.
At first we tried to patch it, but noticed more cracks had formed in the fiberglass so it was time to go plan B, like it or not. We determined the best thing for the house in general (and resale value) was to convert the old shower-tub combo into a full shower.
We called Ray at iBuildDFW to help us demo, with the idea that as long as he could do all the hard stuff, plumbing, waterproofing, we were game to try tiling. We got a lot of great advice from them as we went, and it was awesome getting to see the whole process. I’m pretty sure I can/will do this all myself in the future, except maybe the plumbing rerouting.
I have made a point to keep all of our house updates as compatible with the original house style as possible, leaning towards neutral, mid-century modern style finishes. Obviously 1984 was not really within the mcm range, but the house has a sunken living room and lots of brass and wood, so it fits really nicely as long as it isn’t too heavy handed. We also had to keep our budget as low as possible because this was not a planned renovation (which is why we did everything ourselves from waterproofing on).
Our kitchen has hex tile and white quartz counters, so for the shower I went with a stacked large subway tile design with a niche featuring those same white hex tiles. To incorporate some warmth in this very neutral window-less room, we chose a brass shower kit and door hardware, along with an acacia wood shower stool and bamboo towel hanger.
After the tiling started, we realized the shower pan was not perfectly level, so we had to cut tiles in crazy ways to accommodate how it sloped. It made for a lot of frustration as we started the two side walls – some days only getting up a couple feet of tile in 5 hours. Daniel got really good at using the wet saw we got for this project, and by the end was seriously a pro. I wish we had double checked the pan levelness earlier on, but we adapted and learned better for next time.
The other major issue was the niche. I pestered Ray’s team to make sure the edges would line up perfectly on either side with our grout lines. Well, even after multiple measurements, the tiles ended up off by about a quarter of an inch on the right side of the niche. We also didn’t get our measurement right from the floor to bottom of niche (apparently it’s nearly impossible to do that way), and I had a meltdown when we got to the lower edge. At that point, Daniel helped me pick myself back up and we came up with plan C, or the “nothing lines up ever” plan.
After we got the wind back in our sails, we solved our shelf issue by getting some 4″ x 16″ beveled edge tiles (the others are 3″ x 12″) so they would create a sort of finished edge for the niche and cover the area properly. After that row above the niche was FINALLY finished, it was the home stretch.
Turns out we had to do more weird cuts along the top because our ceiling is sloped down too (yay!) By that point we were so exhausted we just powered through and finished – this mark was around 6 weeks in. We planned to do it in two weekends originally, and here we were – after staring down two months of big red shower hole – with just grouting, plumbing and doors left.
Looking back, the imperfections and mistakes are easy to see in these pictures, but honestly are forgotten when you actually finish and use it on a daily basis. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you ever attempt this – tiling SUCKS and there’s a reason you’ll get quoted north of $6k to have a team come do this all for you.
After the tiling was complete, we chose platinum grout and got that in pretty quickly. Then we had to clean off all the tiles and let it dry. The next morning we installed the fixtures and tested the water temperature. After a few adjustments, we got it to make hot water! Next up we sealed the grout and let it dry, then used a grout-colored silicone in the corners, painted the drywall, and then caulked around the edges of the tile and ceiling.
Please note, silicone is the devil.
Please also note, giant glass doors are my nightmare.
The instructions on these doors were really good – they even have a well-made video animation that goes through every step in detail. We thankfully bet right on the door size to buy (don’t buy that until after tiles are in so it’s accurate!) and they arrived in three GIANT super heavy boxes that Daniel moved by himself into the garage (do not try that at home kids.)
Once the doors were in.. we.. were… done?! I made a video (below) of the first shower (just till the part where the water is turned on, calm down) and my god it felt good.
You know what? It still feels good every day I wake up and stumble into that bathroom and see it there waiting for me. All the back aches and tears we built it with – absolutely worth it. Honestly I will never settle for an ugly bathroom for four years again now that I know how amazing it feels to accomplish something like this.
shower video tour >
The finished shower – in all it’s glory!
Let me know if you want more detail or have questions on any of the steps we took on this shower conversion!
Fiberglass Left-Drain Shower Pan (purchased by contractor)
3×12″ White Subway Tile
Metro Hex Matte White 6mm Tile
Platinum Gray Sanded Grout
Platinum Gray Sanded Tile Caulk
4×16″ White Subway Bullnose Trim Tile
Delta Trinsic Shower Only Faucet Trim Kit in Champagne Bronze
Delta Universal Shower Valve Rough-In Kit
58″ x 78″ Hinged Frameless Shower Door (Brass hardware)
Tile Spacers (the X-shaped style worked best for us)
Towel rack (it’s directly opposite the shower, not pictured)
Acacia Shower Stool