Friday, February 27, 2015

Can I Demolish My Own Bathroom and Then Let My Contractor Put It Back Together?


I want to do a bathroom renovation but I’m trying to keep the costs down, can I do the demolition myself and let the renovation contractor put it all back together?


You can do it yourself but I would warn you that demolition is not as easy as you think it is, there are a lot of things that you need to know before you start destroying a part of your home that you are living in.

Most people (after watching home renovation shows on television) think that they can walk into a bathroom and just start hitting walls with a sledge hammer and ripping everything out and throwing it out in a pile on the driveway. If you ever saw what happens in those shows before they allow the homeowner to do anything you would understand how complicated it can be when dealing with unknown services in the walls.

A bathroom is usually a small area and is usually in the middle of the home, this means that any demolition you do has the propensity to spread dust throughout the home along with debris and dirt along the path in which you carry stuff out to the driveway. Your contractor will take the time to cover your floors with something to protect them, put up plastic dust screens to contain it and have a garbage bin delivered so that your driveway is kept clean eliminating the possibility of you accidently getting a nail in your tire.

In bathrooms there is a lot of stuff behind the walls, here are some of the things that you are apt to find once you take down interior walls;

Water lines. Water lines in home that are 15 years old or older are all made out of copper, these lines do not like to be cut into or hit with hammers. If you damage one you could end up with a lot of water damage.

Vent pipes. These pipes are black PVC and are usually a lot harder to damage then the copper water lines, the problem arises when you cut or remove one, these are the venting of gas for your plumbing system, if you damage one you risk allowing methane gas into your home.

Electrical wires.  Most walls in homes have electrical lines running through them, if you cut one or damage one of these lines you could end up causing a fire, injuring yourself, damaging the tool you are using or causing the contractor to have to fix it which could increase the cost of the renovation.

Bearing walls. If you start cutting out walls you might remove the wrong studs, a lot of the walls in homes are not just there to partition off rooms they are actually load bearing walls. Load bearing walls are walls that accept a load from above (either from the floor above or the roof) and transfer it down towards the foundation. Basically they are helping hold up the house. Damaging one of these walls could end up causing significant damage to the structure or roof of your home. If you damage the structural integrity of the home then you are in for a big repair bill.

Drain pipes. Drain pipes are made out of the same material as vent pipes but they have a different function. They transfer the waste water from your toilet, sinks and showers to the septic or sewer system. If you cut or damage one of these then you will end with a strong sewer smell through the home and the next time someone uses the bathroom above where your working you will have a leak. That means that you could end up with sewage leaking in the home.

Structured wiring. Depending on how old your home is it could have structured wiring in it. This wiring is the wiring that runs your phones, internet, speakers and thermostats. These wires are smaller and do not handle rough treatment very well.

Heating vents. Heating vents in your home do not work as well once you damage them, they require the vents to be free of obstruction, holes or kinks so that the air can travel freely from floor to floor and room to room. Return air vents do not have any ducts they use the wall cavity as their duct so if you remove or block one you might not even know you have until it’s too late.

These are just the things that you can find in the walls of your bathroom, there are many other things that can happen when you start doing your demolition. Removing toilets, vanities, tubs or showers without the proper knowledge of how to turn off the water supply to them can end up with you causing a lot of water damage to other parts of your home.

I have witnessed homeowners spend days demolishing their own bathrooms to try and save a couple thousand dollars and then realizing that the damage they caused in doing so is going to cost them double that to have everything repaired or put back the way it was before you started demolition.

I would recommend that you let the professionals handle it, the money will be well spent and you wouldn’t have to worry about any surprises.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

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