DIY Better Bathroom Design

Old barn wood gets repurposed as a dramatic accent wall.

Old barn wood gets repurposed as a dramatic accent wall.

We've been taking advantage of winter weather by digging into some miscellaneous renovation projects in Better Farm's main house. Topping that to-do list was a shower unit replacement that was much-needed in one of the upstairs bathrooms.

That bathroom got a big makeover in 2012, when floors, vanity, sink and wall color were all replaced. But the shower/tub unit, badly scarred by hard water and rust, was left behind. Since then, Better Farm's growing population and overnight lodging roster has encouraged a new wave of renovations to improve all-around amenities throughout the old farmhouse.

So armed with a Sawzall, pry bars, sledge hammer and my dear friends Carl and Doc, I set about on demo work. First, Carl and I turned off the water supply (very important!). Then the two of us cut the outdated, badly stained fiberglass tub in two, hauled it out of the house, and ripped down surrounding sheet rock (sounds more fun than it is, but it really isn't too bad if you have someone to trade jokes with and talk to). Demo is pretty sweet, but after a few hours you're pretty exhausted and sort of dazed by seeing how things were built in the different incarnations of Better Farm (haphazard pieces of wood screwed together for support beams, 20 nails when one screw was needed, and so on).

As is the case with many of the old projects at the farm, unusual construction methods have made for unusual renovations. It appears that the shower stall was once a closet; and during its transformation, sheet rock covered old shelves and cubbies. This accounted for an inexplicable dropped ceiling, which we took out. Carl did find this treasure in the process:

Also, the existing shower/tub surround unit was teeny tiny. So to fit the new one in, down went the walls:

Perfectly level!

Perfectly level!

The hallway closet became visible from inside the bathroom once we started ripping walls down. 

Now that we had more space, we put the unit together:

Now, anytime we do demolition or construction work at the farm, we save all usable lumber in varying sizes out in the wood shed for future projects. This is a great way to reuse and recycle while also saving a bunch of cash. So off to the wood shed we went, where we gathered the pieces we needed to frame out the new shower stall. Doc taught me how to do the framing:

And then he screwed the pieces of sheet rock to the walls around the unit, ceiling, and toilet alcove.

Check out this brandy-new shower unit!

I tackled the mud/taping/painting portion of the project, which is just a really tedious process of letting everything dry before you can go back, sand, and do another layer of mud. But finally, it was done.

Then it was time for my favorite part: detail work. We still have some barn wood left over from the Art Barn renovation, so I decided to use that as the accent wall next to the toilet. Roommate Matt helped with dismantling old barn doors so we could get at the wood; and he and I made the cuts before I hung the boards right over the sheetrock. Here's the finished product:


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.