DIY House

The Bath – part 3

Onwards with rebuilding the bathroom.

In the first part of this story I talked about fitting a new toilet and sink, building box-work to hide the pipes and planning the layout of tiles. In part two I fitted a new bath and heated towel rail, and fitted tiles as diamonds. My attention now turns to the ceiling, and a replacement for the awful and worrying polystyrene tiles.

Having removed the old tiles, it was pretty clear that the ceiling would need some substantial work to tidy it up. Chief among its problems was that it sloped quite noticeably. There was of course an obvious slope in one corner, which was formed by the shape of the house roof – the room next to the bathroom had a dormer roof, which finished a metre or so from the edge of the house – so this slope was understandable. The ‘flat’ rest of the ceiling, however, was 3-4cm higher on one side than on the other.

My previous house’s bathroom had a wooden tongue and groove clad ceiling which I had liked. I reckoned I could build the same in here. If I built a frame into the ceiling, I could correct the slope and give myself something to attach the cladding to.

I bought some long strips of 1x3cm and 2x3cm wood that could run across the width of the room and around the edges. I began by drilling test holes at points across the plaster to discover where the beams were. I then screwed a 1x3cm strip into the beams at the lowest side to give me a starting point. Next, I took a long spirit level and used it to sandwich a short section of 2x3cm wood to the ceiling. By moving this piece around and watching the spirit level I could find the point at which a 2x3cm block would give me a horizontal line, then I fitted a full length 2x3cm strip along this point. I then fixed 1x3cm and 2x3cm strips together to get a piece 3cm thick, and repeated the process. Lastly, I was able to make a mark along the wall at this highest end, drawing a line that was level with the lowest end, and screwing a strip of wood into the wall along this line.

I then cut and fitted shorter strips at right angles between these long strips to create a grid frame that was horizontal in each direction. I could pin the tongue and groove to this frame and create a new flat ceiling.

Apologies for not having any photos of this frame. I didn’t realise that I’d be telling people about it 16 years later…!

Next came a practical problem. Tongue and groove cladding came in 2.4 metre lengths. The room, at its longest, is 2.47 metres. What do I do about the extra 7cm? I didn’t want to have to join two pieces of tongue and groove lengthways. I need a clever idea.

I had already planned to use strips of Cove Moulding to round off the new ceiling and connect it to the walls (and cover up places where the tongue and groove didn’t quite fit. This moulding was about 3cm wide, which would cover up the small gaps in most places, but not the gaps at the ends of the room. I had an idea though; I could fix this moulding to a strip of Bullnose Moulding. This would give an interesting shape, and make the moulding an extra 1.5cm thicker. Now I would have a total of 9cm of moulding, which would overlap with the ends of the tongue and groove and tidy them up nicely.

For most of the ceiling, the tongue and groove and moulding fitted very well. There were a few places where I needed to be creative, such as behind the light cord, and around the fitted cupboard. This tested my early abilities to wrangle saws, chisels, and sandpaper but I was patient and think I made an ok job of it.

The big slope in the corner of the room presented its own set of challenges. I decided to completely clad this section, including the vertical triangle on the side. Fitting the tongue and groove was easy enough, but it revealed a problem with the wall, which was bowed outwards underneath. I could not get the cladding to line up neatly on its own, since it was forming a sloped surface. If I shaped it to fit the wall it would have had a curve that would be noticeable vertically, with ends being lower than the middle. So, I decided to finish the cladding as a straight line  even though it touched the wall in the middle and was a few millimetres away at each end. I would then need to fashion a special piece of moulding to cover this up and make it look ok.

Unfortunately, it turns out its impossible to photograph a metre-long, 3cm wide piece of shaped and slightly bent wood. You might have to just imagine, or call round to see it.

The next challenge was to manage the moulding around the vertical side of the slope. There was an outside edge to cover and three complex corners to construct. It takes a fair bit of thinking about, to get three strips of curved wooden moulding to come together from different directions and form an equal and even point…

Then I had to think further still how to manage the meeting point of three bits of differently shaped moulding, one of which had been hand-formed…

The final challenge was to shape the moulding on the end wall to accommodate transitions from horizontal to sloping and back again. This required some careful calculation of angles and lengths so that the slope would be followed correctly.

Surprisingly, it fitted together quite nicely in the end.

There’s one last thing to add to the new bathroom: Lighting. Previously the room had a single central light. I fancied something a little more modern and tailored to the task of lighting up a bathroom, and opted for a set of recessed ceiling lights. These would slot into holes in the ceiling, cut using a hole cutter (as seen in my posts on the Lamp Clamp and Banister.) The light fittings I chose had springs that expanded out behind the hole in the cladding and ceiling plaster, gripping the ceiling and holding everything in place. They could then be wired up from within the loft.

I checked the plan with an electrician, who came and managed the wiring side (I have a degree in Electrical Engineering and have been taught to wire domestic and light industrial fittings, though I’m not qualified to do so. I always err on the side of caution, especially in the proximity of water.) For a fitting that was directly over the bath I found a watertight unit that used a low voltage convertor to provide a water/condensation safe solution.

And that was pretty much it for the bathroom. I’ve spared talk of hanging lining paper and painting the upper halves of the walls (though you can see from the pictures these are now light blue) and I’ve ignored the time spent laying carpet (and then later stripping out that carpet to replace with lino when we’d had enough of trying to vacuum a damp rug!) You can see in the pictures that I hung a mirror, and put up a small medicine box, and fitted out a towel cupboard, but I suspect you’d get bored if I went into any more detail there.

Anyway, thank you for putting up with these recent ramblings. Back to woodwork next time.


By nickcnickcnickc

I spend my working life staring at computer screens, so in my spare time I look for things to do with my hands, preferably involving wood. It's a little ironic then that I've now starting writing a blog about my woodworking, and thus introducing computer screens to my main hobby..!

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