How to Demo a Bathroom
So you have a bathroom that you want to remodel, but you’re on a tight budget. So, you’re wondering, can I demo a bathroom diy style? You’re thinking it can’t be that hard, right?
You really want to try this demo thing because of the money it would save.
You’re thinking about the extra cash that could go towards making your bathroom remodel that much nicer.
The answer to your original questions is yes! You totally can diy demo your bathroom. It can seem a little overwhelming when you start thinking about the electrical and water lines and heavy lifting to get the big old tub outta there.
But hang on there, girlfriend! You have the diy skills in you, and I know you do. I’m going to break down each step for you so you can tackle your first diy bathroom demolition with confidence.
So, go grab your gear and get ready for demo day!
Just a friendly reminder: This tutorial and any opinions or recommendations are genuinely mine, but this is not a substitute for consulting a professional. I also use affiliate links to earn a commission.
How Long Does Demo Take
Before I get to the how-to’s of bathroom demo, let’s set you up for success by setting clear expectations around how long this process will take. The process varies in duration depending on things like the size of your bathroom, the scope of your work, and the number of helpers you have.
I can definitely tell you this project is it’s going to take heavy lifting and hard work. But those won’t be a problem, that’s not what you’re worried about. It’s the technicalities and learning how to best remove each component of your ugly, outdated bathroom.
There is more to the demo process than smashing everything in sight. There is a lot of hauling away debris and sweeping up dust. To be most efficient, set up the most convenient disposal option possible. Meaning, put your dumpster as close to the bathroom as you can.
Also, hanging up a plastic sheet over the doorway helps reduce the dust that travels throughout your home. Believe me, construction dust has magic powers to travel long distances. And it gets on everything. So, anything you can do to keep it contained is in your best interest.
Setting aside one full day is the minimum I’d give myself for the first time doing a bathroom demo. You may benefit from a second day to do that final clean-up after demo to achieve a clean slate.
Just like with any diy project, having a plan and proper tools is step one. Step two is to prep your space. As I told ya before, construction dust is sneaky.
So, hang your sheets to keep the fine dust contained. Because you’ll be so excited to work on your new bathroom after a demo day, the last thing you’ll want to do is clean the rest of your house.
Another trick to help reduce added cleanup throughout your entire home is to lay paper or sheets on the floor as your path from the bathroom to the door.
Besides the essential tool, the sledgehammer, you’ll also need these:
- heavy-duty contractor bags
- safety equipment (eye protection, gloves, face mask)
- painters tape
- pry bar
- utility knife
- shop vac
- broom and dustpan
Removing Old Bathroom Fixtures
To begin your bathroom demo, turn off the water supply and electricity before attempting any demo. Next, remove your bathroom door so you have a wider opening to work with.
Removing Bathroom Wall Fixtures
You need to clear the bathroom of any type of fixture. Start by removing towel bars, toilet paper holders, and light fixtures. If you’re not planning to replace these with new fixtures, do this carefully so everything is intact and can be reused.
If your bathroom is as old as mine, you’ll also have that old medicine cabinet and built-in cup holders to remove. Check around the edges and unscrew any screws. Then, surprisingly, these usually pop out with a pry bar and a good tug.
Removing a Bathroom Mirror
Next up is that giant mirror, which can either be one of the easiest things or the most nerve-wracking things to remove. Get a second set of hands to help with this part if possible. The mirror is heavier and more awkward to handle than it looks. And if it breaks, it’s going to make a miserable mess.
The first step in mirror removal is to use your painter’s tape to make x’s across the entire mirror surface. The tape prevents the mirror from shattering into tiny pieces if the mirror cracks during removal.
The next step is to check the mirror edges, looking for little clips holding the mirror in place. If you’re lucky, that’s the only thing holding it. So, just in case it comes off after turning the clips, have one person in charge of the mirror and one responsible for the removal.
It’s also highly likely the mirror was glued. So, in this case, you’ll need to get your pry bar (of something thinner like a putty knife) behind there and gently tap the end with your hammer. Slow and steady. No big whacks quite yet!
You can also use a heat gun to loosen the glue. And another way to remove a bathroom mirror is to use a wire saw which is a tiny saw that slowly cuts the mirror from the wall.
How to Demo a Bathroom Vanity
You’ve tackled some of the lighter stuff, and now it’s time to talk about that old vanity.
If you’re on a tight budget, painting your vanity is a really good option because a new one is insanely expensive. Painting a vanity follows the same steps as painting kitchen cabinets. In this post, I share all my tips and the exact process I use to paint cabinets so they don’t chip.
Now, if you’re planning to replace your vanity, let’s talk about how to demo the old one. Start by turning off the water lines and disconnecting them.
To do this, you’ll open the cabinet doors, and inside, at the back, you’ll see the water pipes I’m talking about. There may be some water left in the pipe, so when you remove it, have a towel under the area you’re working in and a bucket nearby. This way, you’ll catch any water that spills and have a spot to dump the rest.
Then, to remove the old vanity, you can either take it out in one piece or break it down into smaller sections. You could consider donating your vanity to a local resource store if it is in decent condition. But if not, then smash the thing into smaller pieces to make carrying it outside easier.
When demoing the vanity, just be careful not to accidentally damage the plumbing because you will need to connect back to these lines. Unless you plan on it, you can avoid installing new plumbing this way.
Removing an Old Tub
The million-dollar question is why they installed such oversized gaudy tubs back in the day. You know what I’m talking about because you probably have one that you are looking to replace.
Similarly, the first step to the tub demo is disconnecting the lines. Check the side of the tub or in a nearby closet that backs up to the tub for an access panel where you’ll find the water lines inside.
There are a few different ways to remove your old tub. One option is to cut the tub into smaller pieces with a reciprocating saw and remove it bit by bit.
Another option is to disconnect the plumbing and lift the entire tub out with the help of a few people. If the tub is surrounded by tile or other materials, you’ll need to demo all this before you can get the tub out.
How to Demo Old Shower Tile
Removing the shower tile is most like what you envisioned demoing a bathroom to be like. That’s because this is where all the smashing comes in. You can go ahead and attack the wall tile. This strategy is messier, but gosh, it is so satisfying.
Or you can pry each one off more carefully using your pry bar and hammer. There is no right or wrong way to get the shower walls freed of that ugly, outdated tile.
Also, as you’re working, don’t be surprised when the cement board beneath it starts coming off with the tile. That’s because it was attached to the cement board to hang the tile on the wall.
Unless you’re doing a surround (the premade plastic-type or shower or tub), you’ll install a new cement board as part of your new shower or tub setup.
How to Remove a Toilet
I’m going to be straight with you. Removing the toilet is not the most glamorous job. But doing so will make the demo and remodel process easier. So here’s what you need to do.
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet and flush it to empty the toilet tank and bowl.
- Disconnect the water supply line and remove any bolts or screws securing the toilet to the floor.
- Lift the toilet off the flange (the ring-looking thing connecting it to the sewer pipes in the ground) and set it aside.
- Plug the sewer pipe by sticking an old shirt or towel at the surface to prevent any unpleasant sewer gases from entering your home.
- Remove the toilet from the bathroom and either set it aside to reinstall after your remodel or dispose of it in the dumpster.
What makes removing the toilet such a pain in the butt is how awkward and heavy it is. Save your back and get a second set of hands to help.
Removing Your Existing Bathroom Flooring
To remove the current flooring, you’ll first remove any moldings or trim. Use your utility knife to score the top, and then stick your pry bar behind there and gently pull it off. Unless your demo includes going down to the stubs, you’ll want to avoid damaging the drywall.
Also, reusing your trim is a great way to save money and stick to a tight budget. So, if this is the case, be extra careful when removing the trim not to damage or break the pieces.
Once you’re ready to attack the outdated tile, you can once again do so carefully or just have at it. And depending on how well the previous owner laid the floor tile, you may or may not be removing the subfloor with it.
Don’t be surprised if you find more than one flooring as you work. Finding different finishes is one of my favorite parts of the demo process! It’s like going back in time and getting a glimpse at how the house looked throughout the years.
Bathroom Demo Cost
A demo job doesn’t cost a whole lot. But it’s also not entirely free of cost. The main expense is the dumpster rental to dispose of the debris.
It will cost you more than you think, even if you skip the dumpster and haul the stuff to the local dump. Several hundred dollars is a reasonable amount to set aside for this portion of your bathroom remodel budget.
How to Safely Demo a Bathroom
Safety needs to be your top priority when doing demo. Think about it; you’re working with all the elements, from electrical to water, glass, and possible things like hazardous lead paint and asbestos tiles.
These materials can be dangerous if not handled properly, so taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and others is so, so important.
Wear the proper protective gear and use the right tools and techniques. And if you get to a point where you’re not sure what you’re working with, then either consult with or hire a professional.
See? Tackling a bathroom demo project is something you can do on your own!
With this simple guide, you can confidently demo a bathroom DIY style. Just follow the steps, and you’ll be well on your way to a clean slate for your bathroom renovation.