Watery hues for paint and tile and wavy mirror.
With two small children and another on the way, Bob and Marla Fox knew big changes lay in store for the year 2000, especially for the kids' upstairs bath. Small, outdated, and short on storage, the room needed a major overhaul in order to comfortably accommodate daily hygiene for three. Unfortunately, adding space was not an option. The 6-by-9-foot room sat neatly boxed in by an exterior wall, a hallway with a closet the Foxes were determined to keep, the master bath, and the attic under the lower roof of their 1950s Plainview, New York, split-level. "We wanted desperately to make it bigger," says Marla, "but the room was basically landlocked." Enter local contractor Frank Cerone. Having worked with the Foxes on previous remodeling projects, Cerone came with a comfort factor, along with an ingenuity that would serve him well in carrying out Marla's primary directives: Make the bathroom more efficient; optimize available space; find room for new storage; and ease in a tub/shower combination, a lavatory, and a vanity with double sinks. "I wanted it to be kid-friendly," notes Marla. "But I also wanted top-quality materials to create a classic look that would grow with the children. When they get older, all I'll have to do is change the paint." Cerone's familiarity with the house proved to be an asset. He immediately thought of two areas of dead space he could utilize for built-ins. One was a chase that carried HVAC ducts to the second floor," a cavity Cerone had encountered when remodeling the Foxes' kitchen a year earlier. The chase had been framed out by the original builder to serve as an end wall for the bathtub, leaving a hollow 14 inches wide, 4 feet deep, and 6 feet high next to the door. The bathroom could also extend a few inches into the attic space behind the toilet รข?" a result of the difference in height of the roofs in the split-level configuration of the house.
The first order of business was a complete, to-the-studs gutting of the interior. A tear-out specialist crew removed the old vanity, sink, tub, and toilet, then stripped off old drywall, wood paneling, and wall tiles. They pried up dated ceramic floor tiles and the mud base down to the 1x6 subflooring. As they worked, the crew threw debris into plastic garbage bins and carried it out of the house by hand to a waiting truck. Because the plan called for new fixtures in the same positions as the previous ones, the water supply tubes, plumbing drains, and toilet flange remained in place. Cerone took advantage of the open walls to upgrade the electrical circuit by replacing older two-wire-plus-ground cable with modern three-wire cable. Improvements included ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles, required by code when the outlet is located within three feet of a water source, and an exhaust fan in the ceiling. A notion to gain volume by vaulting the ceiling was dismissed. "The ceiling height was only 7 1/2 feet," notes Cerone, "so we considered raising it to the roof rafters. But the part of the roof we were under was hipped, so opening the old ceiling there would have resulted in an odd shape. In the end, we decided to leave it alone." An existing window on the exterior wall also remained in place. With framing exposed, Cerone went to work. New R-13 fiberglass wall insulation and R-19 ceiling insulation replaced older, compacted baths.To preserve floor space and to allow clear access to the set of shelves that were to fit into the hollow chase wall, he removed the 24-inch hinged door and reframed a common wall between the bathroom and the hallway linen closet to accommodate a pocket door. "The pocket door was one of those simple ideas that made a big difference," says Fox. "Now we don't have to bother with a door swing." To prepare the built-ins, Cerone had cabinetmaker Craig Kenda construct two boxes from paint-grade birch plywood. In the newly opened area over the toilet, Cerone reframed the wall to accommodate a 12-inch-deep unit 30 inches wide by 36 inches high, with three fixed shelves, which he covered on the back and sides with 1-inch rigid foam insulation to prevent heat loss. The back of the insulated box projects into the empty attic space. Another cabinet, 12 by 48 by 12 inches deep, with three fixed shelves and four drawers, fit into the chase by the tub.
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