Bathroom Part 2: Mold and Asbestos

During Bathroom Part 1, we replaced our old nasty tub and surround, had our first real drywall/texture experience and got our bathroom up to “livable”.

It’s been a few years since that project and in the interim, we’ve done some more minor upgrades to improve that space, including a new light fixture (the old one was from the 70’s glass globes hanging from hooks on the ceiling YUCK), all the windows and sills in the house were replaced along with all the interior (and exterior) doors.

These things helped brighten up and improve the space, but it still left a nearly 40 year old toilet, an old vanity cabinet with “nightmare to keep clean” tile top and a mold problem….

Helpful tip #1: When painting a bathroom, kitchen, or other moist area: use bathroom and kitchen paint. I know this one probably seems like a no-brainer, but it was a mistake I made when we did Bathroom Part 1. Good quality paint is good quality paint. Right? Wrong. Bathroom and Kitchen paint has anti-mold ingredients in the top layer of the paint. Our “high quality paint” wasn’t intended for bathrooms and we spent 3 years battling mold on the ceiling and walls before we were able to remedy it…

Helpful tip #2: Install an exhaust fan with a humidistat in your bathrooms. The fan has a sensor on it that detects moisture in the air and AUTOMATICALLY kicks on to dispel the moisture. Once the humidity lowers to the preset percentage it AUTOMATICALLY turns itself off. This is a “must have” for homes with kids/teenagers. No more walking into a muggy bathroom after the kids have been through, worrying about dampness or about your electric bill if the fan accidentally gets left on all day. Such a life saver in a busy house and I can testify that it REALLY works.

My husband had humidistat exhaust fans installed in both our bathrooms. The downstairs bath has no shower, but doubles as a laundry room so it wasn’t a bad idea for that room too. In the laundry room, behind the door is where the humidistat sensor was installed and also where I hang things, like bras, to air dry. One day about a week after they were installed, I hung a bra up there and within 2 minutes I heard the exhaust fan kick on. Just the proximity (a few inches) of the moist brazier had caused the exhaust fan to kick on. I was so amazed I made sure I got online and gave those humidistats a 5 star rating.

With all the upgrades we had already done to the bathroom, it looked about like this:


Not bad, but not great. The mold had been a pain for quite some time, but what kicked us into action was when the toilet finally died. It began constantly running and about twice a week it would burp yellow goo all over the floor in front of it. I am sure we could have repaired it, but it was time to overhaul this bathroom anyway.

I’d had the plans and budget done up for this remodel for a while so all we had to do was pick a date on the calendar and order all the new cabinets and such. We hit the “order” button and Hubby took a week off work and we were go for launch!

The first thing we had to do was gut it. We hauled out the old toilet and cabinet, but we also needed to remove the flooring and sub flooring. We had to do this to make the new flooring we were installing be level with the hallway, and because there was some dry rot from the previous owners we’d noticed when we replaced the tub.

Unfortunately, the original linoleum (still under this blue layer) contained 60% asbestos…. This is the worst news I ever paid money to receive… We’d done some asbestos removal before and after some research decided we could do it ourselves. So after we gutted the bathroom, we sealed it up with 6 mil plastic and duct tape. Then we sealed hubby into what basically amounted to a HAZMAT suit and I sealed him into the bathroom with nothing but a hammer, chisel, pry bar, garden sprayer full of soapy water, a full box of super duty trash bags, and a roll of duct tape. (Never use power tools when removing asbestos, it creates massive clouds of hazardous particulate)

Our bathroom is about 7×8 feet minus a few feet for the tub area. It took Hubby 1 hour and 15 minutes to chisel through, pry up, and wrap all those flooring pieces. It was the longest hour and fifteen minutes I’ve had in a LONG time.

To clarify:

  • It was summer plus 0 ventilation in that room= SUPER HOT.
  • He had to spray EVERYTHING down with water= SUPER HUMIDITY.
  • He was sealed into that suit with a heavy-duty respirator= SUPER HARD TO BREATHE.

During that hour and fifteen minutes, I sat in the hallway on the other side of that 6 mil plastic barrier and did my best to cheer him on as he chiseled through and pried up that stupid flooring and sub-flooring (A damn near impossible task under the best of conditions)

A few times he complained of feeling light-headed and I told him to sit down and take a break or more accurately I said “Sit down and take a break, because if you pass out in there, don’t think I won’t rip down that plastic and expose all of us and the house to asbestos particles to save your ass!!”

When he finally got the last of pieces wrapped in plastic and sealed with duct tape, and then sprayed everything down, floor to ceiling, then got in the shower, sprayed himself down, took off his suit and sealed that up in plastic and sprayed that down … he gave the all clear. I pulled back the plastic and was nearly knocked over by a wave of steam as it escaped our bathroom (think opening a bathroom door after someone takes a shower without the fan on … times about 3).

I found Hubby standing in the shower in nothing but his shorts, spraying himself down with cold water and steam was literally still rising off him. It was THAT HOT.

Poor guy wasn’t done yet, though. A fresh set of clothes and about 40 ounces of water later (he couldn’t take off his mask to drink anything the whole time he was in there!) He hauled out all the wrapped pieces (and any other bits I managed to sweep up from our swamp of a bathroom and seal in a bag) out to the dump trailer. Then he took a break for about an hour while I pulled up a few hundred 3 inch staples that had been holding down our sub-floor, swept the whole room again and again, and then used old towels to mop floor to ceiling. This all was also sealed into a bag and added to the trailer.

That done, hubby a bit recuperated, and we got to haul it all off to the dump! Happy day!!

Honestly, I’ve never been so amazed by a feat of human endurance and strength as I was that day. There is NO POSSIBLE way I could have done what he did. I don’t even have the muscle to pry up that flooring, let alone with a respirator on or in those intense of conditions. It took Hubby DAYS and about a gallon of gatorade to recover from that endeavor and we will NEVER take on anything that extreme again. It was an amazing experience though and the new appreciation I gained for my amazing husband will not EVER be forgotten.

That night we took some time and repaired drywall (we are masters at that now!) and the next day we were able to get the texture on and the primer (insert 6 hours of me with a brush and roller … I HATE priming!!), and even a bit of the paint (Like a hot knife through butter compared to primer). By evening we started in on the subfloor and by the end of Day 2 our “new bathroom” looked like this:


Not bad for 2 days of work!

More on this project:

Bathroom Part 1: The Tub 

Bathroom Part 3: Floors and Moulding 

Bathroom Part 4: Finishing the Moulding (Very Important!)

Bathroom Part 5: Cabinets 

Bathroom Part 6: More Shelves and Some Color








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