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Building Science

Seven Reasons to Gut Your Aging Bathroom

The real problems with an out-of-date bathroom are beneath the surface

Gutting a bathroom completely is the way to go when you remodel.
Image Credit: All photos: Energy Vanguard

If your home is old enough for a bathroom renovation, you may want to go ahead and completely gut it. I remodeled my bathroom this year and began with a complete demolition. If I hadn’t, a number of problems would have been unavailable for repair… or even undiscovered.

Here’s what I found when I opened up the walls and ceiling of my 1970 condo in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

1. Repair termite damage

When I opened up the exterior wall, I found termite damage in two places: the king stud, jack stud, and cripple on the bathtub side of the window (see Image #2, below) and the jack stud on the other side of the window. The good news is that the damage was done long ago.

As long as I’ve lived here, the owners’ association has kept up with termite treatment and monitoring, but I understand there was a period when they didn’t. Hence the damage I found.

2. Replace rotten subflooring

In addition to the termite-damaged wall, I also found rotten subflooring near the bathtub. This was mostly from getting too wet, and I suspected it because tiles had started popping up in that area.

3. Make up for no or little insulation

I knew we had insulation in our walls. I thought it was R-11 fiberglass batts because our upstairs neighbor’s icemaker had a bad leak a few years ago, taking out half of our laundry room ceiling and part of the wall. The common wall had R-11 batts. I figured the rest of the walls did, too. I knew they had insulation because I’ve checked behind switch and receptacle plates.

I got a little surprise when I took the drywall off of that exterior bathroom wall and saw what it said on the kraft paper…

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  1. Lucy Foxworth | | #1

    Through wall fan?
    Allison, I will be doing exactly what you suggest next year. I actually have a bath fan in the bathroom to be gutted but the duct just goes straight up into the attic so I don't really use it. I installed a new metal roof about 10 years ago so I don't really want to go through that. But I really like the Lunos HRV fans and I was considering installing a Lunos eGo through the wall as the fan for the bathroom.

    Do you have an opinion about that? I think it would be easier than ducting the current fan through the roof or the soffit since I am going to gut the bathroom down to the studs anyway. We installed 2 pairs of the Lunos e2 in a new construction several years ago and they seem to work very well and the installation and air sealing was relatively easy.

  2. User avater
    Paul Kuenn | | #2

    Lunos vs bathroom fan.
    Hey Lucy!

    We have Lunos fans for heat recovery. They are very small cubic feet per minute devices meant to run all day and night for slow air exchange. You really need a good fan with at least 80cfm to remove moisture as fast as possible. I believe there are some bath fans made to go directly out the wall.

  3. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Response to Lucy Foxworth
    Paul makes some good points. The Lunos eGO is rated at "3-12 CFM in heat recovery mode, up to 27 CFM in exhaust mode." That's not much.

    Plenty of exhaust fan manufacturers make units that are designed to be installed on walls.

    Some homeowners are satisfied with continuous, low-cfm bathroom ventilation. Others are irked by the inability of such a fan to remove moisture quickly. For more information on the issue, see Does a Home with an HRV Also Need Bath Fans?

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