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Bathroom makeover: slate bathtub surround, part 3

This is part 3 of a five-part series, Bathroom makeover: slate bathtub surround

In Part 1 you got an overview of slate as an ideal material for your new bathtub surround. Part 2 examined the necessary considerations for planning your project. Now it's time to tear down the old walls.

6 bathroom makeover deconstruction tips

  1. Protect the tub. Even if you are planning to refinish your old tub, protect it. Tape a couple of old blankets over it; then cover it and your floor with plastic to catch the debris.
  2. Remove fixtures. The handles will be attached by a screw, probably hidden under a decorative cap that pops off, though sometimes it is an Allen-head set screw. The covers for the shafts will either unscrew or be held on by an Allen-head set screw. The spigot may unscrew, or it also may be held by an Allen-head set screw. While your shower head may be above the surround, you should still remove it so it doesn't get damaged in the deconstruction. It will unscrew.
  3. Save your soap dish? If it's a cheaper chrome type, the clamp that holds it will unscrew -- but why save it if it's cheap? However, if it is glued or mortared on, you can try chipping at it with a cold chisel or pry bar. You might cut it out and grind off the back. Whatever you try, good luck. It could easily break.
  4. Get ready to rip -- with care. You might love deconstruction, but most people don't. Fortunately, the surround is a small area. It can get violent, but you must exercise caution around piping and wiring when you are wielding a hammer, sledge or saw. It's also a dirty job. Wear eye protection and a dust mask.
  5. Rip out the backer board. If your current surround is tile, it might already be attached to a backer board. Test by chipping off a tile to see if there is a cement board underneath. If there is, you might try saving it by chipping off the old tile with a cold chisel, especially if the old board is attached to the studs with screws. But that is a dirty, dusty and laborious task. Don't hesitate to rip out the old backer and install new. In the long run, it could easily be a shorter path. If you can pop it off with a couple of pry bars, great; but you might have to resort to a combination of bashing and prying to get it off.
  6. Rip out the drywall. Most likely your current surround has drywall underneath, not backer board. Even if the drywall is screwed instead of nailed, it will come off pretty easily. Cut the drywall about an inch inside the edges of your future surround. If you want to run the slate all the way to the ceiling, all the better. In cutting the drywall, be careful of wiring. Set a power saw to ½" deep, or use a hand-powered drywall saw carefully. Always saw as if you know there is wiring underneath.

This should get you deconstructed. Part 4 will get you set up for construction.