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Demolished Bathroom

How to Demo a Bathroom From Top to Bottom

A DIY Guide to Bathroom Demolition

Outdated tile getting you down? Want to trade in your tub for a sleek open shower? Before you can get the bathroom you want, you need to get rid of the one you have. If you’re hiring a pro to handle the remodel, making your bathroom demolition a DIY job is a great way to save some money on your project budget. It’s strenuous work, but don’t doesn’t take any special skills. Most homeowners can accomplish it using simple tools you probably already own.

We’re here to walk you through how to demo a bathroom yourself, with advice from homeowners who’ve done it before: Sammy, half of the duo behind the can-do DIY blog The Cozy Home Chronicles. 

Choose a Task:

Prep Work | Vanity | Toilet | Tile | Bathtub & Shower

“Being flexible and open-minded is the key to staying inspired and keeping stress at bay throughout the duration of any remodel. We are flexible with our design and prepared to sacrifice some stylistic choices for more budget conscious alternatives. It's much easier to do this if you go into your project with several designs that you can draw from when it comes to tile, vanity, and fixtures.”

Sammy | The Cozy Home Chronicles 

How to Prep for Bathroom Demolition

Rent a Dumpster

Before you break out the tools, rent a residential dumpster to clean up as you work. Between your sink, vanity, tub, toilet, tile and backing, gutting a bathroom will leave you with way more mess than you can set at the curb. And even if you do, your trash service won’t take it.

If you’re not up for making several trips to the dump yourself, you’ll need a roll off container to avoid becoming that house with a toilet pulling double duty as a lawn ornament.

“Arranging beforehand where you will store, recycle, or dispose of your bathtub and fixtures makes the job easier.”

Sammy | The Cozy Home Chronicles

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Clear Out the Little Stuff

Completely clean out your vanity, linen cupboard, shower, and shelves or other storage areas before you start your bathroom demo. This is a good opportunity to do some light bathroom organization, so throw out what you no longer use and donate anything in good condition. Move whatever you’re keeping to another room.

Remove Anything on the Walls

Next, take down your mirror to prevent damage while the hammers are swinging. If there are any shelves or cabinets that must be removed, but you plan to reuse in your new design, tear them off carefully and store them somewhere out of the way.

Shut Off Utilities

It’s almost time to start the real work of gutting your bathroom. But first let’s make the room safe to work in.

Shut off power to the bathroom by finding the right switch in your breaker box and flipping it to the ‘off’ position. Your breaker box should have a circuit map showing which switch controls the bathroom, but if not, you’ll have to use good old trial-and-error.

Depending on how your plumbing is set up, there are a couple different ways to shut off the water supply.

If you have a manifold supply system: 

  1. Find the manifold lines near your main water supply line. 
  2. Identify the line for the bathroom. Each line should be clearly marked.
  3. Use the manifold key to turn the valve on the bathroom’s line to the ‘off’ position.

Pro-Tip: If you can’t turn the key, don’t force it. Too much force can break the valve and flood your bathroom. Instead, turn off water to your whole house at the main water line.

If you have copper piping:

  1. Find the valve for your sink under the vanity and turn it off.
  2. Turn off the toilet valve, located on the wall or floor behind the toilet.
  3. Find the access panel for your shower line, usually located in the wall behind the shower. Turn the valve to the ‘off’ position.

If you can’t access the valves for your bathroom fixtures, are unable to find the bathroom line on your manifold system, or have any other issues, turn the main water supply valve to the ‘off’ position to shut off water to your entire house.

Drain Water from Faucets and Toilet

To prevent a small-scale flood while you’re working, drain any water that’s left in your pipes after shutting off the water supply.

Turn on all faucets in the bathroom until water stops running. 

Flush the toilet to drain the tank and bowl. Use a small cup or sponge to get rid of any water left behind. You can also use a wet/dry vac for water left after you flush.

Gutting a Bathroom Step-by-Step

Step 1: Tear Out Sink and Vanity

Time to start the real demo work. The only tools you’ll need for this step are a bucket, an adjustable wrench, and a utility knife.

How to Demolish a Bathroom Vanity:

  1. Put a bucket under the sink drain to catch any water in the drain trap.
  2. Use an adjustable wrench to unscrew the nuts around the u-shaped section of pipe, called the P-trap, under your sink. Dump any water caught in the P-trap into your bucket.
  3. Unscrew the nuts where the sink’s water supply lines come through the wall.
  4. Check behind the sink for any bolts or brackets connecting it to the wall. Remove any that you find and lift the sink out.
  5. If your sink rests on the vanity, pull it straight up and out. Sinks can be heavy, so have a helper on standby.
  6. Unscrew bolts connecting the vanity to the wall or use your utility knife to cut through any caulk. Pull the vanity out.
  7. Toss the debris in your dumpster so you have room to work safely on the next steps.

“When we replaced our vanity, it turned out the pipes that ran into the wall were corroded and needed to be replaced, so we had to hire a plumber to install new pipes. One of the ways we plan ahead for these kinds of surprises is that we have a buffer of 25 percent of our renovation budget available and allocated to unexpected costs.”

Sammy | The Cozy Home Chronicles

Get a more detailed walk-through of this step in our DIY Vanity Removal Guide

Step 2: Remove the Toilet

Tearing out a toilet is slightly more involved than removing your vanity, but it’s still a straightforward task for a DIY bathroom demolition. 

You’ll need an adjustable wrench and a utility knife. If your toilet has been in place for a long time, you may also need some WD-40 and a socket wrench.

How to Remove a Toilet:

  1. Find the threaded pipe located under the toilet tank, called the inlet supply pipe. Unscrew the pipe from the tank and from the supply line valve on the floor or wall behind the toilet.
  2. Lift the tank from the toilet base and set it aside if your toilet is a two-piece model. 
  3. Remove the nuts and bolts attaching the base to the floor with your adjustable wrench. If they’re stuck, spray on some WD-40 and use a socket wrench to ratchet them loose.
  4. Cut through any caulk around the toilet base with a utility knife and lift the toilet off the flange bolts.
  5. Use your utility knife to scrape away the wax around the drain flange in the floor. Unscrew the flange and remove it. 
  6. Stuff rags in the drain hole to keep sewer gases from filling the bathroom while you finish your demo work. 
  7. Carry everything to the dumpster to make room for the next task.

Get a more detailed walk-through of this step in our One Stop Guide to Removing a Toilet

Step 3: Take Down the Tile

This is the most strenuous job in any bathroom demo, but luckily it’s not complicated. This step will probably take a full day, and you should never rush the work. Take breaks whenever you need so you can stay focused—and safe.   

Safety Note: If your home was built before 1978, test your bathroom walls for lead before starting tile demolition. If lead is present, hire a pro to avoid exposing your family—especially young children —to extremely harmful dust.

Before you start, prep the room by duct-taping plastic sheeting over all vents, registers and the door. Then it’s time to gather your materials.

Tools Safety Gear
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Pry Bar
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Shop-Vac
  • Safety Goggles
  • Work Gloves
  • Sturdy Boots
  • Face Mask
  • Long Pants and Sleeves
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How to Demo Bathroom Tile:

  1. Use a hammer and chisel to chip away a vertical line of tile, starting at the rounded tiles on the edge of your shower.
  2. Do the same in a horizontal line for the tile along top of your shower.
  3. Use a reciprocating saw to cut through the exposed drywall, being careful not to cut into studs.
  4. Insert a pry bar into these seams and begin prying down sections of the tile and backing.
  5. Work your way around the room using this process for all tiled areas. 
  6. Make sure you always have firm footing and that you know where any helpers are before you swing your hammer.

Pro-Tip: Take frequent trips to the dumpster while you work so you don’t risk tripping on loose tile. Use a Shop-Vac to suck up excess dust to avoid a slipping hazard.

Get a more detailed walk-through of this step in our How-To Guide to DIY Tile Removal

Step 4: Tear Out the Bathtub or Shower

Your DIY bathroom demolition is almost complete. All that remains is to get rid of the bathtub or shower. The good news is that, while this step may require help for the heavy lifting, it’s fairly simple.

How to Remove a Bathtub:

Grab your screw driver, utility knife, drywall saw, jig saw and pry bars and get to work.

“Before you get started, identify what kind of bathtub you have. Cast iron tubs are extremely heavy and should be broken with a sledgehammer inside the bathroom and removed piece by piece. Tubs made from steel, composite, or fiberglass can be removed and carried out with a helping hand, so make sure you arrange for someone to be there the day of the removal.”

Sammy | The Cozy Home Chronicles

  1. Use a drywall saw to cut through the drywall surrounding the tub to a height of about 8 inches, if it didn’t already come down in the last step. Be careful not to cut into studs.
  2. Unscrew any screws securing the tub to wall studs.
  3. Cut through any caulk between the tub and floor with your utility knife.
  4. Pry the tub a few inches away from the wall.
  5. Use a jigsaw to cut the tub into two pieces. If your tub will fit through your doors in one piece, you can skip this step, but cutting it will make it easier and safer to carry.
  6. Work with a helper to pry each piece up and pull it out of its space.
  7. Carry each piece to the dumpster.

“Once you've properly removed the drain and separated the tub from the wall for removal, chart your path out of the bathroom and remove any furniture and obstacles, including doors, to prevent scratches or damages to your home.”

Sammy | The Cozy Home Chronicles

Get a more detailed walk-through of this process in our Guide to DIY Bathtub Removal

How to Remove a Shower:

Tearing out a shower doesn’t involve as much heavy lifting as a bathtub, but you’ll need more tools. So, find your wrench, pliers, screwdrivers, pry bars, utility knife, reciprocating or jig saw and a hammer and get ready to make a mess.

  1. Use a screwdriver to remove hinges on the shower door, then set the door aside.
  2. Unscrew or pry out fasteners holding the door frame in place, then pull the frame off. You may need your utility knife to cut through caulk.
  3. Detach fixtures like the shower head and arm, water control knobs or levers, drain covers, soap holders or towel racks.
  4. Cut your shower walls into manageable pieces using your reciprocating or jig saw. For tile showers, pry off rows of tiles in order to cut each wall in half. For fiberglass showers, cut each wall at the corner and base so you have three pieces and a floor.
  5. Pry the shower floor loose and remove.

Get a more detailed walk-through of this process in our Complete Guide to Shower Removal

What Comes After a Bathroom Demolition?

Now that the hard work of demolishing your bathroom is done, it’s time to have a really good stretch—and probably a nap. When you wake up, don’t forget to turn the water back on! 

Need some help planning your renovation? Check out our advice for avoiding common mistakes. 

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