In January 2010 we decided to remodel our bathroom. We put together a big order from Lowe’s and had it shipped to our house. As we decided on what to use in the bathroom, we decided to replace the door, since it was partially broken, and kind of crappy looking. We then quickly decided we couldn’t just replace one door. We had to replace all the interior doors. Clare then tacked on the exterior doors too, since Lowe’s has a flat shipping rate. Well, almost 3 years later, we finally got the rest of the doors installed. Clare and Ellen did a bunch of work staining and polyurethaning the remaining 3 doors for the bedrooms this summer and fall. The day after thanksgiving, we took the kids to school, and Clare helped me hang the doors. Then I put up the trim a little at a time over the next several weeks. It was a lot of work, but the end result is very nice. I’m not sure I would take on this task again though. If I did, I would probably get oak doors instead of pine, since staining and polyurethaning takes so much time, and is not really that fun.
Note that I started this post in June. The bathroom remodel was done in July.
I spent much of May working on the bathroom remodel. I took pictures along the way, but I was too busy working to post them. The project is nearly done now, and I have a bit more time to post what I did.
Once all the demolition work was done, and the plumbing was roughed in, the next thing I did was install the bath tub. This was one part of the project I hadn’t done before. It turned out to be not too bad, though tricky in some parts. Our bathroom is exactly 60″ wide between studs, meaning that it is only 59″ between the walls when they have drywall on them. The tub I got is a Crane 60″ by 30″ porcelain coated steel tub. So it fits just right between the studs, but it was tricky to get into place. The particularly tricky part was getting the 2×4 stringer at the right height, and getting the tub level. I did this by screwing in a 2×4 to the studs with one screw, then sliding the tub into place, and testing the level. I did this three or four times until I was satisfied with the level of the tub, and then screwed the stringer in with a few more screws. Sliding the tub back and forth was hard, because I ended up having to cut off some of the door frame and a bit more drywall in order to slide the tub far enough out so that I could screw into the stringer board.
Once I had the tub in place, I then worked on installing the drain assembly. I ended up using most of the old assembly, though I had to extend the bottom part just a bit. I used plumbers putty underneath the rim of the drain. I read that plumbers putty is good for porcelain, and silicone is good for acrylic, so I followed that advice. When I turned the water on and checked for leaks, it was leaking a bit. So I took it back out, added more plumbers putty, and screwed it in further, and that fixed the problem. Getting the overflow stop adjusted was tricky as usual. It still sticks a bit sometimes when trying to lift it up to keep the water in, but after several hours playing with it, I decided it is ok. I got brushed nickel drain trim and overflow trim to match the brushed nickel finish on the new bathtub faucet.
After the tub installation was all set, then I could put down the cement board for the floor tile. I used 1/2″ thick hardiebacker, which is what I have used in the past. I used sheets that are 60″ by 36″. They went down very easily, except for the fact that there were a few places where a stud was sticking out just a tiny bit, so that the opening was a little less than 60″. I used the reciprocating saw to cut those back a little bit.
While I do think that cement board is a great underlayment for tile, I also think it is a royal pain to cut. The last time I did it, I just scored it with a utility knife. This time I bought a special scoring tool, which helped a little bit, but I find that using the scoring method, I have to score both sides about 10-20 times before the sheet really wants to snap. I had a breakthrough with this project in terms of cutting cement board. Spencer and I went to Lowe’s about 2-3 times per week during April and May. Part of the frequency lay in the fact that I would not always know what I needed, so I would buy a few different things, and then return ones I didn’t use. Another part of the frequency lay in the fact that Spencer will only tolerate shopping for a certain amount of time. We were frequently lucky and got the racing car cart, which made the trip nicer, but even then, he doesn’t like it when we don’t move much, so it is hard to stay in one place and make good purchasing decisions. An advantage of our frequent visits was that I got some good clearance deals, including a rotozip. They had a tile accessory kit on clearance for about $50 instead of $150, which included a floor tile bit, which is a $40 bit in itself. The rest of the kit included a handy little table to clamp down tiles while cutting them, and a rotozip tool. Had Spencer been more patient with me, I would have realized that the kit included the tool. I didn’t though, so I ended up buying a slightly nicer model rotozip, and then gave the basic one to Ellen, since I didn’t realize the kit came with one until after I had already used it. The fancier one I got also included a cutting wheel attachment, which I have yet to use. In retrospect, I realized that I could have used it to cut cement board. Instead, I used the wall tile bit to cut cement board. The floor tile bit will also cut cement board, but I didn’t want to use it up cutting cement board. As it was, I went through two wall tile bits, and I broke the floor tile bit because I didn’t read the instructions. (You have to move the tool up and down while you are cutting with the floor tile bit.)
Once I got the rotozip, cutting cement board became a breeze. I got the cement board down on the floor relatively easily, securing it with thinset mortar, hardibacker screws around the edges, and 1 1/2″ galvanized roofing nails in the middle of the panels. While screwing in the hardibacker screws, my Black and Decker cordless screwdriver (wedding present from Jean and John Wolfe) started slipping. It wouldn’t fully countersink the screws, which is crucial to get a flat surface. Luckily I also have a Craftsman corded drill which Sean Gallagher bought me a couple years ago, which did the trick just fine.
After I got the cement board down on the floor, I then worked on getting the cement board up on the walls. It probably wasn’t totally necessary, but I took down all they drywall half way up the wall, and replaced it with cement board. I probably could have just used cement board around the tub, but I decided it would be better to do it all the way around, just to be sure. I also wasn’t sure how well the tile would stick to the drywall, since the walls are textured. I did run in to one snag while putting up the cement board behind the toilet. In order to do so, I had to take the escutcheon of the toilet supply pipe off, and I ended up having to take off the whole valve to do that. When I went to put a new valve back on, I had to cut off a bit off the pipe to get the old compression ring off. By the time I had gotten the compression ring off, I had cut off enough pipe that I started to run into the part of the pipe which was bent, and therefore not completely round, so the compression fitting was leaking slightly. I ended up hiring Dave Colly, a plumber who lives down the street to fix it. He put on an elbow joint, and then capped it off, leaving me plenty of extra pipe to put the new valve on (and he gave me quarter turn valves). He got it all done in about an hour, and charged me a very reasonable price.
Around the tub, I put up 4 mil plastic sheeting behind the cement board as a moisture barrier, which is recommended by most people. After being done with the tile, I realized that I probably should have put some furring strips on the studs behind the cement board, because they were not totally level. So the walls around the tub bow in a bit in the middle. It is not super noticeable, unless you know to look for it.
Once I had all the cement board done, I tiled the floor. We decided on a reddish porcelain tile for the floor, called Rialto Terra from Lowe’s. We had gotten some decorative pieces on clearance, so we used those in the design. I ended up alternating rows of 12×12 tile with 4×4 tile, which I think ended up having a very nice effect.
Once I had the floor tile down I installed the vanity. We searched long and hard for a vanity. I really wanted one that had top drawers which actually opened, which is quite rare it seems. Most of the vanities have fake drawers on the top. The only one we could find was an Allen Roth Sarasota Espresso cabinet. It is darker than we would have chosen otherwise, but it is working out ok. We had a bunch of stuff delivered from Lowe’s, since we don’t have a pickup truck, but I didn’t have the vanity delivered, because I was still thinking we might change our mind. Once we had settled on the Espresso vanity, I needed some help picking it up, since I needed two people to go the store, and one person to watch Spencer. Our friend Mekayla came through like a champ. We took her Mazda 3 to the store, and were surprised when we found out that it would not fit in the hatch back, even though we had measured it beforehand. What we had not counted on was the box. So we ended up taking the vanity out of the box in the parking lot, and then it fit. I debated putting the vanity in first, and then the floor tile, tiling up only to the vanity, but I eventually decided to tile the whole floor. Part of my decision for this was based on the fact that when I replaced the kitchen cabinets, I was left with about a 1/2 inch gap between the new cabinets and the laminate flooring. So if someone else decided they want to replace the vanity, but keep the floor tile, they shouldn’t have that problem.
The old vanity was 48 inches wide, and centered along the wall, leaving about 5 1/2 inches of space to either side of it, which is virtually unusable. We decided to put the new 48″ vanity off center, leaving only about 1/2 inch on one side and about 10 inches on the other. Since I was making the counter top myself with tile, I was able to make the counter top span the whole width of the wall. So now we have some extra space under the counter to put a trash can.
As I have learned from some other projects, the order in which you do things can make a big difference. I wanted to put the vanity and counter top in before tiling the walls, because I wanted to keep the horizontal grout lines consistent through out the bathroom, based on the counter top backsplash, and it is very difficult to guess what the final height of the backsplash would be. As it turns out, the vanity ended up being a bit higher than I had expected, leaving only about 2 inches between the counter top and the gfci outlet. I had thought the backsplash would totally fit underneath it, but that would have been a very short backsplash. You don’t want to have the tile come up halfway of an outlet, because then the outlet cover won’t be on an even surface. So I ended up making the backsplash 12 inches high, to come up above all the outlets and switches.
Once I had the backsplash done, I could start working on the rest of the tile on the walls. Most of it was pretty straightforward. One thing I did to ensure even grout lines was to use to use a level and tape measure to draw boxes on the walls, just like I did for the floor. I re-used a little trick we learned from a display at Lowe’s to make a fancy row, by cutting 4×4 tiles diagonally, and then putting 4×4 tiles inside them. This is quite easy, cheap, and looks nice. I used some trim tiles that match the ones on the floor.
Probably the hardest part of the tiling job was the niche. It seems like there is never enough space for shampoo bottles and soap and such in the bathtub/shower, so I decided to put in a niche, which fits in between the wall studs. I ended up buying a pre-made from Noble. It is basically like styrofoam. I secured it in place with silicone sealant. My only complaint about the niche is that it wasn’t quite flush with the cement board. Now, this could have been faulty installation on my part. It stuck out about an 1/8-1/4 inch, which isn’t that much, but once I started doing the tile around it, I discovered that it created a huge problem. I originally thought I would simply cut tiles to go half on the cement board and half on the niche, but this 1/8″ bump meant that the tiles were very uneven. What I ended up doing is cutting the tile to stay just on the cement board, then cutting pieces to go just on the niche. I had some leftover tile from the floor, so used this on the niche, which ended up creating a very nice framed effect. Doing it this way meant that my bump would now be covered up by grout. Now that we have had time to use the tub some, I would have put in a second niche, because we still don’t have enough room for all our shower accessories! It took me about 4 hours just to tile the niche though, so another one would have added a lot more time.
Besides the niche, there were some other tricky cuts as well. I ended up having to make holes in the middle of a tile several times. To do this, I bought a Rotozip with a floor tile bit, which worked pretty well. I also made sure to leave just a very small gap (1/16-1/8 inch) for caulk between the tub and the tile.
I finally started remodeling our main bathroom several weeks ago. The first stage was demolition. Unfortunately, I forgot to take many before pictures, but that is life. I started off by removing the toilet. I got as much water out of it as possible through flushing, bucket, and towel. I took off the tank, and it is now downstairs. We like the toilet, so we will reuse it.
The next step was to remove the vanity, which was pretty straight forward. I took out the screws securing it to the wall, and disconnected the plumbing. There was one or two screws which were completely stripped, which I ended up cutting with my saws-all. Clare was kind enough to help me carry the vanity downstairs as well. I’m thinking of making it into a play bathroom for Spencer, since he really loves opening drawers and cabinets. So it is now filled with harmless everyday objects like cookie tins and egg cartons. I thought of filling it with toys, but it frequently seems that Spencer wants to play with “adult” stuff, not toys.
Once the vanity and toilet were removed, I was able to get most of the floor tile off. I pounded on the tile with an engineer’s hammer to break up the tiles. They came off fairly easy – much more easily than the floor tiles in the Spencer bathroom. It seems like there was not really much mortar on the tiles, so they probably weren’t installed very well.
I used a hammer and chisel and a pry bar to get off the tile around the tub surround. That was quite a bit of work, but it wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t exactly sure how it was attached. It turns out that it is attached to the walls with screws. I used an engineer hammer to get the tiles out, which worked really well. The added weight (compared to a claw hammer) really makes it more powerful. Once I got all the tiles off and removed the screws, I simply yanked on the surround to get it unstuck. I then did the same for the tub, and Clare helped me carry the tub out. It is currently in our yard. Last year our city had a throw away big stuff for free day. I’m hoping they do that again this year.
Once the tub was out, I could start removing the cement board. I considered trying to reuse it, but I didn’t think I would be able to get all the old mortar off it. I used the hammer and pry bar to get it up, and then had to remove the screws holding it down. It did not have any mortar between the cement board and the plywood, as I have been told to do. This is more evidence of shoddy construction, but it did make it easier to remove. Once I got the cement board up, I discovered some old linoleum tile underneath it. I worked a fair amount to get more of the tile off. I got all of the top layer off everywhere, but did end up leaving a bit of the adhesive layer in some parts.
After getting the cement board up and the tub out, I realized that part of the subfloor was rotten. This was not too much of a surprise, since we had noticed some leaks when we moved in. I had bought some extra plywood just in case this might happen. As it turns out, there was only a fairly small section which was rotten, and I was able to use a scrap piece of plywood to fix it. I cut a piece large enough so that I could screw it into three floor joists, to make sure it was plenty secure. The floor joists themselves seem to be in good condition.
The next step was to install the new fixture for the bath. We ended up going with a Delta Lewison. I really like how some of the Delta faucets have separate temperature and volume controls. We also had pretty good experience with Delta back in Indiana. I thought that the plumbing wouldn’t be too hard, since I already had some experience, but I was wrong. I guess maybe the third time it gets easier. I bought the couplings, elbows and connectors I needed, and decided to try to do some of the sweating before cutting off the old fixture. I think I have learned that this is not really worth it. I learned several more things from this experience:
- Solder can get old. The 30+ year old solder I had from the Spencer house did not melt very easily. New solder helped a bunch
- Solder both ends of a coupling at the same time. I tried soldering just one end, and some extra solder dripped down the coupling, make the other end unusable
- Dry fit first before applying any solder paste. I accidentally used one 7″ piece and one 6″ piece of pipe, when I had been intending to use two 7″ pieces
- Tighten any threaded joints with two wrenches. I initially used only one wrench, holding on to the mixing valve with the other hand. It ended up leaking, and I had to redo the whole thing
It took a bit longer than expected, but I did finally get the plumbing all done. I raised the level of the shower head by about 6″, so that it should be a bit nicer for tall people to shower.
The next step is to get the tub in and the floor tile.
When Ellen turned 30, she built a brick wall. It is a very nice brick wall. It didn’t seem like the Spencer house needed another brick wall, so instead I decided to build some cabinets/shelves/drawers. This was the final part of the bathroom project. Ellen and Dave also recently redid one of their bathrooms. They did it in just under one year. We have them beat at 18 months (longer is better, right?).
Since today is my very last full day in the Spencer house, I finally finished the cabinets last night, finishing around 12:20 a.m. (today). All I had to do was put in the trim which I had just finished staining and sealing. There were some tricky parts, especially the one piece right next to the wall. For this piece I put a shim next to the wall so I wouldn’t mar up the wall when I was hammering. Also, I am still not very good at hammering. Even after pre-drilling the holes, I bent about 1/3 of the nails. Maybe there is a trick I am missing. At any rate, it is finally done. It is not perfect by any means, but it looks much better than before, and I am pretty satisfied with it overall.
This weekend I worked some more on finishing up my final home improvement project in the Spencer house — the bathroom cabinets/shelves/drawers. The main thing left to do is the trim, which requires a lot of precision (and hopefully accuracy too). Yesterday I cut the remaining pieces of trim which I had salvaged from other projects, and then stripped them. I hate stripping. Especially since I was working in the cabin, and it was only a high of 30 degrees. I had a little electric space heater, but it did not really provide much heat.
Today I re-adjusted the drawers, since they weren’t quite level, and some of them didn’t close quite right. Since the wall next to the drawers is not completely straight, this caused some problems for the drawers. The opening near the top is slightly bigger than near the bottom. I probably could have fixed it more easily before I had put the countertop on, but you know what they say about hindsight. So I simply shimmed the runners for the drawers a bit, and that worked fairly well. Then I put all the trim into place, and marked where I wanted to drill holes. There are three pieces that go between the drawers that will be glued to the vertical trim pieces next to the drawers. I put 2 holes in each side of these cross-pieces, and 2 holes in the vertical pieces, and will then put small dowels in the holes, and glue them in place. I took Ellen’s advice and drilled the holes a bit bigger than the dowels to save room for the glue (and also to give me a bit of slop as well).
Now I just need to stain and seal the trim, then nail it into place. Almost done!
This past weekend, Rob and Ellen traveled to Denver to help Clare get the Zang house ready for move in.
We both arrived Friday night around 8:30. We stopped by the house on the way back to Clare’s apartment so that Ellen could get a look at it. It was a very comfortable temperature, since Clare had gotten the new furnace installed on Tuesday. After looking around for awhile and discussing what we wanted to tackle, we headed back to Clare’s apartment, chatted a bit, then went to bed.
read more (including pictures)
My last project in the long saga of the downstairs bathroom was to build some shelves where the washer and dryer used to be. The main reason for this is because we moved the laundry tub to the next room (which we now call the utility room). To do so, I had to route the pipes to the laundry tub from the bathroom to the utility room, since they are embedded in the concrete in the bathroom. So there were pipes visible in the bathroom. I wanted to hide them. Thus the shelves.
I tried to re-use as much of what was lying around. I found some old cabinets in the cabin which were 12″ deep by 36″ wide by about 20″ high, which was just about exactly what I was planning on building. So I decided to use these to cover up the pipes. I also was able to re-use the drawers from the old vanity that we had replaced. Those ended up being about 18″ deep, which is exactly what I wanted as well. The drawers were 12″ wide, so that left me with 36″ left of the 84″ space. Clare had bought some cedar planks for a different project awhile ago, and had sanded them (covering the entire kitchen and foyer with sawdust), but we never ended up using them. They happened to be 7′ long, so I was able to cut 2 3′ long pieces from each of them, which filled up the space that will be open shelving.
I first built a base for the shelves using 2x4s. I nailed (or in some places screwed) the 2x4s into the footers of the walls, then put a layer of plywood on top of that. Then I screwed the cabinet into the wall and the plywood. I followed the same procedure that Dave and Ellen used to construct the old vanity for the rest of the project. I attached small pieces of wood to the bottom of plywood, and then screwed those small pieces into the plywood base. Finally, I put a single piece of plywood on top, and screwed that into the cabinet and the plywood for the drawers.
Since we had learned that tiling countertops is relatively cheap and easy, I decided to do that again here. I decided to use 4×4″ inch tiles, so that it would match the countertop on the vanity. About 2 minutes after I finished, I decided that 6×6 would have looked better, because I would have had to make fewer cuts. Oh well. You know what they say about hindsight.
The tiling procedure was the same as usual. I attached hardibacker cement board to the plywood with thinset mortar and special screws (and 1 1/4″ galvanized roofing nails in the middle). Then I put the tiles on top one day, starting with the outside edge. I used V-cap for the edge, including a special V-cap piece for outside corners. For the inside corner, I had to make a very tricky diagonal cut (2 cuts actually). Those 2 cuts probably took me at least an hour.
I let the tile on the counter top cure overnight. Then I attached the backsplash and the trim around the floor with pre-mixed mastick. We still have a little bit left. I did use up the rest of the thinset mortar, and most of the grout. I finally grouted a couple days later. That is my least favorite part of the job.
Now the last thing I have to do is put some trim on the front of the shelves and around the drawers. That will probably require some staining of trim first. Hopefully I will get it done before we leave.