Bathroom remodel – demolition and plumbing

Old vanity with man-made counter top

Old vanity with man-made counter top

Old acrylic tub

Old acrylic tub

Working on removing the tub surround

Working on removing the tub surround

Tub surround totally out

Tub surround totally out

Old lights and medicine cabinet

Old lights and medicine cabinet

Tub surround partially out

Tub surround partially out

Messy work area

Messy work area

Tub surround out

Tub surround out

Sink supply lines seem a bit corroded, but I think they should be ok

Sink supply lines seem a bit corroded, but I think they should be ok

Leftover linoleum tile underneath the cement board

Leftover linoleum tile underneath the cement board

water damaged plywood

water damaged plywood

ready for new tub

ready for new tub

Plumbing done and subfloor repaired

Plumbing done and subfloor repaired

water damage in plywood near the tub

water damage in plywood near the tub

New Delta universal rough fixture

New Delta universal rough fixture

Going to reuse the old tub drain assembly

Going to reuse the old tub drain assembly

Close-up of Delta universal rough fixture

Close-up of Delta universal rough fixture

Complete plumbing picture

Complete plumbing picture

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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.

New kitchen cabinets, part two

Taking out the old old counter top and cabinets by the sink

Taking out the old old counter top and cabinets by the sink

Once I had the cabinets assembled and installed on the side of the kitchen opposite the sink, I was ready to tackle the sink side. This meant we would be without a sink for awhile, which meant we couldn’t cook very much. Per Clare’s suggestion, I tried to cook up a bunch of leftovers beforehand, but since the project took almost twice as long as I had planned, we ended up eating out quite a bit anyways.

Lots of mice poop under the old cabinets

Lots of mice poop under the old cabinets

The first step was to remove the old kitchen cabinets. I started by disconnecting all the plumbing and shutting off the water to the sink. Then I removed the sink. This involved cutting the silicone with a utility knife, and gradually prying the sink out with a pry bar and a chisel. Then I moved out the dishwasher. Then I began removing the counter top. The counter top was attached with screws from underneath, so I took out all those screws with my handy cordless drill. Once all the screws were out, I used the reciprocating saw to cut the counter top into several pieces. I had to yank the counter top off a bit, since it was also stuck to the wall a bit with some caulk.
Continue reading New kitchen cabinets, part two

Order of operations
OR
Tile is on the floor

putting in new insulation

Ready to put in some new insulation

So we finished the vanity about a week ago, and had planned to do the floor tile next. Part of our bathroom project involves building some sort of shelves/cabinet where the washer and dryer used to be, since otherwise we have some empty space, and also because we want to hide the plumbing where the laundry tub used to be. I had been thinking for some time that we would want to put the shelves in before tiling the floor, but we still haven’t really figured out exactly what we are going to do for that, and it started to seem like we might never get floor tile down if we waited. Eventually I decided that we could do the floor tile first, so we decided to do it this weekend, hoping that it will be done by the time my parents come to visit next weekend.

All the old tile is out

All the old tile has been ripped out. Now just a bit more cleaning to do.

The plan was to get all the prep work done Friday night, then put in the tile on Saturday, and grout Sunday. We left work a little later that we had expected on friday, and then we also ended up talking with the Harrimans for quite awhile. We stopped there to pick up the tile saw that they agreed to lend us, in exchange for helping them with their website. As to be expected, we got talking about our respective projects. They have more than we do, but hey, we are still novices. So we got home a little after 8, heated up some leftovers, then got working on getting the toilet out. That was actually no problem at all. I shut off the valve, then flushed the toilet, which got most of the water out, but not all. Clare had the brilliant idea of getting most of the remaining water out of the bowl using a cup, which worked quite well. A bit of water spilled when I lifted up the toilet, but not that much. After lifting the toilet off, we stuffed some rags in the hole to prevent sewer gases from getting out. We put the toilet in the foyer temporarily.

new drywall is up

New drywall is up

Then I got to work removing the rest of the old right around the toilet. I worked on this until about 10:30 or so, then decided I would finish up in the morning. In the morning I finished getting off the last bit of tile, and also worked on ripping out more of the drywall around the toilet that had gotten moldy. Clare and Liz were working on cutting the new drywall when I thought I noticed more termite damage on the nailers behind the old drywall. It turns out that it was not termite damage, but that some of the insulation was a bit moldy. So I ripped out about 10 square feet of the insulation and put in some new stuff, and a new vapor barrier there. Though I had poo-pooed the purchase two weeks ago, the staple gun that Clare bought came in very handy. Then we started hanging the drywall. Unfortunately most of the pieces were about 1/4 inch too big, so we spent quite a bit of time whittling them down with the utility knife until they would fit. This time, unlike last, I marked the location of the studs before hanging the drywall, which made life much easier. So most of Saturday was consumed with drywall and sweeping up the bathroom. Clare and I did get some of the tile out and talk about the best layout plan. We decided on doing full tiles by the doorway, which means we will end up with some pretty small tiles right by the vanity, but they should not be too visible. I finished the day with 2 round of mopping, so that the surface should be nice and clean, and the mortar will adhere well.

Clare cuts some tile with the tile saw

Clare cuts some tile with the tile saw

Sunday morning we got out of bed around 7:30. For some reason Clare wanted to shower, but I got straight to work (after a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee). The first thing to do was to finalize the layout, which involved setting some of the tile on the floor (without any mortar), and making sure everything was straight, then marking the position of the tiles using a chalk line. Once this was done, I could start measuring the first few cuts that we need to make. This is one way in which we deviated from the instructions in the HomeTime tile video. They recommended laying all of the field tile first, then waiting a day and laying the edge tile. Since we had so few field tile to lay, this seemed like overkill, and we were anxious to get the project done, so we can put the toilet back in. I mixed up the thinset mortar and began making measurements while Clare got the tile saw and tile cutter ready. Since the tile saw sprays some water around, we decided to do it outside. It turned out to be a nice day — partly sunny and 55 or so — but it was only about 35 when we started at 9 a.m. Clare was a real trooper though.

Combing out mortar

Combing out mortar

I probably laid down the first few tiles around 9:30. It is best to work in relatively small sections, so we made 2×2 or 2×3 boxes with the chalk line. I began by scooping some mortar out of my bucket with a margin trowel, then I used the smooth side of my notched trowel to comb it out. I chose a trowel with 1/4″ wide notches with 1/4″ spaces and 3/8″ deep. The tile video recommended 3/8″ deep for tiles 12″ or larger. Our tile are 13″ (actually 12 13/16″ — to make it easy to do measurements using a 3/16″ grout joint. We decided to use a 1/4″ grout joint). After spreading out the mortar with the smooth side, I then combed it out using the notched side. This gets the proper amount of mortar down. I filled one 2×2 box with field tile, then set a few cut pieces which Clare had cut very nicely. After I had set the cut pieces, I removed one of the field tiles, to check to see how well my mortar was adhering (also recommended by the Home Time tile video). According to the video, the mortar should cover about 90% of the tile. If it is less than this, then the mortar is probably too dry, or if greater than 90% the mortar might be too wet. I thought my test tile was more like 70%, so I added a bit of water to the mortar, and also concentrated on getting a consistent 45° angle with the notched trowel. I then replaced re-combed the mortar where I taken the test tile out, and put down a fresh tile.

test tile

Test tile. Is there enough mortar?

I continued laying tile for several hours, and Clare continued cutting tile. For all the straight cuts we used a simple tile cutter which scores the tile and then snaps it. But for the trickier cuts, we used the tile saw. The tile saw has a circular blade with a diamond edge. It is not jagged like a circular saw though. The saw sprays water on the blade as it is cutting to keep down the heat and the dust. Clare used one neat technique with the saw to get some rounded cuts, which we learned from the video of course. She made several very skinny cuts into the area that we wanted to remove, then nipped them off using the tile nippers.

fancy cuts with the saw

Clare makes a fancy cut with the tile saw using the many teeth method.

I continued laying tile until about 1 p.m. or so, at which point I decided I need a break, so Clare and I had some lunch. By this point we were mostly done, and had mostly field tile to lay down. As I started to lay tile after lunch I started realizing that the tile was deviating from the chalk lines. I began to get worried that the tile was not going to fit how we had envisioned. So I put down a few tiles and sure enough, it looked like we might end up cutting tiles by the doorway, which is exactly what we were trying to avoid. So I consulted with Clare, and we decided to just squish some of the grout lines instead of cutting the tile.

all the tile is laid

All the tile is laid

I finished laying tile around 3:30 or so, and then spent about a half hour cleaning up. Now we have to let the mortar set-up for at least a day. Hopefully we can grout tomorrow, then put the toilet back in soon.

Surprise! termites
OR
Installing the new vanity

removing old vanity

Halfway done removing the old vanity

This past weekend we set out to install the new vanity in the bathroom. I was figuring it would take a total of 3 or 4 days, including some waiting time, since we were planning on tiling the new countertop. Friday night after getting home from work I eagerly started working on removing the old vanity. I went to take out the sink, but soon realized that the shelf under the sink was in the way of undoing the plumbing, so I started by removing the doors and the trim, which allowed me to get out the shelves. Then I went to turn off the water. After some WD-40 and a little elbow grease, I was able to shut off the water and disconnect the plumbing. Then I ran a utility knife under the sink rim to break the caulk, and then was able to push up on the sink from underneath and wriggle it free. I then worked on removing the countertop and disassembling the rest of the vanity using a hammer and prybar. We might try to reuse parts of it, so I was pretty careful to try to save as much as possible.

looking down at the pipes

Looking down at the pipes through the sink hole in the old vanity

Once I had all of the vanity out, I started ripping out rest of the drywall. Here comes the surprise. At first it seemed like some of the 2×6’s behind the drywall were rotten, but after further inspection, it became clear that it was termite damage. This was definitely going to set back a little bit. I continued ripping out drywall for awhile longer, then decided to call it a night.

termite damaged wood

Some of the termite-damaged wood

Saturday morning we slept in until 8, then got working on the bathroom around 8:30. Now I got a better idea of the extent of the termite damage, and we ended up calling Dave and Ellen to get their opinion on how best to proceed. I was thinking about replacing the termite-eaten 2×6’s, but they recommended just putting in a couple additional 2×4’s to have something to nail the drywall into,since some of the exterior siding may be nailed into the termite-eaten 2×6’s. I did replace the insulation though, and Clare and Liz put up a new moisture barrier. At this point I went outside to enjoy the day and cut up some firewood, and left Clare and Liz to hang the drywall. After they got done with that, I helped Clare tape and mud the drywall, and that was pretty much a day.

Rob removing nails

Rob removes old drywall nails

Sunday morning we got up around 7 and got to work. Clare sanded the drywall mud while I worked on making some fresh bread. Then I washed the walls and put a coat of Killz mold-resistant primer on the new drywall. We let that dry for about 4 hours, and worked on some other projects in the meantime, like splitting wood.

Clare sanding drywall mud

Clare sands the drywall mud

While the primer was drying, I also took the vanity out of the box, and started reading the installation instructions. I was a bit surprised to find that most of the back of the vanity was completely open. It also seemed like there wasn’t very much holding the drawers up. Although the old vanity was not quite as finished-looking, I think that it was probably sturdier. That is one thing that I have been learning as we do home improvement projects. A lot of building materials are actually fairly fragile, especially all the finishing touches.

Vanity is in place

Vanity is in place

After taking the vanity out of its box and marveling at how finished it looked, I immediately set out to cut a big hole in the bottom of it for the pipes. I suppose that part of the reason that the back is open is that the assumption is that the pipes are coming out of the wall, not the floor, but ours come out of the floor. My friend Sean leant me his jigsaw, and also gave me the advice of putting some packing tape over the part where you are going to make a cut, to help prevent splintering. I measured the distance from the walls to the pipes, then used those measurements to mark my hole in the vanity. By the time I was done making the hole, it was about time to put the vanity in. Clare helped me carry the vanity into the bathroom and get it shimmed. I only ended up screwing the vanity into the wall in 2 places, since I hadn’t put in that many 2×4’s behind the drywall,but since the vanity is resting on the floor (well, on the shims which are on the floor), I didn’t worry about it too much.

Testing the hole for the sink

The sink fits in the hole!

Once I had the vanity shimmed and screwed in, I set about making the countertop. After much searching, we decided on tiling the countertop. We weren’t very pleased with any laminate countertop options, and marble or granite just seemed out of our price range. We also had a pretty good experience tiling the bathtub, and the countertop seemed like it would be easier in many ways. Once again, we watched the Hometime tile video to see how to proceed. They recommended using 3/4″ exterior grade plywood, with 1/2″ cement board on top of that. One thing I had noticed when Clare was putting up the new drywall was that the space for the vanity was not exactly square. The space in front was 54″, but by the wall it was only about 53 1/2″. I took this into consideration when cutting the plywood and cementboard. Since we had a 54″ space, we ended up getting a 48″ vanity, since they only come in full foot increments. Originally we thought we would center the vanity and put some 3″ wood spacers to fill the gaps, but it turns out that Lowe’s (where we bought the vanity) did not have any spacers in the right color. So, instead we decided to leave a 6″ gap on one side, but to have the countertop fill the whole 54″. This left the option of centering the sink on the counterop or on the vanity. We decided on the vanity, so I put that into my calculations for where to cut the hole in the plywood and cementboard for the sink.

The tile underlayment

The tile underlayment. Notice the parts where the cement board is broken.

Unfortunately I had some problems cutting the hole in the cementboard. I followed the Hometime suggestion of putt the cement board on top of the plywood and then tracing the hole from the bottom. The problem was that I was supposed to flip the cementboard over and trace the other side as well, but because the area wasn’t exactly square it wouldn’t fit the other way. So I tried copying it just by guessing, which didn’t work out very well, so then I decided to try to use the Saws-all to cut the hole, which was working pretty well until the cementboard broke in half. I managed to put the pieces back together, and I think it shouldn’t be a problem.

Our next post will detail the actual tile laying.