Bathroom remodel – tub and tile

Testing out level of the tub with the stringer

Testing out level of the tub with the stringer

Note that I started this post in June. The bathroom remodel was done in July.

Testing the floor tyle layout

Testing the floor tyle layout

Testing the tyle laout

Testing the tyle laout

4 mil plastic sheeting behind cement board as vapor barrier

4 mil plastic sheeting behind cement board as vapor barrier

Cement board hung

Cement board hung

Cement board goes up 66 inches from tub

Cement board goes up 66 inches from tub

Chalking lines for floor tile

Chalking lines for floor tile

Cement board on walls

Cement board on walls

New toilet supply line

New toilet supply line

Floor tile installed and grouted

Floor tile installed and grouted

Testing cement board and plywood fit for vanity counter top

Testing cement board and plywood fit for vanity counter top

Sarasota espresso vanity installed off center

Sarasota espresso vanity installed off center

Installing plywood onto vanity

Installing plywood onto vanity

Counter top tile installed

Counter top tile installed

Tiny shims from Dave and Ellen hold up backsplash

Tiny shims from Dave and Ellen hold up backsplash

Boxes drawn on walls and tile installation begun

Boxes drawn on walls and tile installation begun

Tile progress

Tile progress

Tricky cuts around plumbing fixtures

Tricky cuts around plumbing fixtures

Tiling the niche

Tiling the niche

Tiling underneath the countertop

Tiling underneath the countertop

Bathtub tile complete

Bathtub tile complete

Wall behind toilet grouted

Wall behind toilet grouted

Hole for toilet supply line

Hole for toilet supply line

Tricky cut around fan switch

Tricky cut around fan switch

Hole for showerhead made with rotozip

Hole for showerhead made with rotozip

Decorative pattern up close

Decorative pattern up close

Niche up close

Niche up close

Small gap for caulk around tub

Small gap for caulk around tub

Tricky cut around outside of tub

Tricky cut around outside of tub

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.

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

Going against the flow
OR
Zang work weekend 1

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)

Spigot
OR
Faucet

Tee valve

Tee valve

The bathroom is still a work in progress, getting closer to completion all the time. A week or so ago I set out to put up the last piece of drywall. This was possible once the washer faucets had been turned into the utility room, but there was one last project I wanted to complete. Our house did not have a spigot outside. I don’t find the need for water outside that often, but occasionally I do. Last summer I simply ran a hose through the window. But this required opening the window, and potentially letting in insects. I asked Dave and Ellen at some point why they didn’t have a spigot, and as always, they had a very sensible answer: they had a spigot on the cabin, and had problems with the pipe freezing. I had a solution to this though. I would have a shutoff inside the house, so I could shut off the water in the winter.

Hose in the wall

Hose in the wall

In fact, I decided to use the same shutoff I had been using last year. I had been hooking up the hose to the cold water faucet to the washer, which required disconnecting the washer hose. I had gotten tired of this, so I bought a Y-joint. I decided to simply run a hose from this Y through the wall and to the outside. Like most of my projects, it started with a trip to Pell’s hardware store. I got a 5′ washer hose (a steel reinforced one so it should last quite a long time). I also bought a 1 1/2″ wood drill bit to drill holes in the studs so I could run the hose through the wall. I decided to put the spigot right above the dryer vent, since there was already an additional board there. So I simply drilled a hole through the wood there, and then started feeding the hose through the wall. I then drilled holes in the studs to pass the hose through there as well.

Spigot is installed

Spigot is installed

Once I had the hose all hooked up (it was just long enough), I turned the water on and gave it a try. It seemed to work fine, so I finished by driving a couple screws into the wood in the notches in the faucet. Unfortunately, it was leaking, but I didn’t realize this until two days later. As it turns out, you can already see in the photo of the spigot that the wood looks wet. When I went to use the hose several days later, it was quite wet. Of course I discovered this right before going to bed, so I had all night to worry about it. The next morning I checked it and it was getting worse. I feared that I might have punctured the hose somehow. So I unscrewed the spigot from the wood, and checked the connections. It turns out that I had simply not tightened the connections enough. I had used 1 wrench, but not 2. I got them nice and tight, and let it sit for several hours. After waiting awhile it seemed that the wood block was drying out, so I drilled in some new screws in new holes. I can’t believe that I went so long without a spigot!

The bread trick
OR
Pipes pointing into the utility room

This past weekend my parents visited, and we tried to keep them entertained by doing fun things like going to some waterfalls, and visiting a local winery. We were trying hard not to rope them into doing any work, but Saturday afternoon they made the mistake of asking us what projects we would be working on if they weren’t there, so we ran down the laundry list. So we ended up doing a little work, but we mostly stuck to having fun.

newly sweated pipe

Saturday afternoon my dad helped me get the blades off the riding lawn mower. I had already tried it once before by putting it up on cinder blocks and crawling underneath it, but I couldn’t get enough leverage. Our neighbor Vic Greenwell, who was the original owner of the mower, said that he had put the mower up on its back wheels and rested it against a wall. So we tried that. I ended up kind of holding it up instead of leaning it against the wall, and wedged a 2×4 in by the blade while my dad used the wrench to get the blades off. Now I just need to find the right replacement blades. (Walmart in town didn’t have the right ones)

Sunday morning we were thinking of what to do, since the winery didn’t open until 1 p.m. I convinced my dad to help me turn around the pipes to the washing machine. The washing machine pipes used to turn into the bathroom slightly, which is where the washing machine used to be. We moved the washing machine next door, and wanted to turn the pipes around so we can finish the drywall in the bathroom. I said it would only take an hour or so, and I was sort of right. After an hour, we had successfully cut the pipes, and sweated a coupling onto each pipe with the faucets now angled slightly into the utility room. To do so, we had to turn the house water off and drain the pipes. But we couldn’t get all the water out of the pipes, so we used the bread trick. Shove some bread down the pipe a little ways so the water doesn’t come all the way to the top of the pipe. If there is water where you are trying to sweat, the copper won’t get hot enough to melt the solder.

The bread trick worked just fine, except for the final part of turning the water back on and the bread coming out. After a minute or so the bread came out of the hot water pipe, but not the cold water pipe. I decided the best thing to do would be to wait awhile. We waited an hour or so. No luck. We went to the winery tour and tasted some nice wine. When we got back 4 hours later, we tried again. No luck. We started brainstorming different ideas. We tried sticking a coat hanger in it, but couldn’t get it past the first bend in the faucet. We tried backflushing it by hooking up the hot water to the cold water through a laundry hose. All no luck. I decided to wait longer.

the faucets now face the other way

Monday. No luck. I was starting to think it would never come out and I would have to re-cut and sweat the pipe, so I asked Clare to buy some more couplings. I also decided to ask Rich Dibble, Dave’s brother, who taught us the trick in the first place. He gave some similar suggestions. Dave suggested trying to put some acid in the pipe or something. Tonight I decided to fix it once and for all. I tried turning the water on and off a couple times, and tried back-flushing it. I also tried putting some vinegar in the pipe through the hose. None of this seemed to help. On Sunday my dad had mentioned that he thought that the faucet might not be working. I had disregarded this possibility as having an extremely low probability, since it had been working fine right before we started the project. He suspected that the faucet was not opening correctly. It turns out he was on the right track. I did not want to take the faucet apart on Sunday evening, because I feared that we might end up with a leaky faucet or worse yet a faucet that wouldn’t stop at all, and we would have to turn the water off to the whole house, instead of simply not having a washer for a few days. Today however, I decided to try taking off the faucet. I had the water turned on as I started taking it off, and this weird brown goo started coming out. I quickly turned off the water to the house, then continued taking the faucet off of the pipe, and grabbed a bucket. Finally the bread came out. It had been clogged up in the faucet. I got out the coat hanger and cleaned out some of the bread, then hooked it back up and flushed it out with the water back on. I did one more cycle of turning the water off and on, and put some teflon tape on the faucet. Then I hooked the washer back up and re-leveled it, and it seems to be working fine. I am happy that it worked out, but feel a little stupid that I didn’t try taking off the faucet on Sunday. Oh well. What is that saying about things ending well?

Phase 2 complete
OR
Vanity installation finished

This past weekend we finally finished the vanity installation. We worked on it a bit almost every night of the week.

tile is laid

the countertop tile is down

Monday night we got home around 6:15, and brought pizza with us, so we could get working on the tile pretty quickly. I started mixing up the mortar, and ended up getting really lucky and mixed the last part of one 25lb bag, which ended up being just about enough for the countertop. While the mortar was slaking, we started laying out the tile on the countertop to determine where we wanted to make our cuts. We decided to make cuts on the side next to the half-wall, since it would be less visible when you walk in the room. Then I marked the cuts for the sink-hole, and Clare set off making those cuts with the tile nippers while I started laying tile. Liz also helped cut some of the tile for the edge pieces using the tile cutter. The tile went on quite easily, though after it cured, I realized that they weren’t completely level. Hopefully I will be able to get them a bit more level when we do the floor tile. The actual laying of the tile only took a couple hours.

The new vanity

The new vanity with the sink installed

Tuesday Clare and I worked from home, so in the morning I started off by putting on the backsplash. We used 4×4 bullnose tile for the backsplash, and put it on with pre-mixed mastic, just like we used for the tub tile. That only took a half-hour or so. Then I worked until dinner-time, and after dinner I put on the grout. While I was putting on the grout, Clare and Liz worked on getting the old faucet off the sink. This proved to be trickier that one would think. The faucet part came off pretty easily, but the drain simply would not come off. The ring that fits in the sink would not come unscrewed from the rest of the drain. After I was done with the grout I took a look at it, and tried using some WD-40, but it didn’t help much. So I decided to let it soak in for a day.

countertop with tile and sink

Countertop with new tile and sink installed

Wednesday evening I set about trying to get the drain off again, hoping that the WD-40 would have helped overnight. It didn’t. So finally I got out the hacksaw and simply cut off the drain. Then I spent close to an hour removing the old caulk from the sink with a razorblade, and getting as much rust off the bottom of the sink where the old bolts had been as I could. Once again, I decided to call it a night.

Decorative tiles

Decorative tiles (they match the tub)

Thursday evening I finally installed the new faucet and put the sink in the hole. I attached the flexible hoses that were connecting the old faucet to the new faucet, and connected the first half of the drain assembly, putting a little silicone sealant under the metal rim that sits in the sink bowl, per the instructions. Then I put some more silicone under the rim of the sink, and set the sink in place. Finally, I put a little silicone between the edge of the sink and the tile. I finished connecting the supply pipes and the drain assembly, but did not turn the water on, because I wanted the silicone to cure.

Sink back in

New faucet, old sink

Friday evening I tried out the sink. I followed the instructions and took out the aerator to flush out any debris that might have gotten into the pipes while ripping out the old vanity. I had to tighten the supply pipes a bit more, but then it seemed to stop leaking. I was initially disappointed when I tried to put the aerator back in though. A small stream of water was obviously not flowing through the aerator, but spraying around. I tried tightening it down with a plier (and a rag to prevent gouging the aerator ring), but it didn’t help. Then I took it off, thinking it might be misthreaded, and tried again. Still no luck. Then I happened to notice some black thing peaking out of the sink drain hole, from under the stopper. It was a washer! It must have fallen out when I took the aerator out, or when I turned the water on. Once I put the washer on, the aerator worked fine. Then I spent a good 20 minutes or more working on adjusting the stopper. It seemed to be the appropriate height, but when I pulled it up, it fell right back down. I decided to call it a night and work on it over the weekend. I did caulk between the countertop and the backsplash though, using the Polyseam Seal caulk my dad recommends. This time I tried using masking tape to avoid getting the caulk where I didn’t want it. I was not that impressed with this method, as it seemed like I had to smooth out the caulk a second time after removing the tape.

Vanity up close

The new vanity up close. It has a burgundy finish

Saturday was a nice day, and I ended up spending most of the day doing other stuff besides the bathroom. On Sunday I went back to working on the stopper and checking for leaks. It turns out that the drain was leaking just a bit. I ended up just undoing some of the PVC connections and then re-tightening them, which seems to have done the trick. I also discovered that the reason that the stopper was falling down was because I had not tightened the nut that holds the ball in the drain pipe enough. Once I did that it worked fine.

So, phase 2 is complete. This next weekend we hope to work on Phase 3 – the floor tile.

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.

Blood, sweat, and tears
OR
Bathroom progress

end of day one

Project at the end of day one. Not finished, but no leaks.

Well, we have been working on the downstairs bathroom nearly since we moved in, but it has been going very slowly. Since we have a bathroom off our bedroom, we haven’t had much pressure to work on it. But now that there is no grass to mow, we have gotten more serious about finishing the bathroom. We ripped out the drywall and tub surround quite some time ago, making the bathtub dysfunctional, but we have left the sink and toilet in a functional state, which has been handy when we have had guests. Now we are concentrating on finishing the tub, then tackling the sink and finally the toilet.

plumbing finished overview

Overview of the finished plumbing project

We bought most of the materials to tile around the tub several months ago, as well as a new vanity. We took Ellen’s advice and rented the “Hometime Tile” video from Netflix, which wa very handy. We learned that we should get cement backerboard instead of drywall to put around the tub, because it is more moisture-resistant. As we got closer to installing the backerboard, we started to realize that we should really install the new plumbing fixtures before the backerboard. So a couple weeks before Christmas I started taking off the old fixtures. I could not take them off all the way though, because that would create a leak, and the only way to stop the water to the bathtub is to shut off the water to the whole house. So, with that in mind, I wanted to make sure to start the project early in the day so I could make several trips to the hardware store.

So, with the holidays behind us, this weekend seemed like a good time to do the project. Saturday morning we got up around 7:30, had some breakfast, went to the bathroom, then turned off the water. As I started getting ready to take out the old fixtures, I realized more parameters I had not previously considered. For one thing I noticed that we would have to put it in a 2×4 as a backer for the fixture, and that we would want to make sure that we got it centered, at a good height, and at the correct depth from the wall. So I ended up cutting the backerboard and testing it in place to see how deep the 2×4 should be. Clare was of course very helpful in this as well. Once we had done all this, it was time to finally cut off the pipe to the old fixture. Unfortunately, we could not find the pipe cutter. On top of this, I had to go to the bathroom, and it was almost noon. So I went into town, got some lunch at Taco Bell and used their bathroom, then headed off to Pell’s hardware. I had a list of all the fittings and pipe I needed, and one of the guys helped me find everything. I also ended up buying a pipe cutter. I’m sure the old one will turn up someday.

sweated joint close up

Close up of the sweat by the where the tub faucet comes out.

Once I got home, I cut off the old pipe, and Clare helped me start measuring and cutting the new pipe, and cleaning the fittings. We were very fortunate to get a lesson in sweating pipe from Clare’s uncle Rich over the holidays. It really was a great exchange of information. We gave Rich and his family some advice on computers and digital cameras, and they gave us some advice (and tools) for gardening and home improvement. The main thing we learned from Rich is that the key to sweating pipe is that the pipe must be very clean. Cleaning it involves a special wire brush for the fittings, and some special sand paper for the pipe. After cleaning it well, apply some flux (soldering paste), and then start the soldering. We also learned that the area to be soldered must be completely dry, and that is where the bread trick comes in. There is bound to be some water in the pipes, and heating part of the pipe will cause that water to create steam, which lowers the temperature of the metal, meaning that it will never get hot enough to melt the solder. So, the trick is to shove some bread into the pipe where the water or steam would be coming in. The bread will act as a barrier for the water, but once the water is back on, the pressure of the water will easily flush out the bread.

So before doing any actual soldering, we cut all the pipe and stuck it together, to make sure it would all fit nicely. Once we had had shortened a few pieces, and made some slightly longer short pieces to go right by the fixture, we took the pipe into the kitchen to start soldering. It is kind of hard to sweat pipe in place and not burn the 2x4s, so we wanted to do as many of the connections as possible in the free and open. We successfully got 2 sweats done fairly easily, but then we started having problems for some reason. We were having difficulty getting the pipe hot enough for the solder to melt, even though the pipe itself felt very hot. One difference in our sweating from the test session with uncle Rich was that we were using propane gas instead of MAPP gas. Around this point, we also realized that there were a few more fittings that we needed, and that we might need to redo some of the connections that we tried but could not get right.

beautiful sweat

Perhaps the best looking joint we sweated

So, we took another trip in town. This time we bought some gas and used their restrooms, then we went back to Pell’s. We bought some MAPP gas (it was about $8 instead of $4 for propane), and the other fittings we needed, then got back to work. The MAPP gas definitely made a big difference. Now things were really rolling. We got all the sweats done we could in the kitchen, then moved into the bathroom. The first two sweats there were also easy. Clare used the torch to heat up the coupling joints near the top of the tub, and I came in from behind and below the tub with the solder.

Then I made a mistake. Clare went into the kitchen for something, and I was eager to see how good our sweats were, so I turned on the water. The sweats were good, but now I had just filled up the pipes with water, and we still had several more sweats to go. Rob!!!!

So, we decided to take a coffee break, and mull it over. Clare suggested trying to drain the water out somehow. There is a drain to the house which goes out near where the pipes go in. We tried that, but it didn’t work. Then Clare remembered her dad saying that if we turned the water on upstairs with the drain open, then any water on the first floor would drain out because of the pressure differential. Sure enough, it worked. We had a little dinner while the pipes were (hopefully) drying out. When we got back to work though, the pipe still would not get hot enough. Then we tried the bread trick. This seemed to help, but there was still water in the pipe. We could hear it sizzling. Eventually, we decided just to keep heating it until the water was all gone, which only took a few minutes. Then finally the solder melted.

After all this, I decided that I wanted to work a little bit more, but that Clare could do some other things if she wanted. I was almost about ready to finish off the project when Clare informed me that it was almost 10:00. So, instead I capped off the parts that go to the faucet and shower, and we called it a night.

shower outlet

Outlet where the shower head will go in. Notice I ended up using screws instead of nails.

On Sunday, Sam and Charlie came over for brunch. Naturally we spent the morning cleaning. We had some tasty vegan biscuits and gravy, played with Benjamin, and took a stroll through the woods on the unseasonably warm day (about 65ºF). Almost as soon as they left, I got back to the plumbing. It took a bit more fenagling to get the blocks to hold the shower and faucet in the right place, (and I ended up breaking one trying to hammer the shower pipe in place – nails stink). After another couple hours work though, all the pipe was in place, and there were no leaks!

Now we can finally start putting up the rest of the backerboard and start tiling. More adventures await.