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.

Butterfly pavilion

In front of the butterfly pavilion
In front of the butterfly pavilion

Harold and Fran came out to visit over Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, none of the 300 days of sunshine per year in Denver occurred while they were here. We managed to enjoy outside a bit, but also found some indoor fun. On Saturday we went to thebutterfly pavilion, which is not too far from our house. They had several exhibits on insects, arachnids, and starfish, and a ton ofbutterflies. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, including Spencer.

I carried him in thebaby bjorn, and after about 20 minutes, realized that hewas ready to start facing forward, sincehe kept turning his head ti each side to see what was going on. Now he almost always faces forward, and is happy as a clam, as long as I don’t stop moving, and there is something exciting to look at.
many more pictures

New kitchen cabinets, part three

New kitchen!

New kitchen!

The final step in finishing the kitchen project was to put a new counter top on the cabinets. We ended up buying Roman Stone Noce porcelain tile. It is manufactured, but is designed to have a natural look, so there is some variation in it, which gives it a nice texture. Once I had the plywood and cement board attached to the cabinets, I had a solid foundation for the tile, and was ready to start tiling.

The trickiest cut was the mitre cut in the v-cap on the inside corner. It took me over an hour, but turned out pretty well. The tile saw I bought can do mitre cuts by angling the base

The trickiest cut was the mitre cut in the v-cap on the inside corner.

On Monday I started off by cutting a few tiles before I actually started laying tile. I knew that there would be a couple tricky cuts, particularly the inside corner of the v-cap by the stove. As it turns out, it took me more than an hour to get the miter cut to my satisfaction. I used the tile saw I had just bought to do the cutting. I went with the second cheapest option on the tile saw, which turned out to be pretty good. The saw had the option of tilting the table, so I could do miter cuts. Unfortunately, after tilting the table, the saw was no longer tall enough to cut totally through the v-cap. So I fiddled around until I got it right. I also tried to cut a few tiles with the new tile snapper I had bought. I found out it doesn’t seem to work for porcelain tile, which is quite a bit harder than ceramic tile. So I ended up having to use the tile saw for all my cuts, even the straight ones.
Continue reading New kitchen cabinets, part three

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

New kitchen cabinets, part one

Old kitchen

Old kitchen

One of the major projects on our new house was to put in new kitchen cabinets. We knew before buying the house that many of the lower kitchen cabinets (base cabinets) were damaged. Initially we thought we would try to buy some replacement parts, but as we realized that every base cabinet was damaged in some way, we simply decided to replace them. Ellen did some internet research and discovered that the maker of our cabinets, Mills Pride, was no longer in business. She found some cabinets from Sunco which she thought would match very well. We ended up buying them from Good Value Center. We were quite happy with the service in general. It only took a couple weeks to get them, and they were packed quite well.

This cabinet was completely missing the drawer

This cabinet was completely missing the drawer

The cabinets arrived on Friday the 9th of January. On the 11th, Clare and I spent several hours at Lowe’s putting together a delivery order for all the tile materials we would need like plywood and cementboard. We also got new energy-efficient windows, which will we install once it gets a bit warmer. The materials were delivered on the 12th, and I got to work.

Damaged cabinet

Damaged cabinet

I decided to work on assembling the cabinets while I was waiting for the delivery from Lowe’s. It took me about 2 hours to assemble the first one, but after that it got much easier. The Sunco cabinets have 1/2″ plywood sides and backs, and 3/4″ solid oak faces. They are put together with a cam locking system. I was quite impressed how accurate most of the cuts were. The sides fit into the front and back with a groove, and then get locked into a place with a cam system, which only requires turning one screw about one rotation. The drawers had to be assembled with regular screws, but the holes were all pre-drilled, and were quite accurate. For the first cabinet I screwed the screws in by hand, but for the other ones I used my beloved Black and Decker 18 volt cordless drill, which sped things up quite a bit. I was intrigued by the subtle variations between cabinets. While they were mostly the same, some of the details were slightly different, like the color of the screws, or the type of cushion on the drawers and doors. Some had a soft plastic cushion (the little piece that keeps the drawers and doors from banging shut), while others had more of a squishy foam-like cushion. There is also a fair amount of color variation. Some of the cabinets match the wall cabinets very well, while others don’t match as well.
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Shelves mostly built

cabinet and shelf base

cabinet and shelf base

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 worked in the garage

I worked in the garage since it was rainy outside

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.

plumbing is now hidden

plumbing is now hidden

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.

cabinet, shelves, and drawers fully assembled

cabinet, shelves, and drawers fully assembled

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.

Shelves with tile on top.

Shelves with tile on top.

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.

The inside corner cuts

This inside corner was a tricky cut. This alone took 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.

another tricky cut

Another tricky cut

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.

backsplash adjusted around window trim

The backsplash didn’t quite fit under the window trim, so I had to make it a bit smaller.
Covebase tile around the rest of the bathroom

Covebase tile around the rest of the bathroom