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.
Read the rest

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

Phase 3 is complete
OR
Grout is down. Toilet is back in

New bathroom

New vanity, tub tile, floor tile, and floor mat

We finished putting the floor tile in the bathroom on Sunday, which needed at least 24 hours to cure. So we went to work like normal on Monday. I didn’t think I would have enough time to grout Monday night, so instead I put up the sanitary base on the wall between the tub and the vanity. On Tuesday I worked from home, so I started off doing the grout. I woke up around 7, had a quick breakfast, then mixed up the grout. We chose the same color grout for the floor tile as we used for the tub and vanity countertop — parchment. While I was letting the grout slake I got out the utility knife and razor blade and removed any mortar in the grout joints that I had missed with the pencil while laying the tile. I probably started grouting right around 8:00 a.m., and finished around 10:00 a.m.

New tile and grout

The new tile and grout

One detail that the Home Time tile video mentioned about grouting was that there would be a “grout haze” when done, which I would need to wipe off. I had not noticed any haze when grouting the tub or the countertop, but I definitely noticed a haze on the floor tile. I think I might have been a little more paranoid about wiping off the grout with the sponge for the previous tile projects, or maybe the difference lay in the fact that the floor tile is slightly textured, so it is more difficult to get all the grout out of the small dips in the tile surface, or maybe a combination of both. I had remembered that the video said to wipe off the grout haze with a clean towel, but I couldn’t remember when, so I went and watched part of the video again, and realized that they recommended doing it as soon as possible, and to simply step on the tiles, being careful not to step on the grout joints. So I spent 20 minutes or so doing that, and got off most of the haze, though I will probably have to go over it one more time.

Close-up of drain

Close-up of the floor drain. I tried to even out the edge with grout

After dinner on Tuesday I decided to put the toilet back in, figuring that the grout would have had sufficient time to dry. It wasn’t completely dry, so I was careful to not step on the grout joints. I took the rags out of the toilet drain which were preventing the sewer gases from coming up, and removed the rest of the old wax ring with a chisel (I didn’t need a chisel, but the wax is really sticky, and I didn’t want to scoop it up with my hands, so it worked pretty well). Then I spent a good 20 minutes cleaning the toilet, and then finally started to put it in. We weren’t sure exactly what sort of wax ring to get, so we got several — one deluxe wax ring, one deluxe wax ring kit (with new nuts, bolts and washers), and one non-wax ring kit. I decided to dry the simple deluxe wax ring first. Although the tile video showed putting the was ring on the drain hole, and then setting the toilet on it, the instructions on the wax ring said to put it on the toilet first, and then set it on the hole, so I followed the instructions that came with the ring. The tile video mentioned I might need some plastic shims to keep the toilet from rocking, but it didn’t seem like the toilet was rocking at all to me, so I didn’t worry about it (especially since I only had wood shims).

sanitary base

The sanitary base between the tub and the vanity

I did make 2 mistakes. When I got ready to put the nuts on the bolts, I noticed they were pretty rusty, so I decided to open up the package of nuts and bolts in the other wax ring kit, and then promptly realized that the new nuts would not fit on the old bolts. So I just stuck with the old washers and nuts, and wasted a dollar or two. The second mistake was trying a new gasket that sits between the toilet base and the tank. The old gasket seemed ok, but I thought a new one would be good. Clare had bought one at Pell’s that looked a bit different from the old one, but it did say that it was for a Gerber toilet, which is what we have. (Sidenote – Kathleen Harriman said she has toilet envy of our cool pressurized Gerber toilet, which Steve Harriman installed for us). I had quite a time getting the tank to sit right using the new gasket, and several test flushes, I realized that it was leaking just a bit from that seal, so I went back to the old gasket. Unfortunately, I had already put on the new $30 toilet seat at this point, and scratched it up a bit removing the tank. Oh well. Nothing I can do about that. After putting the old gasket back on it seemed to be leak-free. I then went around and caulked around the toilet, between the tub and the tile, and between the floor tile and the sanitary base. I am still not very good at caulking.

toilet back in

The toilet is back in, with a new seat, and some fresh caulk

We still have lots of work to do in the bathroom, but the 3 major projects are complete — (1) the tub surround, (2) the vanity, and (3) the floor tile.

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.

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.