The Fenders are friends and neighbors in Indiana. Angie gave me a tour of some of the projects they had been working on. We could smell honeysuckle as we checked out the ways they have worked to make their property naturally beautiful and useful. I forgot to take pictures of the garden and the wood carving picture didn’t come out. However, between the hand built canoes, the shelter from locally grown and milled wood, the pond with dueling zip lines, the mason jar chandeliers, the bark they pressed for a year to use as decorative finishes on the bar and the bed frame I can see both creativity, time and care they put into their projects. Thanks for sharing <3

Going against the flow
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.
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Summertime, and the living is easy

anaheim and banana peppers

anaheim and banana peppers

Well, we don’t have any cotton in our garden, so I can’t make any comment as to whether it is high or not, but our garden is doing well, and I have definitely been enjoying summer this week. On Wednesday, I took some time in the afternoon to do some work, which included getting the flat tire off the riding lawn mower so I could take it in to the tire store. It turns out I needed a socket to get it off, so I had to take a trip to Pell’s first. I got the needed socket, and picked up some 2x2s at the lumber yard to make the remaining 6 tomato stakes, and some 6″ corrugated pipe for my ditch project. After I cut and pounded in the remaining tomato stakes, I savored the first ripe cherry tomato of the season. There appear to be many more waiting. Then I picked the first ripe hot peppers — we planted anaheims and yellow banana peppers. I used those in the burritos I made for dinner, which were very tasty. But before that, I decided to finally take a swim in the pond. I never got around to it last summer, and I decided that I ought to do it before this summer is over as well. It was very refreshing on a hot summer day. It was also quite cold, as my in-laws had promised. I didn’t venture too far out, but I did put my head under water.

On Thursday I got a tube put in the flat tire for $15, and did some mowing after work. It felt really great to leave work at 5, since I have been working late the last several weeks. And Friday, I went to the see the new Batman movie at the drive-in. I had never been to a drive-in before, and I never got around to it last summer, even though it is only a few miles from our house. And for once in a blue moon, they were playing a movie that interested me. And speaking of blue moons, not long after enjoying a marvelous sunset at the drive-in, which drenched the corn-filled horizon in dark red light, there appeared a big, beautiful full moon.

Phase 2 complete
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.

Break the inner seal
Grouting and caulking.

Rob grouting

Rob grouting

The remaining steps after putting the tile on the wall are grouting and caulking. Tuesday night I spent about 4 hours grouting. It turned out to be one of the hardest parts of the project in my opinion. As we have learned, grout is specially colored mortar, which you put between the tiles to help keep them in place and keep out water.

Grout that fell off the float

Grout that fell off the float

The first step in grouting is to mix it up, which I did using a margin trowel. The Hometime Tile video which we learned much from said it is better to mix it a bit dry, so I erred on the dry side. Then I let the grout “slake” for 10 minutes, which is just to let it sit and let the powder and water mix on their own a bit. Then I stirred one more time, and used the margin trowel to put some grout onto my grout float and smear it onto the tile and into the cracks. This was much more difficult than it looked in the video. Probably 80% of the grout was just falling off into the tub instead of getting into the cracks. I decided that maybe it was still too wet, so I added a bit more powder. That was even worse. I resorted to shoving it in with my fingers (with gloves) instead of with the grout float. After tiring of that, I decided to try adding more water, and it got a bit better. Then I decided to look at the bag of grout again, and it said to mix with water or a latex additive for “enhanced performance”. I was beginning to suspect that I really needed the additive. Clare was in town at the YMCA, so I called her and asked her to look for latex additive at Walmart. No luck. So, I kept chugging along, slowly getting better at it such that I was only slopping about 40-50% of the grout into the tub. I let Clare try for awhile, and she started off about the same as me, so I promptly took over simply in the name of time-saving.

Side wall after grouting and caulking

Side wall after grouting and caulking

Thursday night I did the final step — caulking. I bought the caulk that my dad swears by — Polyseam Seal — which is an acrylic caulk with a silicone additive. I ended up buying a tube for a caulking gun as well as a small tube, because I wasn’t sure that we had a working caulking gun or not. My dad said that the small tube would probably be enough, but we ended up having some pretty big gaps in some places, so I ended up using both tubes. However, I did make one big mistake which made the job much more difficult. I started off with the big tube of caulk. I read the instructions and cut off the tip like it said, then started to squeeze the gun to start getting the caulk out. But it wasn’t coming. I kept sqeezing harder and harder but no luck. I began to think that the caulking gun was broken. So I took the tube out and realized that the caulk had started oozing out the back of the tube. So, I took a small putty knife, and started inserting the caulk with the putty knife and using my finger to smooth it out. This was not very accurate, so I ended up wiping a lot of caulk off of the tub and tile where I did not want it. I used the small tube to caulk around some of the smaller crevices like around the escutcheon and the soap dish. Nearing completion of the project, I looked at the instructions on the big tube caulk again and notice under number 2. Cut off tip to desired width. Puncture inner seal. !!!!! Man, now I get it. I had told Clare to start eating without me because I wanted to finish (having learned my lesson from the mudding and taping), and when I told her my story, she of course knew about puncturing the inner seal. Well, now I know, and you know what they say — “Knowing is half the battle.”

The wet wall after grouting and caulking

The wet wall after grouting and caulking

Don’t take shortcuts
The tile is on the wall

cement board taped

cement board taped and mudded

We haven’t posted anything in a couple weeks not for lack of home improvement projects, but rather because we have been spending most of our free time doing them. In the last couple weeks we really started getting serious about finishing the tile around the bathtub.

cement board on wet wall

cement board on wet wall

In the last entry, I estimated that it would only take a few more hours to finish hanging the cementboard. Well, that was an underestimate. It took most of a day, largely because of some minor setbacks, such as having to redo the cut-outs for the pipes in the supporting 2x4s. I had them all done, then when trying to toeshoe one of them in, I simply could not get the nail in, and finally decided to pull it out and screw in the board. However, the board broke while I was trying to get the nail out. Argh! But, I eventually got all the cementboard hung. The next step was to mud and tape the cementboard, which involves putting thinset mortar on the joints, then embedding fiberglass tape made especially for cementboard. This was quite tricky, as the mortar kept falling off my putty knife. I also made the mistake of not doing it all in one step (dinner intervened). I ended up letting half of it dry, then doing the rest another night. Using this method I ended up going over some joints twice (because of the inside corners), which caused some humps. I also put a bit too much mortar on I think, but hopefully the tile won’t fall off the wall.

working out the tile patterns

working out the tile patterns

This past weekend, we finally got to put the tile on the wall. Clare and I spent most of the day Saturday chalking lines on the cementboard, measuring, and cutting tile. Our neighbors, the Greenwell’s, lent us their tile cutter, which was very nice of them. It basically is just a cutting wheel on some rods. You score the tile with the cutting wheel, then snap the tile. Clare started off cutting triagular pieces from the 4″x4″ tile for the fancy pattern we did. Then I started making some of the cuts with the 6″x5″ tile we had measured. I was initially very worried, because the first 2 tiles I attempted broke in the wrong place. Then Clare passed on the advice from her mother to snap the big tiles near the edge of the tile, which worked very well. Besides the tile cutter, we also had tile nippers and a rod saw in our arsenal. The tile nippers are a bit like pliers with a sharp edge, and are good for cutting off rounded pieces. But, after learning the hard way, they do not work very well for inside cuts. That is, if you want to leave all the corners intact, but cut out part of the middle of the tile, the only options are the rod saw or a router (and we did not buy a router just for this project). They make rod saws that fit into hacksaw frames, but we could only find a small one that came in its own frame. It is a small rod which is very rough, almost like sandpaper, but metal and rougher. It works pretty well, but requires a lot of effort. More on that later.

Clare setting tile

Clare setting tile

On Sunday, we finally got to putting up the tile. I would say that this was probably the easiest part of the job so far. We bought pre-mixed mastic to stick the tiles to the wall. You spread the mastic on with a triangular notched trowel, then simply stick the tiles in. The mastic is very sticky, so the tiles stick almost immediately. The tiles we bought had lugs on them, which are basically little pieces on the side that space the tiles automatically. There were some pieces that we had cut where we needed to use 1/16″ plastic spacers instead. We started with the longest wall of the tub, ensuring that the inside corners would not be as visible as if we had done it the other way around. I got several feet up the wall done while Clare had her weekly chat with her parents. Then she finished off the rest of the wall, and I worked on making a few more cuts we hadn’t gotten to the day before. The trickiest cut by far was the cut for the spout, because it consisted of a circle in the middle of a tile. For this I had to use the special drill bit that came with the rod saw. It probably took me about 10 minutes to drill through the tile, and then another 15 minutes to saw out the hole.

the tricky cut for the tub spout

the tricky cut for the tub spout

We continued working on the tile after a little lunch break. After finishing the back wall, I started getting worried about running out of tile. Sure enough, after counting out how many tiles we needed, we realized that we were about 5 tiles short of being able to finish. This was due to 3 factors:

  1. We ended up tiling all the way up the wall, which was not our original plan
  2. We decided to only do the fancy pattern on the long wall, which was not our original plan
  3. We probably ended up breaking more tiles than we had originally thought

So, Clare being the trooper that she is, drove all the way to Bloomington to get about 10 more tiles so we could finish that day. I stayed home and did a few more cuts, cleaned up some, and started laying more tile.

interesting cuts by the ceiling

interesting cuts by the ceiling

Another tricky cut was around the shower handle, which was a 4″x4″ hole spanning the middle of two tiles. I thought I had both done, but when I went to put them on the wall, I realized that I had accidentally cut the two tiles upside down, so I had to do them over again. I wanted to continue tiling before the mastic dried out, so I asked Clare to do the last one. Clare, being the ingenius one, decided to use a combination of the rod saw and tile clippers (which I advised against). Sure enough, the tile broke. I was of course a bit upset, and decided to do it myself. I got about 90% done with the cut using the rod saw, and then for some crazy reason, I decided to try to use the clippers for the last bit, and it broke again. So, I gave it one more try using just the rod saw, and it worked, but we wasted another 2 tiles and a good 30 minutes. So, the lesson of the day is: don’t take shortcuts.

cut around the faucet handle

cut around the faucet handle

The last few pieces included the edge pieces to go on the outside corner of the wet wall. We ended up using countertop edge pieces here, which fit very well. I had to cut 2 of them to fit up against the tub, and I ended up cutting the top one a little bit as well, which was another tricky cut with the rod saw. Clare helped me cut the last set of tiles for the top to fit against the sloped ceiling. Then we cleaned up a bit and called it a day.

The tile is on the wall

The tile is on the wall

The Horse before the carriage
Bathtub cement board going up

moldy drywall

Old moldy drywall

It seems that every time we decide to focus on a particular part of the bathroom model at a time, it turns out that other parts must be done first. We are trying to keep as much of the bathroom functional possible for when we have guests, which has been relatively frequent. So, we are trying to do the tile around the bathtub while keeping the sink and the toilet functional. It seems that this will be possible, but not easy. A month or two ago, we thought we were about ready to put up the cement board to do the tile. Then we realized we should install new fixtures in the tub before putting up the cement board (see previous post). Once that was done we seemed ready to put up the cement board. As I began thinking about it though, I realized that we would have to put up new drywall where it butts up against the cement board before putting the tile up, since we have been told that the tile should overlap onto the drywall a bit. Fine. Then I started thinking about it a bit more, and realized that if I put up a small piece of drywall between the tub and the existing vanity, then we would have to put a seal there. That is no good. So maybe we do have to take the vanity out! Wait. I have an idea. Why not just cut off a few inches of the vanity? That is what I decided to do.

old drywall removed

After removing the old drywall and part of the vanity

While visiting my friend Sean last week in St. Louis, we were talking about home improvement, and I inquired if he had a reciprocating saw, otherwise known as a Saws-all. It turns out he does, and he let me borrow it. I put it to good work. I got to work about 8:00 in the morning, after having started fires in both the woodstove and the cookstove (high of about 15 yesterday and today). I started off removing remaining bits of nails from the old drywall from the studs, cleaned the plastic moisture barrier with some 409, and got ready to hang the first piece of cement board. The cement board we bought comes in 3′ x 5′ sheets, very convenient, since standard bathtubs are 5′ long. However, as I keep learning over and over again, sometimes things don’t quite fit. The cement board was too long. I had to cut about an inch off. And that of course is a real pain, but I cut it off, and then I hung it with the fancy cement board screws that we had bought. Fairly easy. At this point I decided to re-measure how high up the cement board would go. 3′ times 2 is 6 feet or 72 inches. I had cut the old drywall about 71 inches high. So, instead of taking 1 inch off the cement board, I took another inch off the drywall. I decided to try out the saws-all for this task, and it performed very nicely.

close-up of vanity

Close-up of the vanity after cutting off several inches

Once I had gotten going with the saws-all, I decided to try to take off some of the vanity. I started cutting through the countertop along one of the grout lines in the tile. This worked somewhat, but not very well, and I quickly dulled the heck out of the blade. I discovered it was much easier to chip off the mosaic tile with a chisel and hammer. Then I used the circular saw to cut through the plywood counter top. After a bunch of fiddling around, I finally figured out how to remove the drawers from the cabinet, and was able to salvage them and the metal tracks as well. Maybe we will use those elsewhere in the bathroom. I then continued for several hours sawing and hammering and chiseling, until I slowly started to get to the bottom of the cabinet. At that point I was getting hungry, so I had a little lunch, and talked with Dave and Ellen a while, who gave me some more tips on the bathroom project, including the fact that the PVC pipe in the cabinet that seemed to go to nothing did in fact go to nothing, so I cut it off (with the Saws-all). Shortly after lunch I was trying to cut through the bottom of the cabinet, and the second saw blade broke. I headed out to Pell’s, where they once again had everything I needed. I got five blades in total, including a pair of “demolition” blades. The demolition blade had no problem going through the metal of the floor heater under the old vanity which no longer works. I finally got through all the cabinet and removed all the nails from the studs, so I was about ready to hang the drywall.


The tool of the day — The saws-all. Thanks Sean!

Before hanging the drywall though, I had to put in a few more 2″x4″s as backing pieces for the drywall and cement board. The cement board was going to come out 30″ from the back of the tub, but the nearest stud was about 33″, so I cut a stud to about 84″ (since the ceiling is sloped), stuck it in, then attached it to the other stud with a few short pieces of 2″x4″. I also put in some cross pieces around the tub for the top of the backerboard / bottom of the drywall.


Extra stud attached with several small blocks.

By the time I had gotten all the 2″x4″s cut to the desired length, I was hungry again, so I had a little dinner. After dinner I decided to keep working for a couple hours more. I cut the drywall to the desired length, and then discovered 2 more slight differences when going to hang it — (1) I needed to cut out about 1/2″ more of the old drywall, and (2) I was going to have to remove a couple rows of the mosaic tile on the floor to get the drywall to fit right. After doing these 2 tasks, I was able to successfully hang the drywall (though I will have to save a couple screws for while the old vanity is out). And, around 8:30 p.m. I decided to see if all of my work with the vanity and drywall in order to correctly put up the cement board actually worked. Much to my delight, it did. I still have a good 2-3 hours left to finish hanging the cementboard. Then I’ll need a couple hours to tape and mud it, and then we can finally start tiling!

hung cement board

Several pieces of cement board finally hung
drywall by the vanity

Close-up of the cut-off vanity with drywall slipped in behind it