Monthly Archives: February 2016

Laying Tile

I’m happy to report that our floor tile was laid this weekend without any major issues! We got our tile saw ($80 on Amazon) on Thursday and Nik went to work assembling it. It has a little water trough under one side that you fill with water and as the blade turns it dips into that and throws water up on the top, to keep your tile wet and reduce friction.

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We grabbed a small test tile to see how it cuts, and it gave us great results:

So now on to figuring out our layout. We laid out tiles in a straight set and offset pattern, and agreed we liked the offset better for such a small space. We thought it would be easiest to start in the corner, with a half tile, then go from there. It seemed that this would make the cuts around the toilet the easiest.

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But then we started thinking that if we did it this way, there would be a seam in front of the toilet that would not be centered on the toilet. Would this look weird? I have no idea, but we changed our thinking and instead decided to center the tile on the toilet, so the seams on either side of the toilet would be symmetrical. This also meant we’d get 3 different width rows of tile going the long way…but we decided this was acceptable.

So since we started with the toilet, we had to cut our circular areas first. We did this by making parallel cuts into the circular area creating a row of cuts that looked like teeth. Then we just knocked out the teeth and cleaned up that edge with tile nippers. The circle came out perfectly!

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Next, we worked our way from there, around the toilet then the whole back wall, then the middle row, and finally the row along the door. We were just cutting and laying tile, with the 1/8″ spacers we bought, not actually adhering it to the floor.

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We had EXACTLY enough tiles…we should’ve had 1 extra, but I made a mistake cutting one and made it an inch shorter than it was supposed to be. We do have a lot of scrap tile left over, so maybe we’ll use it for a fun project in the future.

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So that was our progress on Saturday. On Sunday, it was time to actually lay the tile with mortar. Again, we used our 1/4″ mortar comb spreader tool, spread the area we were working on, back buttered the tile (meaning a thin layer of mortar spread onto the tile as well, like gritty butter on toast) then basically plopped the tile onto the floor, gave it a light smush, then moved on. After each adjoining tile, we’d add in the spacer, and check for levelness – more so levelness of one tile to the next rather than the actual floor being level, to prevent cracking. There was only one tile in the whole floor that was just higher than all the tiles around it (no idea why) so that one took a little adjusting of adjoining tiles to keep the floor as even as possible. Overall, it went very smoothly and we got the whole floor done in a couple hours:

So the tile is down…what’s next? We’ll remove the spacers and mix up our grout, which is a medium-dark gray color that has grout sealant already in it, saving us that step. We’ll fill all the cracks with that then wipe the tiles down with water and let the grout dry. Next we need to add our baseboards around the rest of the room, and tile our back splash (which seems much less complicated than the floor!) and grout that. Then the toilet and the vanity go back in and this project will be wrapped up.

Other news around the house is that we’re trying to make way with our vegetable garden. There was a little hiccup in this process since we found out our HOA ‘requires’ an official survey to put in an application for any exterior changes. We never got a survey since we have no intentions of building a fence or any structures near our property line, and I’m not eager to pay $300 to get one for this garden application. So, we did our best to download accurate plot plans from the DurhamMaps website and do some measurements to prove the garden will be over 9′ from our property line, so we’re hoping the HOA will grant us permission with this.

But in the meantime, I can show you the plans! We were originally thinking of using landscaping stones to make a raised bed garden, but then we thought proposing a raised  bed garden simply made out of wood would seem less “permanent” to the HOA, and perhaps make them more lenient with our application. So I think we’re going to use 6″ cedar planks to make an 8′ or 9′ by 5′ box, with a U shape and a small gate to get into the garden.

I made some simple sketches for the application using graph paper. I forgot how much fun graph paper is. Seriously, when’s the last time you used graph paper??garden pic 1garden pic 2

It’ll go along the side of our garage which gets decent sun, and there is a slight slope there so it’ll be higher on one side than the other. We’re planning to get garden fill dirt delivered – the whole reason for building it raised bed is because our yard is total clay, so getting some nice soil will be important. Keep your fingers crossed that the HOA lets us continue with this since spring is on it’s way and it’ll be time to plant soon!

 

 

 

Bathroom Progress

It’s been a little over two weeks since we tore out our bathroom so you’re probably curious about the progress we’ve made. We took a long time thinking about the logistics of this project, so to us it seems like more work has been done than it may appear!

Once we had the room down to the subfloor, we first worked on patching the wall since we had some areas that the drywall had been torn or was uneven. We used a mix of drywall joint compound, regular Spackle, and plaster compound (similar to Spackle but wetter) to patch these areas, and did a fair number of coats with sanding in between to get it just right.

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After talking with a guy who seemed to know his stuff at Lowes, to get the best results on a plywood subfloor we figured out we needed to lay mortar, cement board, mortar, tile, and grout. This was a bit more than we were expecting height-wise (it’ll probably be ~ 1/2″-2/3″ thick when done), and our hardwood floors right outside the bathroom are about 3/8″ thick plus the thin layer of foam, so about 1/2″ total. So we’ll have to think of the best transition piece to use between the two floorings if they’re slightly different heights.

We also learned that we need some sort of device for cutting the tile around the toilet, and decided to spring for a tile wet saw (we got a cheap one on Amazon for $80) combined with tile nippers to make these specific cuts. If we tile a backsplash in the kitchen and eventually tile either or both of the bathrooms upstairs, I think it’ll make this purchase worth it.

So here’s the tile we picked out, for a little less than $2/square foot. Since this room is approximately 15 square feet, and we bought some extra for inevitable mistakes, it was only about $42 for all the tile. It is ceramic, and they’re 12×12 squares. I like that it has a little texture with the striated lines in it, so it won’t be slippery. We picked a gray grout to go between the tiles, and 1/8″ spacers. We’re still debating whether to lay straight lines of the tile (which seems to be trending now) or off set them…

Last weekend we got the cement board cut to size which is done by scoring it with a razor and breaking it. Nik also used a screw set on a piece of wood to trace out a circle for the toilet and punch that out:

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And then this past Saturday Nik finally mixed up some of our mortar, got it spread on the floor with a 1/4″ comb, and maneuvered the 1/4″ cement board into place.

Then Nik screwed the cement board down with cement screws to secure it. And then we waited for it to dry!

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On Monday, UNC had a snow day so I went into work, and Nik stayed home and got 2 coats of our gray paint up. Here’s the paint, if you can get a good impression of the color from this picture (I think its more similar to the left picture, a warmer gray):

You’ll notice we didn’t do the whole vanity wall…I’m thinking I want to do a cool tile back splash on the wall since our vanity doesn’t have a back splash. The vanity will almost go to the wall on each side, so I thought some little accent tiles that will go up around the side of the vanity, and then a few inches above the top of the vanity will add some interest to this room without breaking the bank. Kind of like this, except in our tiny bathroom you’ll see just a hint of tile on either side:

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Our tile saw will show up this week, so I’m anticipating that we can get our floor tile in this weekend, and maybe get this back splash tile picked out so things can keep moving along.

 

 

 

 

 

China Cabinet and Appliances

I got so excited to tell you about our bathroom destruction, I never posted about our finished china cabinet. I bought this in the fall of 2014, with intentions of selling it once it was refinished since it would never have fit in our apartment. We worked on it slowly at our friend’s house (where it was being stored), and it was slowly enough that by the time we were finished, we’d bought our house and had a real dining room to put it in!

I paid $50 for this cabinet, which started out pretty rough, with pieces of wood broken off/bashed in, and a huge water stain on the bottom shelf:

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We knew we couldn’t salvage parts of the wood that had damage, so we patched them extensively with wood filler, and decided we’d paint those parts, and stain the door fronts and two top shelves since those were in better condition. So we got to patching, sanding, and priming:

We finished with 3-5 coats of paint (the water spot needed many coats to cover it), and also gave the shelves and doors a protective coat of water-based poly. We didn’t poly over the paint, since it was semi-gloss so it had some protection built in. Finally we screwed the doors on and added the extra shelf.

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This cabinet has two cool pieces of class that cover the top shelves, so we dug those pieces out and fitted them in to complete the piece:

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So here’s the finished product, with a before and after picture:

And here’s our whole dining room put together with the cabinet and our new rug and our botanical prints hung up:

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And, we also have our kitchen appliances installed! We didn’t want to pay the $150 for Sears to install the dishwasher so Nik hardwired it and hooked up all the plumbing pretty effortlessly all by himself (one of the many reasons I love him!), and we ran it last night without issues. Here’s how that went:

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And success!

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And our stove and fridge, which the delivery folks installed for free:

So now that our kitchen has functional appliances and our dining room is done, we have to start inviting friends over for dinner!

If you give us a toilet seat…

Have you heard of the children’s book “if you give a mouse a cookie?” The story goes on that if you give the mouse a cookie then he asks for milk…then he asks for a straw…then it continues to escalate as he asks for more things. Apparently our “cookie” is a toilet seat. And when we bought a new toilet seat on Saturday evening to replace the old one on our downstairs toilet and spruce up the bathroom a bit, in a matter of hours (and completely on a whim) we went from this:

To this:

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Now, we have been planning to eventually demo this bathroom this month, but it was not planned to be started this soon. So, it seems like our children’s book goes something like “if you give us a simple toilet seat…we’ll tear a bathroom down to the subfloor.” Our future kids wil be DIY pros if we read them this kind of story!

To show you step by step how we did this, we started with the toilet. Nik turned the water off, then flushed to empty the tank. Then he sopped up extra water with a sponge and  loosened the bolts.

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I grabbed a large bag, and Nik lifted the toilet up and straight into the bag to catch any dripping water. We plopped it on the deck for the time being:

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Then Nik scraped off the wax ring and stuffed the hole with a rag for the time being. Luckily he knows what he’s doing, because I (stupidly) thought that gross wax ring was poop. Can you blame me?

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Next we removed the counter top and side panels which required some maneuvering since it was actually wider than the wall with the door casing right there.

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And then out came the vanity, which is now residing in our garage as a handy workbench.

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Finally, the linoleum and underlayment it was glued to was ripped up, leaving approximately 1 million little staple nails behind in the subfloor which we plucked out one by one with a nail puller.

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We also removed the two weird pieces of wood that were behind the towel rack and toilet paper holder, which left behind a little damage in the drywall that’ll have to be patched.

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So next on the list, we need to pick out tile and figure out how to prep the subfloor to lay the tile. Then we’ll need to add some new floor trim around where the vanity was, since our new vanity won’t go all the way to the side walls. Then we’ll paint with some semigloss grey-beige clearance mismatch paint we found at Home Depot. Then we’ll need to install the vanity we bought a while ago, which will require some plumbing altering since this sink is about 4″ higher:

Style Selections Drayden Grey Integral Single Sink Bathroom Vanity with Cultured Marble Top (Common: 31-in x 19-in; Actual: 30.5-in x 18.75-in)

If we’re feeling artsy we might add something to the walls for more character – tiling or chair rail or something. I think we’ll also upgrade the mirror to something nicer with a frame. And finally, our toilet will go back in and the last piece will be put in place: the toilet seat that started this whole renovation!