Monthly Archives: August 2017

Paint it Red

Well, we didn’t get to tiling last weekend but we did manage to spend about $350 on tile, special mortar, mirror mounting brackets, a few other things we needed at Lowe’s. The tile that got us was the stupid bullnose tiles for the edge. You think, oh the edge, that’s not that much, it’ll be cheap. But when we actually added it up, we needed 22 linear feet of edging, and at $3.58 per foot that definitely added up. We also bought 6 boxes of 7 tiles, 2 square feet each at $1.99/sq foot, knowing we’ll have some extra that we can return. And we finally picked our accent tile, which will go around the shower in a thin band, and also fill the back of our niche. I think strongly contrasting accent tile is trending out, so I wanted something neutral but still noticeable. Our tile choice had an option for small mosaic tiles in a 12″ square pack, so we decided our accent line would be 2 rows of this. Something slightly different, but not too eye catching:

Product Image 1So most of the shower will be horizontal 12×24″ tiles of that color, with the small accent. I even found a picture on the Lowe’s website of the two next to each other:

Product Image 4

To finish prepping the shower, I showed last time how we mortared all the seams with alkali tape. Then last Saturday we busted out the Red Guard waterproofing membrane. This stuff was like painting with hot pink pudding. We stirred it then started with a cheap brush doing all the corners and edges, then went at it with a very bushy 3/4″ nap roller to coat the rest. IMG_3935


It dries red, so you know when it’s ready for another coat. We had plenty for a second coat, which is when they officially declare it “waterproof” vs just water resistant. I’ve never used the ‘As seen on TV’ Flex Seal product, but I imagine this is very similar. It was flexible, and seemed like a thin layer of textured plastic when dry. The gallon cost $50, and we had about 1/4th of the pail left over.


After red guard, we went around with a silicone caulk gun to fill the gap between the shower pan and the bottom of the cement board. One of these gaps was at least a good 1/4″, which took several caulk applications to make me feel good about it. Tile will cover over this, and then we’ll put one more caulk line between the tile and the shower pan. Extra caulk sealing certainly never hurt anyone.

I also took some pictures of our newly-mounted mirrors, and the vanity with all the hardware and doors freshly attached. We had these handles left over from a previous project, and they don’t 100% match the faucets despite their color also being called ‘brushed nickel’, but for free I’ll take them! We still need to do some painting on this wall, since we thought we were rehanging the giant mirror, so that will have to wait until we finish painting the area around the shower:


We decided to stay home for the long weekend, and buckle down on the shower. In theory, we should be able to get the tile mounted and grouted, with some time left over for Labor day drinks!

Back to the Bathroom!

When we started our master bathroom renovation, the big goal was to have it completed by the time we went on our trip, since Nik would be going to back to teaching soon after returning. Well, we didn’t quite make the deadline but we’re back at it in earnest, so I’m hoping within the next few weekends this project really starts to wrap itself up.

When we left for vacation, we were in the middle of the frustrating cement board installation on the shower walls:


It was going very slowly, and we were really struggling to get the cement board to break in the right places – it can’t really be “cut”, so you’re supposed to “easily score and snap it”, according to the website. But, it’s 1/2″ thick cement fiber board, and unfortunately, neither of us is the Hulk.

But this past Saturday, refreshed and renewed, we got back at it, and began using a revised method of breaking the 1/2″ thick concrete boards by raising the desired part up off the ground on some 2×4’s, with the part we were planning to break off in the air, and then stomping on the break point that we scored with a blade. This worked about 90% of the time, and we were even able to use a modification of this method to bust out a circle using some scoring and a hammer to  go around the shower faucet.




I think the big difference was moving the boards outside…where I wasn’t worried about what was under them. Previously, we’d been attempting to do this in the bathroom, over the newly tiled floor, so I think we were being overly delicate. Anyways…

We got the boards mounted and screwed reasonably well into the studs with the alkali resistant Hardi screws. A few of the screws crumbled edges of the board, but nothing bad enough to not move forward. Seeing all the pieces in place after finishing (and no more studs to be seen!) was such a refreshing sight! It made me feel like a legitimate contractor (if I ignored the fact that this single part of the project took us about a month and a half to do). So that was Saturday.

On Sunday, we ran some errands in the morning and ended up at Home Goods looking at mirrors. Nik has been worried about reinstalling our old huge mirror because he felt it would be hard to mount safely, plus building a nice frame around it would take time and I think we’re both about ready to be through with this project. We found some nice sized simple mirrors for $80 each, so we bought two to mount side by side. When I saw how excited Nik was at this purchase, I felt bad that I haven’t been giving him more breaks like this! We also got the sink backsplash affixed to the wall, and I sealed the doors with polycrylic. To fully wrap up the sink area, we need to mount the mirrors, caulk around the backsplash, install the doors and attach the pulls, and line the cabinets with new liners, most of which are easy jobs that we can get done this weekend:


Later on Sunday, Nik got to work on some of his lesson planning for teaching, and I got to work mixing up a small batch of mortar to patch the shower seams. This involved smearing mortar on the seam, embedding a a 2″ strip of alkali resistant tape, and smoothing it over. I can’t remember if I mentioned our shower niche, but it’s that black thing:


Close-up of the tape:



Now that this is done and dry, the next step will be waterproofing everything by rolling on 1-2 coats of red guard membrane, which we may begin to tackle tonight. The next step is mortar and tile, which I can’t wait for!

Bathroom Break, Part II

As promised in the last post, I’m going to pick back up with our trip, at day 7.5! We have a (fun?) weekend planned of finishing our shower cement board installation so I’m excited to show an update on that next week.

So, back to Utah. After a morning of Canyonlands, we headed out towards Capitol Reef. In my googlemaps perusing, I saw a tiny little park off of our route, called Goblin Valley State Park. After a bit of research, I decided we’d be stopping there. The road leading to this park, both the highway (and by highway, I mean the tiny two-lane road) and then the side road, were so desolate, hot, dry, and remote it was actually a little scary. We’re glad we filled up with gas at the last station, a hundred miles back, because there wasn’t gas for another hundred at least! Goblin Valley is a small valley filled with short, sandstone shapes that look like little mushrooms, so-called ‘Goblins’. The park lets you walk right down among them which was really cool. We only lasted about 30 min, because it was so hot, but we got some good pictures!







After leaving here, we got to Capitol Reef National Park. We kind of just did a drive-through, with plans to hike some trails in it the next day, but those plans ended up changing. We did stop for a scenic point called the Goosenecks Canyon, however, although cloudy skies obscured the famous sunset at this place:



We stayed at a nice resort just outside of Capitol Reef, which was a bit touristy (they had teepees you could stay in, but at $260 a night this was out of our budget!). It did have beautiful views, though, and they had a cowboy on site who gave us a short horseback ride the morning of day 8:




After our horseback adventure, we packed up and headed out of the Capitol Reef area south on Scenic Route 12 (also called the “Million Dollar Highway”, containing a portion referred to as “Hell’s Backbone”). It was beautiful driving, unusual canyons and constantly changing scenery. We were aiming for a trail head in Grand Staircase Escalante National Park called Lower Calf Creek Falls, which was a long trail at almost 6 miles round trip, but we decided it was higher on our list than any of the hikes in Capitol Reef. We found a gourmet lunch spot a few miles before we got to the trail head, so we stopped and it was delicious! We sat on their patio, and Nik (reluctantly) had to share his space with the restaurant’s ancient resident patio cat, Jezebel.



After our yummy lunch, we continued down the road, and it turns out they were doing construction on Hell’s Backbone. This portion of the road is essentially a narrow ridge along the top of a canyon – the ground literally drops off on either side of the road! And with the construction there were areas missing guard rails and road markers, and they actually had an escort truck leading each cohort of cars past the construction. Nerve wracking!! We finally reached the trail head to Lower Calf Creek Falls and it was a beautiful hike through a canyon with smooth, striated red sandstone, with an amazing waterfall at the end.







After our hike, there was about an hour left to go to get to our hotel outside of Bryce Canyon. On Day 9, we woke up early to get into Bryce before the crowds. The drive in was surprisingly forested terrain, and it was chilly as well (Bryce has high elevation). Despite it being called a canyon, it actually was not formed by a river, but whatever weather elements caused it, the outcome was beautiful. These first two pictures are fun – that very high point in the top right of the first picture is zoomed in for the second picture and you can see teeny people standing up there. Just to give an idea of the enormous scale of this canyon!!


We hiked the Navajo trail to go down below the rim, which was pretty intense going down into the huge spires, the technical term for which is “hoodoos”:




And on our way out we stopped to see Natural Bridge, which was also beautiful:


After our morning at Bryce, it was on to Zion! The last half hour of this drive actually entered into Zion National Park to reach the main town that everyone lodges at, and it was unbelievable. There were numerous tunnels we had to drive through because there wasn’t enough room on the side of a cliff to make a road. It was really breathtaking! We woke up super early on Day 10 to get into the park, because the crowds were intense and due to the busy summer, they only allow entrance to the park on a shuttle…which you have to wait for. Even at 7:15am, we had to wait about 30 minutes to board a shuttle! But it was worth it!


We knew the park would get crowded so we picked our top hike and got started. We wanted to do the infamous Angel’s Landing, which is just steep and strenuous for the first 2 miles to Scout’s Overlook. At this point, most people turn back, but the adventurous ones can continue another 0.5 miles on a narrow, steep trail that at some points has 1,000 foot drops offs on either side of a 3 foot wide trail with a chain in the middle. It was pretty intense, and we were indecisive of whether we wanted to risk it. Several people die each year falling off this trail. But we went for it, and unfortunately there aren’t a bunch of pictures of the narrow, chain rope portion (since my hands were on the chain, not my camera!) but the view at the top of the final peak was fantastic. It certainly felt so high that angels would land here! Here’s some pictures of us on the way up, and finally at the top:


After the exhilaration of not dying on that hike, we decided to do one more easy hike all the way at the north end of the park that is a riverside stroll leading up to the other infamous Zion hike, the Narrows. Where the riverside path ends, the Narrows begins…IN THE RIVER. Literally, the river is the trail. So only serious hikers who have the right equipment to essentially the bottom of a canyon, often wading and swimming, continue much past this part. Flash floods through these slot canyons claim lives each year so there’s a lot of information warning about weather conditions. A lot of people go up the Narrows maybe half a mile or so, just to see what it’s all about though, so here’s a picture of that (note that I couldn’t even begin to get a picture of the river and the sky in the same frame, that’s how monolithic the canyon walls were!):


So, that was the end of Zion. After this last little hike, we headed out because it was getting really crowded. As in, the trails were wall-to-wall sweaty people. Crazy.

We headed out, grabbed lunch, and got on the road to Vegas! I don’t have many pictures from Vegas, but we stayed at the MGM Grand, and walked the strip for the evening. We got some food, but we were really too tired and hot to enjoy it – I was over 100 degrees even in the evening, plus, I think I was still on an adrenaline high because I kept thinking how only 8 hours before, I was on the top of Angel’s landing! We did see the Bellagio Fountains which were beautiful. And we spent $60 in slot machines, and walked away with 7 cents. The only other time I’ve played slots, I put in $2 and walked away with $60, so it seems the tables have definitely turned.

The next morning (day 11), we wandered around a little more, then caught our flight in the afternoon. We got home at 1am (with the time change), and it felt GREAT to sleep in our own bed! This was a perfect trip, because we obviously had an awesome time, and with how much hiking we did, we were also ready to go back to real life and our jobs after 11 days. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think Zion was mine, despite the crowds. What continued to shock us every place we went was that each park was so different. Different rock, different shapes, different trees, different landscape and animals. I was worried that we’d get tired of the “same national park scenery” but that was never an issue. Everything was amazing – you forget what unbelievable places are right in this country!

I haven’t added up exactly what we spent, but I’m pretty sure it was well under $4000, including all hotels, rental car, flights, meals, excursions, and our park fees. In grad school that would’ve been an insane amount to spend on anything, but now that we’re real adults, for the amount that we saw and did and the length of the trip, I think I did a pretty good job keeping it reasonable. It was certainly an unforgettable adventure, and I already want to start planning our next one!

Bathroom Break, Part I

It’s been a while since we had an update…but it was for good reason! Nik and I have been traveling for the past couple weeks, and we’re finally back and ready to finish up our bathroom. But since we have no progress to show from the last few weeks, I’ll show vacation pictures instead!

Nik attended the American Society of Microbiology conference for undergraduate microbiology teachers in Denver (to prepare him for his job search for a tenure-track professorship at a smaller liberal arts school where he’ll get to do teaching and research). I met him out there the last day of the conference, and this is where our trip began. We essentially road-tripped from Denver to Vegas (~1000 miles!) and stopped at numerous national parks in between, including Colorado ski country (Beaver Creek, specifically), Grand Mesa National Forest, Moab/Castle Valley Utah which was near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and finally Vegas.

While planning this trip, I was worried that the busy itinerary might kill Nik…he likes activity, but he also enjoys relaxing, which I have a particularly difficult time doing. But by the end of the trip, he was the one that was asking if we could fit one more hike into a busy day – I think he caught the hiking bug! Also, we were in an insanely beautiful area of the country, and I think even a person who loathed hiking would have wanted more!

I had rough plans of where we were going each day, and was armed with a guidebook I bought that highlighted the best hikes at each park, but other than that things were flexible. Our hotels ranged from very nice resorts (still at reasonable prices, with the off season rates) to extremely spartan lodgings to save some extra money, but all of them worked out perfectly with our route, and at the end of each day we would probably have slept just fine on a hard floor, we were so tired! I’ll show some snippets from each day of our trip – I’ll do the first week in this post, and our last few days in another post (too many pictures for one post!).

To start, here’s a map of our whole trip route, with some of the stops highlighted. We did this in ~10-11 days, but the travel really wasn’t too bad. Most days we didn’t drive more than 3 hours in the car, and it was all unbelievably scenic.

IMG_1 Map

Day 1/2 – I met Nik in Denver, and we had some good food and beer, and caught up with some of my good friends from college, their fluffy malamute Yeti, and their sweet little boy Logan. Then we headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens, (which were amazing!) and ended with a beer at the Vine Street Cafe before heading out to the mountains.






Day 3: Headed out to Beaver Creek, Colorado, and did a short detour off route 70 to the Loveland Pass (passing by Arapahoe Basin and a few other ski resorts) to really test out the rental car! The views were spectacular – the pictures really don’t do it justice! And there was quite a bit of snow still visible on the mountain tops. When we got to Beaver Creek in the afternoon, we decided to do a quick hike up one of the ski trails before dinner and found ourselves in beautiful lupine fields and aspen groves (which we mistakenly thought were birches at first).  A good first hike!







Day 4: We headed out bright and early (6:30am!) from Beaver Creek to get to the Hanging Lake trail head about an hour west. We were warned the parking lot for this popular hike fills up early – and this was true! It was grueling though – my altitude-naive lungs were quite winded after the 1.4 mile uphill hike (think stairmaster nonstop at 10,000 ft elevation) to the falls, but they were so worth it! The water was so clear, I even got a good picture of a lurking trout – which my dad promised to identify for me, so here’s the pic, Dad!









After the morning hike, it was onward Palisades, CO which is famous for its peaches and distilleries and breweries. We had great pitstops at the Palisade Brewing Company, Talbott’s Cider Company (we got delicious “Grow a Pear Cider”), and the Peach Street Distillers.  That afternoon, we headed to Grand Mesa National Forest. We passed isolated alpine lakes, and saw numerous yellow bellied marmots. And at our destination, we stayed in this teeny cabin, which was a little sketchy, but ended up being a comfortable evening.






Day 5: We woke up bright and early in our tiny cabin, and set out for a couple short hikes. Grand Mesa is a high, flat mountain, so it was all alpine forests and lakes, and beautiful wild flowers. It was so empty here – it felt like no one was around for miles, just very peaceful and serene. And it was cold – probably in the 50s when we woke up. After our morning hikes, it was on to Utah that afternoon! We stopped at The Colorado National Monument which is right on the border of Utah and saw some impressive canyons and rock formations (and wild bighorn sheep!):









After touring the Colorado National Monument, we headed on to Moab/Castle Valley Utah where we stayed for 2 nights, passing through the infamous Professor Valley, which made us feel so tiny. We got to Moab early enough in the afternoon that we did a quick evening hike through a beautiful wash in Arches national park, called Park Avenue.






Day 6: This day was devoted to the rest of Arches National Park, starting with a 3 mile crowded and strenuous hike to Delicate Arch early in the morning, then views of Skyline Arch and Balanced Rock, and ending with a quick hike through the Devil’s Garden area of the park to see the super-wide Landscape Arch (305 feet across!). We ended the day with a late afternoon kayaking trip through the Colorado River, and dinner with a stunning sunset at the beautiful Red Cliffs Lodge.











Day 7: We woke up to our second morning in Castle Valley (we were staying about 30 min outside of Moab, UT) and I took an early stroll around our beautiful bed and breakfast, with views of the red cliffs and the famous Castle Rock. Then we headed to Canyonlands National Park, and did a few short hikes to see views of Schaffer Trail Road, White Rim, Mesa Arch, and Grand View.








Alright, so that’s just about the first week of the trip so I’ll stop there for now. Still to come is Gobin Valley, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante Park, Bryce, and Zion! I’ll try to post before the end of the week, with a promise to make more bathroom progress this coming weekend to show next week!