Tag Archives: cement board

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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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Close-up of the tape:

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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!

In the Other Direction

The past few weeks has been all demo – ripping things out. For the first time in this renovation, we’ve started going in the other direction – putting new things in. Even though it’s so early in the renovation, it’s always exciting when we hit that point. It feels like real progress.

After the frustrations of last week, we’re past all of that and moving forward. But before we do, I promised some more demolition photos. Last weekend, our goal was to rip out the shower and remove the floor patch, both to check that whatever pipe fixes were under there looked ok, and also to redo the patch job so the new piece of wood actually lined up with the other existing pieces of subfloor in a sensible manner.

So the shower started out as this:

I feebly attempted to smash the back wall with a hammer, and that was unsuccessful. So Nik punctured it with something small, enough to get the blade of the Sawzall into it. Then he cut up and down. We then used the multitool to cut into the drywall a few inches above the insert – to clear the piece of the insert that is install under the drywall. We cut the shower into two wall wall pieces and a floor piece, and dragged them out to the backyard:

Looks simple, but it took us the better part of the day. Then on to the patch with the stupid edges:

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This took a lot of prying for Nik to get it out, but finally it came loose. They had built “fake joists” to anchor this beauty, which were entirely unsound, but did hold the patch down pretty good, making removal difficult. One of the fake support joists actually ripped out with the piece of plywood, and here are the remainders left behind:

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Anyways, we decided not to rip out those joists for fear of damaging something else down there, but we would not use them for support for the new piece. Subfloor is actually tongue and groove at each edge, so even the sides that are not supported with the joists under the subfloor have support from the tongue and groove. The issue with our patch is you can’t get a tongue and groove piece into place when there are already pieces on both sides – you have to build from one side to the next so you can insert the tongue into the slot, then the next piece inserts into the groove. The stupid person who did the original patch job didn’t want to deal with this, so they took the easy (incorrect) route and just threw a piece down that was flush on each edge. It did make a patch, but the edges were bouncy due to the lack of the tongue and groove support. So we did buy tongue and groove plywood, but to deal with the placement issue, Nik trimmed off just the bottom side of the grooved edge so that we could get decent support from the top groove edge while still being able to slide the piece into place. We bought 3/4″ OSB plywood for the patch, at $21 for a 4’x8′ sheet. We may be able to use the rest of that board for our vanity, when we mount it higher.

Here’s the final patch job, looking (and feeling) much better!

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There was one edge that was a smidge elevated, but 30 seconds with the belt sander took care of that.

So on to the tile foundation. Since learning that the Ditra stuff was going to be a pain with our 24″ non-standard joist spacing, we headed back to Lowe’s Friday night to purchase more mortar and cement board. We choose 0.25″ HardieBacker cement board, which came to only about $55 for 5 pieces. And we needed a bag of mortar ($21) and cement screws ($29), totaling about $105.  When I returned the two rolls of Ditra I had purchased, I got $176 back, and that wasn’t even including the thin set mortar that this item would’ve required to lay it. So at least we’re in the green on this (initially frustrating) error!

We got the 3×5′ cement board pieces upstairs and played floor tetris for a bit to figure out the best orientation to make sure our subfloor seams and patch job would be best supported with the cement boards. We made a few cuts to the board (you score it repeatedly with a razor blade, then sort of bend it to break it to size) and laid it all out, leaving space in front of where our shower pan will eventually be. We’ll have to revisit this spot once the pan is in:

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Once we had the pieces ready to be put in place, I told Nik to make his best “it’s time for mortar!” face, and this was the result (slightly skeptical and concerned):

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We went outside to mix up our mortar and this was stressful because we did way too large a batch at once, which put a lot of strain on our drill that was used to mix it – but luckily it survived. And then we got to work spreading – using a 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″ trowel size, then placing the board, then Nik following up with cement screws. We started on the far wall first, and did the three pieces along that wall:

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There’s 3 more pieces still to go on the other side of the room that we didn’t have time to get to – Nik had to go out of town to a conference on Sunday but he’ll be back later this week. It’s really a two man job, with the spreading, placing, and screwing the boards down in a timely manner (since the mortar only has about 30 minutes of pliable life). But it’s looking good – and most importantly, feels super solid. Next up will be another layer of mortar and then tile!

Speaking of tile, we brought home pieces of our top choices to see how they look in the room – we’ve selected “Mitte gray” 12×24″ tiles for the floor (the darker one) and “Leonia silver” 12″x24″ tiles for the shower. They’re between $1.79 and $1.99/square foot. These tiles are HEAVY and I’m worried about mounting them vertically on a wall (what if they come crashing off and damage my shower pan, and then I have to wait another month to get a new one!??). But apparently they make mortar that is for large tile or heavier natural stone applications that we might have to use – the porcelain grade mortar we’ve been using says it’s only good for up to 13″x13″ tile. And back  buttering the tiles helps as well. So here’s the tile – the Leonia has some warmer tones in it that I’m liking a lot, and the floor tile is a nice shade of gray that will hopefully hide dust/my hair very well. I’m liking how they look!

IMG_1870The leonia silver also has cute little mosaic tiles in the same color that are part of the collection, so we might use those to make an accent row in the shower. Or pick out some other fancier tile for a small accent row. But the accent tiles are expensive, and require more grouting work so we’ll see how ambitious/poor we’re feeling by that point!

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.