Tag Archives: grout

Grout and our Short-lived Shower Pan

I’d like to say last weekend was productive, but it was one of those two steps forward, one step back weekends. Our two steps forward was getting our drain, shower pan, and the last of the tile installed, and grouting all of our floor tile. Our one step back was ripping our shower pan back out on Sunday. Let me explain…

First, we purchased the Oatey 2″ offset drain from Lowe’s which shifted the drain just enough since our pan was a tad off. Early on Saturday Nik got the pipe cut down, and adhered the drain on with plumber’s PVC primer and cement. It fit perfectly! On to the next step.

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Next, the instructions for the shower pan say to lay it over a bed of mortar, to hold it in place and offer additional support. They said the mortar should be ~3/8″ thick towards the drain which is closer to the ground, and up to ~3/4″ thick towards the sloped edges. So pretty much filling the cavity under the pan. Simple enough. Here’s a picture of the pan fresh out of the box:

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And this is what the bottom looks like (set on the ground, one end was slightly lower than the other, so we used some thin strips of black plastic-y material we had to make it just a smidge higher):

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I went to Lowe’s, and instead of purchasing our normal latex-modified mortar that we use for tiling, I asked the associate what he’d recommend for a mortar bed for putting a shower pan over. He quickly referred me to the “thick bed mortar,” as the product we were definitely looking for, which I purchased 100 lbs of. We got it home, and upon closer inspection of the instructions, it seemed this product was more for building an actual shower pan. As in, a concrete do-it-yourself pan that you make into the shape you want using a wooden frame, then screed it to make it smooth, then tile over. Definitely not our application. But, mortar is mortar right? (Wrong).

We tried mixing it up as per the instructions, and it was like crumbly wet sand. At this point, intelligent people would’ve said…this doesn’t seem like the right mortar, let’s stop. But we stubbornly pressed forward and packed it into a mortar bed under where the pan would go and placed the pan over it.

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The pan seemed to be resting high, so we pulled it back up, smoothed and thinned out a few areas of mortar, put the pan back down, repeated this a second time, and gave up after the third adjustment and said let’s just let it sit and see how it looks tomorrow. We then added our last couple rows of missing tile going right up to the pan (in my dress, of course, since we were running short on time getting out to our nice birthday dinner!)

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Sunday morning I reached under the pan from the exposed sides and the mortar there just crumbled under my fingers. We also had some dried mortar left over in the garage and it was super crumbly as well. So Nik grabbed the edge of the shower pan to try to lift it up as the final test, about 20 hrs after setting it, and the pan came right up, with little to no effort. The mortar under the pan was a partially dry crumbly mess, that shoveled right off the subfloor in approximately 5 minutes.

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I saved a bag of it and brought it back to Lowe’s, saying they recommended the completely wrong stuff, and thankfully they gave me my money back for all 100 lbs.

In retrospect, we’re confident that our standard latex-modified mortar will do the job just fine – and if the Lowe’s employee that I mistakenly trusted as a person who knows things about what they sell  hadn’t interfered and recommended the wrong thing, we probably would’ve done it right the first time. Unfortunately, we had just installed the last row of tile leading to the shower pan so we wanted to wait for that mortar to thoroughly dry Sunday before attempting the pan re-install, so it is still not done.

On Sunday we instead devoted ourselves to grouting the floor, since all the tile was down and we didn’t want to deal with the pan again yet. We mixed 75% Delorean gray with 25% bright white (TEC brand grout) to make a medium gray that was a little lighter than the tile color, and then got to work spreading. We mixed up 2 lbs of grout and that covered about 2/3 of the floor, then did a final batch of 1 lb of grout to finish it up. We made just enough (literally down to the last teaspoon) and got it done.

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After the initial spread with the grout float, we followed up 20-30 minutes later with a lightly damp sponge rub-down, followed by another lightly damp sponge rub down, then a 45 minute wait and a final lightly damp towel buffing immediately followed by a dry towel buffing. It’s Friday, and my hand muscles are still sore!

I was a little worried about buffing the tiles clean, since some people had left reviews that the leathery nature of the tiles made buffing tricky because they weren’t shiny smooth tiles, but we had no issues.

Here’s how it looked Sunday night – we’re very pleased with how it turned out.

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Finally, we purchased new floor trim (baseboards and shoe trim) that I painted our trim white paint color, so that can now be installed over the tile floor…although wall paint might come first so we don’t have to be careful painting next to the new trim.

Cost for this floor tiling was mortar (~$42 for 2x  50 lb bags), the tile itself ($130), the cement board ($55), cement screws (can’t remember, I think they were about $15), 1/3 bag of grout ($10), and the new floor trim (~$40). A tad under $300.

Our goals for this week are to finish the last coat of paint on the vanity followed by a coat of polycrylic sealer, get the shower pan in properly, paint at least part of the wall so we can install the floor trim, and maybe move onto installing the hardibacker cement board around the shower so we can move on to tiling the shower wall in the next few weeks!

On an unrelated note, our garden is becoming quite prolific, with jalapenos and roma tomatoes soon to come!

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3 Weeks to Go!

Well we have about 3 weeks to go till our wedding, and I’m pretty sure we have more than 3 weekends of work to do on the kitchen before then…so we’ll see how far we get, and our guests will just have to accept the slow reality of DIY renovation!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and since then I’m happy to say our backsplash is installed and about 2/3 of the way done with being grouted. Here’s some pictures of the backsplash pre-grout:

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And the cutouts Nik made around the window frame:IMG_1048

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And also the new cabinet in the corner:

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We had a minor set back Saturday, when we turned on the tile saw and smoke erupted out of it. We figured out it was the capacitor which had fried…and of course Skil is not opened on the weekend to help us deal with it being covered under the 1 year warranty. So we went to Lowe’s and just bought a new one for $90 so we wouldn’t be slowed down. Once we get the part to fix the old one…is there anyone who wants a tile saw?

After giving all the tiles time to dry out, we applied grout yesterday. We wanted a light gray, and tested out a few ratios of dark gray grout with white grout. We settled on mixing 1 part gray grout with 2 parts white grout:

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And then the fun (read: stress) began:

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Even though I’ve grouted twice before, and should know by now that IT’S GOING TO LOOK LIKE CRAP WHEN YOU DO THE INITIAL APPLICATION BUT IT’S GOING TO BE OK IN THE END, I still freak out when applying it. Grout is stressful because you have to apply it heavily to make sure you get it in all the cracks adequately which takes a while, then 20 minutes after application you wipe it down with a slightly wet sponge, then wait anther 30 minutes to buff it. But it takes longer than 20 minutes to do a few feet of wall, and then you want to keep going with the grout in the bowl to not waste it before it hardens…but it’s time to start sponging, and two people can’t be in the same place at the same time…and you see where this is going.

But after several near-nervous-breakdowns and several hours of time we managed to finish about 2/3 of the kitchen, and sure enough it looks wonderful:

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In retrospect, subway tile was a challenge – not because of the tiling part, which went very well, but because of how time consuming the grouting was. With larger tiles, it’s less work, but with these small tiles there are so many edges and you really have to ensure every edge of every tile gets good grout coverage. But I love the look, and I love the subtle gray grout color we made.

Our cabinets have made substantial progress (although not yet done). The doors all have 2 coats on the front, so just a coat of sealer and the fronts will be done. Then the backs need another coat or 2, and a coat of sealer. And the cabinet frames (in the kitchen) need their sealer.

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So what’s the plan for the next 3.5 weeks? Our goals are to finish the grout and caulk around the tiles, hopefully finish painting/sealing cabinets, drilling and adding hardware and re-mounting the doors, cleaning up the quarter round floor trim with some paint-touchups, putting our pantry door back on, and hopefully making and mounting the shelves for next to our sink. We bought these cool rustic brackets off of Etsy  for the shelves:

DIY Rustic Shelf Bracket Hangers Lip Metal Shelve Mounting Angle Industrial HANDMADE 2

And we’re actually planning to use 1″ thick oak stair treads for the shelf – which will be stained and sealed. But we’ll see how far we get – there’s lots of wedding-to-do-list items for the next few weeks too, and getting successfully married might have to take priority over the kitchen!

 

Close to the End

This was a very productive weekend for the bathroom, and at this point we are so close to being done! On Saturday, we spent a long time looking at our backsplash tile to figure out the easiest/least wasteful way to cut it and get the coverage we wanted on the wall. We ended up just cutting 3 of the pieces in half, with plans to put the flat cut edge against the wall and the feathered ends hidden behind the vanity so we wouldn’t have to even deal with cutting them even. Here’s Nik doing the down-the-middle cut of our first piece:

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The cuts went ok; we definitely got pieces here and there that got chipped at the edge as the blade cut through but overall it went better than expected.

We laid out the edge pieces and then figured out how to feather in pieces to fill the space above the vanity:

Unfortunately, this design is basically made up of four interlocking quadrants for each piece, so the dimensions were kind of set in stone with ~6″ square increments, and the only way to change them would be to mess with the flat edges we cut, but we only had about 1.5″ of wiggle room there before the uneven edges would show on the side of the vanity. Fortunately, when we laid it out on the verge of panic as to whether the spacing would work, the configuration came out to 31.5″ wide, and our room is 32″ wide. We felt this was good enough and we’d grout in the extra 1/4″ on each side.

So here’s the layout, with the white cardboard representing where the vanity would come up to:

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So on to mortar and laying the backsplash:

Turns out spreading mortar and laying tile on a vertical wall is much more challenging than a floor. The right side had some issues sliding downward so it needed some stressful adjusting to get it to fit properly. But the finished product came out nicely:

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We dragged the vanity in again to see how it looked:

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Then we left it alone to harden over night. On Sunday, we started off by filling and caulking all the baseboard cracks, and then painting the baseboards and door casing with a fresh coat of white trim paint. Then, Nik started configuring the toilet drain. We thought we’d need a flange extender since we were adding the tile, which came up much higher than the old laminate flooring. However, when we put the 5/8″ extender on with the foam ring (a replacement for the wax ring), the toilet was about 3/8″ too high off the floor. So we removed the flange extender and just went with the foam ring, and the toilet sat flush with the tile.

And (finally!!) we got to install our new toilet seat, that started this whole renovation. I wanted to wait till the very end to put this on to signify closure of this project, but then Nik reminded me how annoying it is to go all the way upstairs to pee, so on the seat went.

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We’re not 100% sure the foam ring alone without any flange extender at all is making a tight enough seal (we really needed a 3/8″ extender, not a 5/8″ one), but there’s no leaking when we flush and it smells fine. Unfortunately, the only good way to tell if the seal is tight is if you start to notice a bad sewage smell, it’s not tight enough. So we’ll see how that goes in the next couple weeks before we caulk around the toilet to seal it in place.

Next on Sunday, we grouted the backsplash tile. For me, this was one of the more stressful bathroom experiences so far. Lots of little tiles = more grouting work, and I was worried the grout wasn’t going to buff off of the less-smooth stone tiles.

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The sponging and buffing steps for this was very work intensive, because you basically had to polish the grout around every single tile until you were happy with how that grout line looked. But, I finally finished around 11:15pm last night and I think the outcome was good. You can also see the slightly thicker grout around the side edges of the backsplash, that made up that extra 1/4″ on either side. I put grout in a ziplock bag and piped it into this space like frosting, then Nik smoothed it with his finger. It’s a little thick, but I honestly don’t think it’ll be too noticeable when we get the vanity in.

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We were hesitant about using the same gray grout we used on the floor, but we decided to go with this after we saw the tiles set in the gray mortar and we kind of liked the darker contrast. I also think it makes the whole tone of the backsplash a little more gray than tan.

Here’s a view of our progress, all that’s left is installing the vanity and faucet, adding some decorative trim over the backsplash, and sealing the toilet and vanity with caulk. So close!

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Signs of Spring

When I was a little kid, nature was a big part of my world, thanks to my parents. My brother and I were always interested whatever wildlife we could get our hands on from our backyard (turtles, frogs, tadpoles, bugs of all sorts, a stray duckling, snakes, the list goes on). And my parents were avid gardeners, so we knew all about plants sprouting and growing from a young age.

One of my favorite springtime activities as a young kid was looking for “signs of spring” in the yard – I’d get all bundled up and go in search of new buds and bulb plants coming up out of the leaves or snow. My mom says I knew the names of all the different types of flowers.

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It’s only February now, but our daffodils stared sprouting weeks ago, and the pink cherry trees in our neighborhood are in full bloom. Nik’s fig tree (that originally came from a family tree in Italy years ago, and our clipping came from an established tree in his parents’ yard in Pennsylvania) also had a bud which means it survived its first winter in our ground.  It’s exciting to be in my own house as an adult and appreciate the signs of spring in my new yard.

Since the weather finally got warm this weekend and no more torrential rains are predicted for the next week I put some grass seed down. Our lawn has a fair amount of weeds, but they’re kind of green so I was hesitant to kill them. I’m starting with fescue grass and we’ll see what comes up. Once the grass has become more established I might try to go back with a weed killer.

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I also got a few planters going on my back porch for herbs. I haven’t planted them quite yet, but the soil is in them waiting for it to warm up a little bit more.

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I also got some seeding trays and I’ve started some vegetables from seed in the warm, sunny guest bedroom upstairs. Sure enough, our garden application to the HOA got rejected since it lacked an official survey (but it sounds like they didn’t even take the time to read all the information we did submit), so I’ll have to talk to them this week to see how we can appeal, hopefully still without having to get a survey done, but I think they’re going to be difficult about this unfortunately.

With the warm weather, we’re also seeing more animals in our yard and neighborhood – in the last week, we saw the rabbit that lives in our yard (I named him Peter), 3 deer, a giant opossum, a woodpecker, a baby garden snake, and a large hawk. I’ve also seen bluebirds in the area – I want to get a bluebird house up in the yard to see if we can attract a pair.

Our bathroom has continued to progress. This weekend we got our floor tile grouted – we only made about a fifth of the grout package, and it turned out to still be too much. IMG_0579We scooped some onto the tiles and started smoothing it into the cracks with a float.

The float was making the grout sort of crumbly and dry looking so we added some more water and it went in a little smoother. I still wasn’t convinced it would look nice and smooth when we were done. After applying it, you have to wait about 30 minutes to wipe it down with a slightly wet sponge. It came right off the tiles, and the grout lines immediately smoothed out – problem solved!

We wiped 3 times, then got a rag and buffed the remaining haze off the tiles.

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I don’t think we could’ve asked for better grouting! Next, we used some salvaged pieces of baseboard and shoe trim to cut pieces for the left side of the bathroom to cover where the old vanity was. I gave them a quick coat of trim paint and Nik cut them to size, now they just need to be attached with the nail gun, and the trim that was already in the room needs to be painted to match.

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The next step is adding our backsplash. On Saturday night Nik had a dance performance so I went to Lowe’s to look for tile. I reflected a little while I was in the store by myself, at 8pm on a Saturday night, looking like a hobo in my dirty grouting clothes, spending an inordinate amount of time staring at backsplash tile, and trying to extract as much information as I could about laying backsplash from the  Lowe’s associate I found – turns out their most knowledgeable associates definitely choose to work “off hours” when the store is emptiest, like late on a Saturday night =) But when this bathroom is done, I think it’ll be worth it.

I picked out some tile that I thought would work for several reasons – it is slightly beige toned but still has gray, so I think it will match the walls and help warm up the room. It was about $12 a square foot which is pricey, but we only need about 5 square feet. It has no glass mosaic tiles – all ceramic/porcelain, so we could use the current blade on our tile saw to cut it. And, the shape of the tiles makes sense for our wall – anything with larger tiles, like subway tile, probably wouldn’t look as good along the side of our vanity, which has only about a 4″ clearance on either side.

On Sunday Nik and I dragged the vanity base into the room to hold up the tile and see how it all looked together. The vanity looks very dark in the room, with the light behind it, which we weren’t expecting. It looks more dark brown than light gray. But brown is alright, since the tile has warm tones.

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It’s coming together!