Tag Archives: master bathroom

So Close, Then So Far

Well, we had good intentions when we were hoping to have our entire bathroom (shower included) functional by Thanksgiving. I mean, all we really had left to do was some trim installation and popping the new shower faucet hardware on this weekend. We should’ve known better that many things don’t just “pop” on, and this turns out to be the case for our shower faucet dial.

You know what I’m talking about – changing something that looked like this:

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Into a more updated one like this:Image result for pfister ladera

You would think that the old one comes off with some hidden screws (this was true), and then the new one fits into the standard plumbing that is under the old one and voila, updated hardware. WRONG.

Apparently almost every shower valve is unique to each brand of shower dial, and even if you use the same brand but the first one was 20 years old, they likely won’t be compatible. How do you fix this? You need to access the pipes, cut the old valve and surrounding piping out, reattach new copper piping to the new valve, install the new valve mounted to the studs under the wall, then weld those new pipes to the old ones (called ‘sweating the pipes’ as I found out, or you can buy fancy connectors that allow you to snap the pipes together). Home Depot has a very thorough video detailing this process, which was useful, but caused my anxiety to rise with each passing second as I realized what a big job this can be:

https://www.google.com/search?q=install+bathroom+shower+faucet&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#kpvalbx=1

Fortunately, Nik seems somewhat confident that he can do these things (one of the reasons I love him!), but the one complication is that WE JUST TILED OVER THE PIPES. So now we’re faced with cutting a hole in the drywall directly behind the shower wall (over the tub) to perform this surgery.

We did get a plumber to come over just to advise us and we’re waiting on the quote, but I think we’re going to end up trying to do this ourselves since I’m assuming it’ll be at least a couple hundred dollars to hire someone. We did look back at old pictures from when the wall was open, and realized that the two water lines leading into the old valve are plastic, so there will be only one copper line to cut and reattach which is the one that leads up to the shower head (the shower plumbing is off to the right in these pics – the plumbing that is straight ahead is actually for the bathtub in our guest bathroom):

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We actually have two options at this point, both of which will probably involve cutting into the wall. If we use the faucet set that matches our sink faucets (Pfister Ladera Trim Kit), this will require a totally new valve to be installed (so all the steps I listed above). But, we also ordered a “universal” faucet kit that is coming in the mail today, and that one supposedly is compatible with many types of valves and I believe our old valve pictured here will work with it:

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It still looks nice, but wouldn’t totally match the sink faucets. But, even for that kit I’m about 95% certain we’ll still need to open the wall to recess the old valve back into the wall about 1/2″ since our new tile is not as deep as the fiberglass insert that was there previously – you can kind of see the line where the wall used to hit the valve in this side picture:

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Might be an easier job that replacing the whole valve system, but if we’re going into the wall anyways, we might as well put in the hardware set we like better! We’ll make our final assessment tonight once we have both faucet sets to compare. The two kits were comparably priced, around $105-125, and include the shower head, temperature dial, and a tub spout, which we won’t use, so we’ll just cap off that connection on the valve.

Another annoying thing about this is that we now know we’ll have to do the same thing to replace the tub hardware in the master bathroom, meaning we’ll have to make an even larger hole in the wall to reach that plumbing (it’s in the same wall as the shower plumbing, just lower down). Still blows my mind that switching these fixtures out is so complicated…

Anyway, we did make progress elsewhere this weekend while waiting for that other faucet set to arrive today. I got the shower area all cut in with paint, but we’ll probably wait to fill in the larger areas with a paint roller once we’re all done with repatching the drywall hole to access the plumbing. Nik and I installed the baseboard trim and quarter round for the rest of the room. I got it all caulked last night and filled the nail holes – now all that’s left is the touch up paint! Trim is amazing – these are before and after pictures and the trim is about the only difference, but it makes the room look so much more finished:

I also finished the last few remaining sections on the sink that needed caulking:

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Last night we moved back in to start using this sink so all we’ll have to share with my family in the other bathroom is the shower. Not too bad, and I might even convince Nik and my dad to busy themselves working on this shower plumbing adventure to remove them from the Thanksgiving kitchen madness!

Shower Progress

I was looking back through my summer calendar, and almost laughed out loud when I saw that this renovation was scheduled to be completed in July. HAHA. Makes me laugh again. Sadly, we are still working on this bathroom. Which is partly our fault, since we’ve had plenty of weekend days we just didn’t FEEL like doing work on it, so we didn’t. Fortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel became a lot brighter last weekend with the installation of the shower door, and now most of what’s left is purely cosmetic.

The most difficult part of finishing up the shower has been patching the space between the tile and the drywall, since the cement board under the drywall (the red and darker grey area) was about 1/8-1/4″ thinner than the surrounding drywall:

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This has meant applying a thin coat of joint compound, sanding till smooth, then repeating approximately 932 times:

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I think it is ALMOST there – maybe 1 more coat this weekend, and we’ll be ready for wall paint. We got all the door framing up last weekend, including about 2 hours that it took for Nik to drill 4 holes through hard porcelain tile (and the mortar and cement board underneath it!). After all that drilling, we forgot to take a picture of Nik’s perfect drill holes, but we did take one of the final frame installation:

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We haven’t actually put the doors on yet, just to make the sanding/painting part easier, but at this point it’s just lifting the door panels into place when we’re ready for them:

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Nik also finished caulking and installing the shower drain the other weekend, so that is all done:

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Another problem we had to tackle was figuring out how to caulk between the shower pan and the first row of tiles. This was fine on the right side of the shower, where this gap was a perfectly caulkable size of about 1/8″ thick. However, this gap was significantly larger on the left side of the shower, closer to 1/2″. We couldn’t come up with a better strategy for filling it, so I just squirted in several thick layers of clear silicone caulk. It seems successfully filled at this point, but when clear caulk is that thick, it’s not really very clear.

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Once the door is in place, I’m sure it won’t be noticeable. We’ll just have to clean it regularly and maybe replace it every year if icky stuff grows on it.

Next up is attaching the faucet hardware, which we need to pick up from the store. We’ll probably match the sink hardware, unless we find a set that has a hose attached to the shower head that looks decent. Our new greyhound, Gunnar, appears to lack all sense of agility and grace, so we’re thinking that future baths will probably be way easier in a walk-in shower vs having to help him navigate his bony, long, awkward legs over a tub wall. So it could make more sense to put a hose shower head in there, and they do make some pretty nice looking ones now. Here’s those long, bony legs I’m talking about!

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After those tasks are done, the last few things will be installing the remaining floor trim around the shower and the adjoining walls, which is already painted and ready to go. Although Gunnar doesn’t like people in driveways a hundred yards away, he seems to have no fear of loud noises or power tools, so he’s been extremely tolerant of, if not interested to the point of being annoying, in our bathroom renovation. He’ll probably love the air compressor and nail gun for installing the trim!  We also need to fashion some type of threshold for the room. Once we’re done with those things, we can move back into the bathroom, and at that point we’ll also assess if we want to do any sort of cosmetic tiling around the tub to tie it into the room, and the accent wall I had envisioned behind the tub. This tiling will be a lot easier than the shower tiling since the cosmetic tiles can go right over the existing drywall.

Well, the count down to the end has begun. We’re hosting my family for Thanksgiving this year, so with extra people in the house, this puts a hard deadline on us to get this renovation wrapped up!

Floor tile!

Somehow, Nik and I still manage to surprise ourselves when we actually get things done in a weekend…and this weekend was a particularly productive one. At some point on Saturday, I actually said to Nik, “But are you sure we want to do this all today? This is a problem because then we’ll have nothing to do Sunday.” And then he glared at me and reminded me that it’s ok to do nothing once and a while. But then we found things to do all day Sunday anyway!

Thursday night after work we got the last batch of mortar mixed up to get the rest of the cement board adhered to the subfloor.

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Saturday morning I sent Nik to Lowe’s to buy the floor tile while I bumbled around the house doing something I can’t remember that seemed important at the time. We were planning to cut a couple rows of tile at a time then lay them in mortar, then continue with the next few rows, but this quickly turned into us deciding to precut all the tiles to size and laying them out with spacers. With all this work happening up on the second floor…and the tile saw outside on the other side of the garage, running up and down stairs to cut a tile while mortar is drying in the bucket didn’t seem like a good idea. So after all the measuring and cutting we progressed to this:

As planned, we left that cut out around where the shower base is, and this will have to be finished once that is in (hopefully this week!).

Here’s Nik trimming out around the toilet pipe – he used the same technique he used in our downstairs bathroom, making thin cuts he could then tap out and use the tile nippers to get the nubs:

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So once everything was laid out, we got ~18 lbs of mortar mixed up – we used TEC latex modified thin set porcelain mortar, about $20/50 lbs, for those who are curious. We thought 2 of the 18 lb batches should do the whole room. And then we started spreading – we used a 1/4″ trowel, spread it, placed a tile, then added a 1/8″ spacer. Then we used a piece of wood and a mallet to help settle the tile.

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For those who thought I wasn’t “contractor” material – I promise I’m getting close. Next time I just have to wear lower underwear and I’ll be the real deal!

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After our first 18 lb batch, we went to mix the second batch, so I dumped all the water required for 18 lbs in with the first 6 lbs, then realized I only had another 9 lbs of dry powder to mix in. A mere 3 lbs short. Nik agreed to make a quick run to Lowe’s for another 50 lb bag (thankfully only 5 min away), and as he was backing out of the driveway, I was messing with the power drill and the mixing attachment that stirs the mortar, and I somehow dropped the drill INTO the mortar bucket with the 6 lbs of very runny mortar in it. The drilled was immersed – mortar in every vent and crevice. Nik basically just glared at me (not the first time that day…), muttered something incoherent and angry under his breath, and drove away. I dragged the dripping drill to the backyard and hosed it off as best I could, praying I wasn’t totally ruining the motor with the water. Amazingly, it started right back up when I plugged it in. Whew!

So we got the new 50 lb bag opened up so I could get my last 3 lbs out of it, then finished the second half of the tile-setting. Here’s the last tile going in! This seems like a stupid spot for the last tile but we had to do the doorway first since the door had to be closed to do those…but you can’t step on the tile for 24 hours after laying it. So I closed myself in the bathroom and stood where this last tile would be, then hopped over into the bedroom and reached across to do this last tile. Luckily, the spacing worked out pretty well. The grout line around this last tile ended up a smidge large, but I’ll take it.

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So, here is the finished project as of 6:30pm on Saturday:

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Most of the wonky spots where a tile laid low or high seem to be ok – we knew where to expect these spots from laying out the tiles first without mortar, so we were able to lay a little extra mortar or tap the tile a bit more to even out the corners in these spots.

So onto our supposedly lazy Sunday. We went out for a relaxing breakfast, came back and watched Fixer Upper reruns for an hour, then felt motivated enough to start working on the vanity. Our plan for this was to lop off the bottom portion (where the kickplate is), mount it on a flat sheet of plywood for support, then add feet to lift it higher. We’ll have to put some sort of trim and/or apron piece to cover the plywood and where the feet meet the piece, but we still have to figure that out once we pick out feet.

Here’s how the vanity started:

We dragged it out to a shady corner of our driveway, and Nik used the multitool jigsaw to cut a neat line along the sides and back:

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That worked out nicely on the sides, but the back had a really flimsy piece of MDF at the bottom so we actually took that side an inch further and added a new more-solid piece of wood to support the back. Then we cut a piece of 3/4″ OSB board (the remnants of what we used to repatch the bathroom floor) to the side of the bottom.

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We attached this piece with wood glue and some finishing nails. We’re aiming for a 34″ tall vanity, which will require legs somewhere in the 6″ range to get it to that height. Then we gave the whole body a sanding with the orbital sander, and I did the drawers and doors by hand. Now we’re ready for primer!

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Here’s a closeup of how the base meets the plywood now:

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We have a few colors in mind for the vanity – we’ll probably use something off white, to brighten up the room since the floor is on the darker side. But we want to actually get the vanity top out of the box and compare colors with that, and wait to see what color shower pan we end up with before we make the final decision.

This coming week will hopefully include getting our shower pan installed so we can finish that last small area of tile. Once that is done, we’ll grout the whole floor – likely with a darker gray grout. I’d also like to figure out vanity legs and trim, because as soon as we get that built, we can move the vanity back into the room and things will really start coming together.

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!