Tag Archives: mortar

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!

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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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.