Tag Archives: plumbing

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!

Coming Together

This past weekend was productive again, thanks to a 4 day weekend with July 4th. We hadn’t planned to go anywhere, and I was anticipating working Monday, but the company unexpectedly gave us the day off. Every time we have 4 days off in a row, we tend to travel to visit family, so 4 days off and staying at home was an unusual situation. It resulted in a lot of progress with the bathroom with things finally starting to feel like they were coming together. And after 4 days, I was definitely feeling antsy to get back to work on Wednesday. Win-win.

Saturday morning we got started with the shower pan, and everything went very smoothly with the proper mortar. We mixed it to a pudding-like consistency, then got the pan placed neatly in the middle. We checked the levelness of each side, and as we hoped, everything was level and sloping towards the drain. I was afraid to step on the pan for 3 days afterwards (even though the mortar should’ve been set within 24 hours), but I finally stepped on it last night and it feels super solid. Done!

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On to the wall paint. We were debating between two colors, both light gray and one that was more blue/cool toned and one that was more brown toned. We ended up going with the brown-toned gray and I love the color. Of all the expensive renovations we’ve done, getting paint on the walls so they’re not the awful yellow-white “landlord” paint is usually one of the pinnacle moments that transforms a room.

After paint, we started measuring for the floor trim. We added fresh baseboard and fresh shoe trim over that (~$40 for new trim). Getting the shoe trim attached was tricky, because unlike all our floor installation downstairs we actually removed all the baseboard to do this renovation, and remounted the baseboard higher. This meant when we shot a nail through the shoe trim, there was only a fraction of an inch of baseboard behind it, so in some places we couldn’t get good attachment with a nail. Liquid nails solved the problem in those spots. Then we filled and painted nail holes and caulked the gaps.

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Before trim

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After trim

Then we finished sealing the vanity with polycrylic – this is supposed to dry clear, but after earlier uses sealing stained furniture, we do tend to notice a bit of yellowing, which showed up more in some places on our white vanity. If it continues to yellow over time, we can always sand down and repaint…but for right now, it’s good to go.

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We then got the vanity top all unpacked and opened up our new Pfister Ladera faucets which we purchased at Home Depot for $99 each. When I picked out this sink top, I noticed it had what they called 8″ wide spread faucet holes, and I asked if the wide spread faucets are more expensive than standard faucets. “Oh, about $5-10 more” says the salesman. WRONG. It was hard to find a nice looking widespread set for under $120 at Lowe’s, while the standard 4″ center set faucets were all in the $50’s-$70’s, so we moved on to Home Depot which had a slightly less expensive selection. There is also a matching shower faucet set, which we haven’t bought yet, but when the time comes I liked the looks of it.

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Usually Nik does all the fancy plumbing work, but with two faucets to install, I sat next to him and watched each step and repeated. I noticed he assigned me to do the faucet on the side that I would use…reasonably assuming my disinterest in absolute perfection would result in a faucet head installation that wasn’t up to his standards. But, they both came out looking great in the end.

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We popped the vanity top onto the sink just to see how we liked it, and to decide if we wanted everything against the wall, or slightly shifted. We picked our location, then went through a grueling process of lifting one end of the vanity while I added a bead of silicone caulk around the cabinet tops, then slowly lowering the vanity top back down precisely to create somewhat of a seal. We got it done, but ended up doing another bead of caulk around the edges once it was in place to make it look prettier.

Nik finished up the actual plumbing installation and hooking things into the pipes, so the sink is functional! I still need to seal the countertops, since they are actual marble (a veneer, but still real stone) and Nik got a splash of water on them and confirmed they definitely get water stains. We bought Rock Doctor countertop sealer, so that just needs to be applied in a few coats which should do the trick. There’s also a backsplash piece which just needs to be adhered in place and sealed, and then the sinks are ready for use.

Next, Nik cleaned off the toilet plumbing area (I know it’s just old wax, but it looks like poop so I refused to deal with that mess). He purchased a new foam ring ($13) and got it situated around the hole. We lowered the old toilet in place and attached the plumbing, and Nik has since confirmed it is functional. It does still need a bead of caulk around the base, but that isn’t urgent.

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While purchasing faucets, we also browsed the lighting aisle for a new vanity light. Nothing really caught our eye, but we decided to go ahead and buy one since the old one had already been removed and we were down a light in the room. Nik got it mounted and installed in no time, and I think it fits the bill well enough, for $100.

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We’d like to get started on our shower soon, which will include installing thick cement board around the space, waterproofing it with 1-2 layers of roll-on red guard, applying mortar, tiling, grouting, installing the faucet hardware, and finally installing the shower doors. We might have to hold off a bit with the cement board this weekend, since we ordered a shower niche insert that unfortunately won’t arrive till Monday. We know the approximate dimensions we’d have to cut out of the cement board for this niche to fit…so we might go ahead and get that started this weekend.

I’ll leave you with a picture of our freshly opened sunflower from this morning…the bees have already found it!

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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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