Tag Archives: shower pan

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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The Converted Vanity

On Saturday, we picked up our shower pan and shower doors, FINALLY. The biscuit color made the cut and matches pretty perfectly with the tub, so that’s what we went with. The biscuit was about $25 more than the white pan, for some reason, but when the guy did the return of the white one (we bought both colors so we could compare, planning to return the unwanted one), he accidentally returned the biscuit one and refunded me the higher amount. I pointed out his mistake, but clearly he was having that kind of day, so he said don’t worry about it. Not that I’m ever worried about not giving Lowe’s enough of my money.

We got the pan home, and it fits about 95% into the shower spot. The drain is shifted a tad too far over, but we think Lowe’s carries an offset drain that will fix that issue. The rest fits well, and I’m impressed with how sturdy it feels for $200. Despite the sturdiness, the instructions say to “lay the pan in a bed of mortar.” We can’t figure out why this is necessary, but perhaps it is because our pan doesn’t actually get screwed into the studs so the mortar kind of supports it and holds it in place? The amount of mortar to use is vague, so I contacted the company and they recommended going with a ~3/4″ bed towards the edges of the pan, and about 3/8″ bed towards where the drain is. The pan slopes towards the drain, so this makes sense, but that is still a THICK bed of mortar that will be heavy. I pity the next person who tries to renovate this bathroom, because it would take a jackhammer to remove such a thick block of mortar that is hidden under a fiberglass pan, no less. I’ll just say I am eternally thankful the people who installed our previous shower insert didn’t put mortar underneath it.

Laying the mortar will be simple enough, but getting the 40 pound, 36″x48″ pan laid on top of it and kept level, into a space with 3 walls surrounding it will be tricky. We’ll have to tackle this soon, though, hopefully on Saturday. My 30th birthday is also on Saturday (and Nik’s is on Tuesday!) and while installing a shower pan for a milestone birthday activity sounds depressing at best, when I think about the difficult but rewarding renovations I have the privilege of doing beside my mostly-tolerant husband in the house that we are thankful to be building a life in together, there are minimal complaints here!

I’m sure we’ll have pics from the shower pan process, so I’ll save those for once the pan is in. The rest of this post, I’ll show pictures of our converted vanity. I already showed how we removed the bottom of the vanity and mounted it on plywood for a new base:

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Before

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After

The vanity was then measuring about 26 and 3/4″ tall, and our goal height was 34″ (so-called ‘adult’ vanity height). The vanity top is about an inch thick, so we were looking for 6″ legs. We found some we liked a little more than what we went with, but they were only 4.5″, so we would’ve had to find a way to extend them and then cover that extension with trim. Then we found the 6″ ones that we went with. They seemed a little unsubstantial so I had the idea to actually do 4 across the front, one around each set of doors. Here are the feet, and the piece of trim we used to hide the transition:

Nik attached the feet with straight brackets, then installed the trim with wood glue and finishing nails:

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So here’s what the corners looked like finished:

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Next we flipped it and applied a bead of caulk at the trim seam:

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And finally gave it a coat of primer that night, in addition to the drawers and doors:

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I think it looks great, and once there is real paint on it it will look like we bought a new vanity! We puzzled over colors with the new vanity top for some while, and settled on a just-off-white color called Silent White (Clark and Kensington) for the vanity, and a slightly darker, blue-grey tinged color called Paper White (Benjamin Moore) for the walls. We got a sample for the walls before we’ll make the final decision, and we also bought a sample for the vanity paint that should be able to cover the whole thing without buying a larger portion of paint.

For a price breakdown of the vanity upgrade, we used half a sheet of plywood for the base ($11), 7 feet cost $21, the feet brackets were about $16, the trim was $12, and the sample paint was $5. So far the total is $65, but we still need hardware which will probably be about $35. So a “new vanity” base for $100. Not too bad, considering poorly built ones on Wayfair sell for over $900.

This week we’re working on getting the vanity painted and sealed, and like I said, hopefully getting the shower pan in Saturday and finishing up that last bit of tile next to the pan. So maybe we can finally grout the floor on Sunday.

The Hump of All Hump Days

Our demo was completed last weekend, and the shower is currently sitting on our back lawn in 3 jagged fiberglass pieces. We also removed that patch in the floor, so there is a 4′ wide hole in the bathroom floor – large enough, in fact, that our whole shop vac actually fell into it when dragged across the room by an unobservant user (me) and nearly damaged our dining room ceiling, which is what is at the bottom of the hole. But it didn’t, so crisis averted.

I promise I will add pictures of our demolition, but right now it’s my time to vent about the stress of renovations. This whole day has been one bad piece of news after another, and I’m about ready for a drink. I assure you this will be entirely uninteresting to everyone reading, but I have to vent for a bit.

First, I called Lowe’s this morning to find out why the heck they haven’t called to say our shower pans are in. Directly on my online receipt, it says both colors of the shower pans we ordered (since we aren’t sure what would match our tub) would be in by 5/29. Two days ago. The lady at the store said the order now says arriving 6/21. 6/21!!!!! Nearly a month after the promised delivery date! We ordered the shower door in the same order, and when we ordered that item it did say 6/21 for the door, which is fine because it won’t be needed until much further into our renovation. But the pans? We need them NOW. The pan is what will start everything – it will go in first, followed by cement board around the shower. Then we can start tiling the floor – which we can’t do until we know where the shower will sit on the floor. And we can’t put in the vanity until the tile floor is done. Turns out the way we have planned this, the pan is the crux of this renovation.

So, I talked to the Lowe’s manager to find out what was going on, to see if maybe they were just trying to lump the order together and deliver the pans with the door at that later date, but he said that’s not the case. Apparently the manufacturer has the pans on back order. Upon looking into it further, he said the pans should be into the manufacturer on 6/6, then they won’t ship out until 6/9, with an estimated actual delivery date of 6/14. So not as bad as the original 6/21 estimation, but still 3 weeks later than promised. He said when they ‘promise’ a date, that date doesn’t take into account for the possibility of being back ordered. It’s not his fault, but I told him I was annoyed that no one called to tell me this after the order was placed. Lowe’s says it isn’t their policy to follow up on an order until the customer calls to ask about it. Really great customer service (I hope my sarcasm is palpable).

This will really hold us up, but we’ll have to deal with it. So then I started looking into the Schluter DITRA floor substrate I purchased, since we may just start on the floor tile and start from the other side of the room and leave a row out as we approach where the shower pan will go. The DITRA is a lightweight product that can be used in place of cement board, and we were planning to use it under our floor tile. When we pulled up the floor patch, we found out we have 24″ joist spacing and one layer of 3/4″ plywood subfloor. Apparently you can’t use regular DITRA on this – you can if it is only 16″ joist spacing, or if it is 24″ spacing you have to add an additional layer of subfloor (aka the underlayment under the linoleum I just spent an ENTIRE day ripping out and pulling nails out of). You can use a product called DITRA-XL in the subfloor situation we have, but it’s $300 a roll, it wouldn’t be here for a couple weeks because no one local carries it, and it’s much thicker for added stability, so our tile would be towering over the carpet height in the bedroom, which is not ideal.

I even emailed Schluter to ask what the worst case scenerio would be if I just used the regular DITRA with our single layer subfloor and 24″ joist spacing, and she highly recommended against that, unless we add back 3/8″ underlayment. We could do this…but it would be a pain, and most likely not very level since we are not experienced with installing underlayment. Also, in case I haven’t ranted about Lowe’s enough yet, NOWHERE on their product information for the DITRA does it mention joist spacing and how critical it is for this product. I had to download the DITRA installation pamphlet and read it, and that’s when I discovered the conundrum we are in. I’m lucky I can return the rolls I bought to the store.

So what to do? Well, we may just go with the heavy cement board like what we did in the downstairs bathroom and forgo the DITRA. The tile seems to be holding up well down there, and I believe we can use the 1/4″ thick cement board which is thinner and lighter than the 3/8″ thick cement board we used downstairs (we used the thicker board downstairs on purpose to increase the tile height to more closely match the thicker engineered wood floors we installed). The thought of returning to the store and lugging 6 more pieces of cement board upstairs that then needs to be cut to size and installed is not particularly appealing. But, we want to do things right and if the DITRA isn’t right, we have to find something that will work and last.

We did end up buying the pre-fab vanity I wrote about in the last post, since the Cary Lowe’s had several actually in stock so I got to compare a few and pick one out that looked decent. I looked it over pretty thoroughly in the store before purchasing, but haven’t removed the full packaging yet. I’m thinking I won’t do that in the next few days, because with the luck I’ve had today, there’s surely a cracked edge or something hiding in that packaging that I couldn’t see in the store. Nope, I’m going to wait until things start going right again before I dive into that box.

On top of this, and on a completely unrelated note, I found out that the car rental prices for our trip out west later this summer have skyrocketed from $550 to about $1300. And of course I didn’t book when they were low (the rental lady actually thinks the $550 was a system glitch, which I wouldn’t be surprised at, since every other company I searched was about $1300 when I was first looking, and that $550 sounded too good to be true…but we didn’t have our trip figured out at that time so I didn’t book it. Grr.). So that’s more fantastic news to top off this day.

Well, if you’ve read this far, I hope you’re not commiserating with me because you’re also having a bad day. Sometimes I wonder if renovations are worth the stress. I’d like to say they are, but right now I’m too far from the end of that tunnel to see the light. It will come.

Ok, one fun picture to leave you with that reminds us of the joy of renovation – Nik happily ripping out the piece of the shower with the awful bench (and finding absolutely no mold behind any of it!):

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