Tag Archives: tile

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!

The Master Bath Renovation: The Starting Point

Nik’s parents were supposed to be visiting for the next two weekends, but their plans got pushed off until early July, so we no longer have an excuse for not starting our master bathroom renovation! I’ve been itching to start this project (is it normal to feel antsy if I haven’t demo-ed something ugly in our house within the last 6 months?), so I’m ready to go! Plus, this time around we have a whole week’s notice (since the change of visit plans) before deciding to rip a bathroom down to the sub floor….last time this happened, it was approximately 10 minutes from decision to demo!

We haven’t actually started anything yet…in fact we haven’t even gone to the store to look at color schemes and tile options, but I have some vague ideas in mind. Here is a picture of our bathroom layout:

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We wanted to move things around (move shower to tub area, relocate toilet to shower area) but we decided it wasn’t worth the investment for the price range of our home. So this project will hopefully be all cosmetic, unless we find issues when things are removed.

Overall, we’ll be refurbishing our current vanity and adding a new top, sinks, and faucets in addition to raising it off the ground on feet to make it adult height (these are old pictures, but you get the idea).

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We’ll be tiling the floor, and painting the walls. And finally we’ll be ripping out our full shower insert and replacing it with a shower pan, tiled walls, a new glass door, and new hardware.

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Do you notice everything is so blah and neutral its hard to even tell the floor from the wall from the tub from the shower in that picture? Our awful garden tub will stay since removing and replacing that will be an expensive pain, but to dress it up, we may built an encasement around it (something like this) and update the faucet and tile above it. It is currently off white, meaning our new shower pan might also have to be off white to match, which I think I’m ok with. Stark white in a bathroom means more need to clean all the time!

So here is the actual planned order of events. We wanted to get this down on paper so we could make a very rough timeline and budget, so I’ll add those details to each bullet point.

Demo (planning to do this over the next couple weekends; cost: free!)

  • Remove toilet, vanity, mirror, and quarter round floor trim
  • Remove linoleum and underlayment, shower doors, and shower insert

Installing the “underparts” of the shower: we assume we will replace whatever is under the shower insert with cement backer board, followed by some sort of waterproofing application (there are actual membranes like Schluter membrane or paint-on options). Then the shower base pan will be added and fitted to the drain. Hopefully no replacement of subfloor will be required, but if there is any water leakage or moldy spots we may need to do some replacing. We’d like to have this done by the first weekend in June.

  • Cut and install cement board ($60 for boards and cement screws)
  • Install shower pan and fit to base plumbing (~$200 for pan)
  • Seal all seams and waterproof the walls/seams (not sure what product we’re using yet, I’ll assume it won’t be cheap! $150)

Next up will be tiling the floor. We’ll be using Schluter Ditra underlayment which is pricey, but it’s a lightweight foam alternative to using heavy cement board. Since our bathroom previously had lightweight linoleum, we don’t want to stress our floors out too much by adding a new, heavy, weight to the second floor. Then tile, then grout. We’re thinking some sort of gray tile, since we generate a lot of dust and hair, which I never clean in a timely manner. We’d love to have this done by mid June.

  • Coat floor with thin-set mortar and lay out underlayment ($200)
  • Apply mortar and lay tiles ($300)
  • Grout tiles ($30)
  • Reattach quarter round trim around floor ($30)

Install toilet and vanity. The installation is easy, but we need to find time to refurbish the vanity as well. Hopefully on weekday evenings we’ll be making progress on the vanity, which will include sanding/painting, and adding a new base with legs. We’ll need to identify a company to install a new counter and sinks, and after that Nik will probably attempt the faucet install himself.  If we could get this done by early July, that would be awesome, but you know how things go…

  • Sand, prime, paint vanity
  • Mount on a new base ($15)
  • Attach legs ($40)
  • Relocate to bathroom; counter/sink/faucet installation ($500)
  • Vanity backsplash ($100)
  • Vanity mirror and light (eventually, we’ll estimate a cost of $200)
  • Reinstall old toilet (free!)

And the final major project is finishing the shower. This will include applying mortar, tiling, grouting, installing hardware, and installing new glass doors. We’re thinking some sort of light gray/cream tone tile for the shower – something that matches the gray floor, but lighter. Our goal is to have this done by the end of July (plus anything else that’s not done yet – I’m sure we’ll be behind schedule!).

  • Apply mortar then tiles to waterproofed cement board ($200)
  • Grout tiles
  • Add new hardware ($120)
  • Install glass door ($500 – turns out these are really expensive!!) We’re still deciding between a pivot glass door or a sliding one. I was thinking pivot, but they all have pretty abysmal reviews and are slightly more expensive, but the sliding doors like this one and this one have fantastic reviews…so this may sway my decision.
  • Paint walls ($30)
  • Someday install crown molding? We have extra left over in the garage…(free!)

If we do the tub, a very rough cost for tiles, a new faucet, and if we build a encasement would be about $250.

So that brings our very rough total, if we include the tub to a little under $3000. Then there will be expenses like new towel racks, rugs, etc. to make the space look nice. I was generous on some of the amounts since we have no idea what tiles, counters, fixtures or anything that we’re picking yet, but I feel like that is a reasonable budget. If we can find ways to save money along the way, even better!

This was a long post, and not many pictures. But once this project is underway there will be plenty of progress pictures to share!

Counters at Last

Our kitchen feels like it’s coming together at last this week, with the installation of our counters, sink, and new faucet. But then we remember there’s still lots to do: finish the cabinet painting and sealing, figuring out the open shelves we want to install, mounting the microwave, backsplash, wood floors and trim, painting and adding cabinet top molding. It’s still exciting to see colors coming together though.

The extra cabinet we wanted to install on the far wall actually came in last week, so we were able to get that base cabinet installed in time for the granite guys to put the top on. We obviously still haven’t built the island, so that piece of granite is sitting in the garage. Granite is simply laid on top of a cabinet with a thin bead of clear silicone caulk, so we can do that ourselves when we’re ready, and they said the island slab only weighs about 80 lbs. Here’s the rest of the pieces installed:

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I like the green with the counters overall, and I think once the doors are on with new hardware will complete the look. It’s a little…country looking, but I think using hardware with sharper angular lines will help shift that towards a more modern look. This is what helped direct us when we picked a sink faucet, so this is the one we decided on. It got installed by the plumber on Wednesday.

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I like the angular look, but I have one major complaint about this sink that Nik was supposed to address with the plumber since he was the one at home when the guy came. The on/off knob you can see points straight up when it’s off, and it pulls out to the right to turn on the flow, and then you can adjust it towards or straight up to vertical to change the temperature. But if you just pull it out from the vertical off position, it’s HOT water. So to get cold, you have to first pull it towards you, then out. This seems really backwards right? I checked Delta faucets, and they do their temperature control the way I think it should be…but this faucet is a Moen and apparently they do it opposite. I asked Nik to have the plumber switch the hoses so up would be cold…but we all know how that goes when we put men in charge of details such as this! So now I’ve tasked Nik with switching the hoses at some point.

Nik also had him switch the disposal to the left side to be closer to the dishwasher. We thought we’d be able to salvage our old functional one, but apparently when we removed it from the old sink when we were doing the demo ourselves, we removed it incorrectly (no thanks to the youtube video we watched which told us “exactly” how to remove it!) and whatever we did to the edge of it, it couldn’t be reused. That’s ok though – the new one was only $80 and didn’t have years worth of nasty grime and rust all over it.

We have one more decision to make about decor in the kitchen – the backsplash. I’ve been thinking something along the lines of white subway tile would be simple and cheap, and white will further brighten and hopefully open the space, which I’m still wary of because of the dark cabinets and soon-to-be dark wood floor. We also have quite a bit of backsplash to lay (probably 35-40 square feet when you add it all up), since we opted to have counters with no granite backsplash, so anything too fancy would get pricey.  Last night we wandered to Lowe’s and took a look at their options. After our trip, clean white subway tile is definitely the direction we’re going – you can see the counters are pretty busy, so we think any accent tiles, even just a row, will just exaggerate that. I liked the white glass subway tile, but at almost $3 a tile that isn’t going to happen!

We picked out 3 styles of subway tile – a more decorative one on the left (about 3″x6″ and 49 cents a tile), which I love, but it has more going on and could look too busy. Then a larger subway tile (4″x8″, 69 cents a tile) and standard subway tile (approximately 3″x6″, and 22 cents each).

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I kind of like how clean the big tiles look…but the small ones are nice too. We’ll probably do a pretty thin grout line with some contrast (maybe a light gray), since we want to see some definition of the tiles but not make them look too busy with high-contrast dark grout. I think with white grout you lose the tiles:

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Dark grout is a little dizzying to me, unless the rest of the kitchen is very plain. But even this kitchen with very plain counters, I think the grout is a bit much to take in:

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Light gray grout gives soft definition but isn’t too bold/busy, and you can see it even looks nice with a more patterned counter top like ours (second picture). The one on the left also has slightly larger/longer tiles…which I kind of like better. The store did carry one other subway tile size that was more that shape (larger/longer) so that’s an option too.

And we’ll probably do a standard subway tile pattern (staggered, like the ones above). The guy at the store suggested herringbone, which I love, but with Nik’s constant battle with perfection I think this is probably a bad idea. Plus herringbone is a pretty busy pattern, so it might compete with the counters. This kitchen did a beautiful herringbone pattern, but they have very simple white counters unlike ours, so it works:

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In conclusion…we haven’t made any decisions, but we’re getting there! This weekend we should be able to get the microwave mounted and get some more doors painted, and maybe even start on ripping up the floors.

 

Bathroom Reveal

This title may be a little misleading, suggesting we’re TOTALLY done with the bathroom. There’s still a few tiny things to do…finishing the caulking around the toilet (once we’re sure its still got a good seal), caulking around the vanity, and adding the wood threshold piece to the floor. And we’re still deciding on a mirror (I have one option to show you). But for all other cosmetic purposes, it’s all done so I can show pictures!

To remind you, here’s what we started with:

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And here’s the final product:

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Here’s some close up on the vanity backsplash – tile trim edge pieces are insanely expensive (would’ve cost more than $40!) so I found some decorative wood trim to use instead:

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I also spent $20 on a new toilet paper and towel holder:

Figuring out where to put these was trickier than I imagined. Nik performed some highly technical positional testing, and we referred to internet sites that recommended TP holder placement:

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So there you have it!

We’re very happy with how it turned out – admittedly better than expected. I’ll give you a rough breakdown for the cost of this project, from start to finish. We had leftovers for a lot of things that will definitely get used on more projects, so I’ll count only what we used. We also had to buy a tile saw ($80), mortar spreaders ($10) and mixer ($6) and grout floats ($6), but these tools will last a while.

Demo and rebuild ~ 5 weekends of time

50 lb Mortar (used about 1/2 bag) $25/2  = $12.50

10 lb grout (used about 1/4 bag) $30/4 = $7.50

Cement backer board for floor (3’x5′) $10

Screws for cement board (2 packs) $10

Vanity and sink (on sale) $180

Faucet $70

Faucet water lines $ 15

Toilet paper holder/towel rack $20

Extra drain pipe length $6

Toilet seat $25

Toilet foam/wax ring $12

Plumbers Putty/caulk/adhesive $10

Wood Trim piece $5

Floor tile $42

Wall tile $60

Wall paint (clearance mismatch gallon) $9

Threshold wood (half a piece) $15/2 = $7.50

Extra quarter round trim $4

Total: Around $507

People care about bathrooms a lot, especially ones guests will use. For a little over $500, and all the DIY expertise we gained with tiling that we can now use in our kitchen and eventually upstairs bathrooms, I think this was a great investment. Now, on to 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!