Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bathroom Remodel Part 5: Shower Tile

Part 1: Demolition
Part 2: Plumbing
Part 3: Material selection and Floor Tile
Part 4: Shower Tile Prep

I've never actually looked forward to tiling (because, for the most part, it sucks), but this shower was an exception. Once we finished this tiling job, the world would be our oyster.

I did the tile layout in Sketchup and then transferred it to paper, where my OCD took over and I proceeded to plan out the cut list for every tile. Turns out it really paid off because even though I had ordered about 10% extra tile, it ended up not being enough with that many cuts! Luckily the store I got it from still had some extras, so we were covered.

TIP: Always buy at least 20% overage for any materials, and if your tile has a lot of cuts, make it 25%-30% to account for cuts-gone-wrong (chips, breaks). It may seem like a waste of money, but trust me when I say it is worth the peace of mind. 


Figuring out how to cut this tile was tricky. It came in 60x60cm (approximately 24" x 24") squares, so each square could be cut into four 15x60cm tiles. Initially we didn't want to risk our limited number of tiles on the score-and-snap cutter because of how poorly it cut the floor tiles. Unfortunately when we turned to our wet saw to make the cuts, it caused an unacceptable amount of chipping on the finish.

We tried everything to reduce the chipping, including turning the tile upside down, taping the cut line, and replacing the blade. None of it worked and we were pretty discouraged for a few hours while we tried to decide if we could live with that many chippy edges in the shower or if we should just buy new tile.

Eventually I decided to give the ol' score-n-snap cutter a try. What did we have to lose right? Well, it turns out that for this particular tile, the score-n-snap was an almost perfect match. It gave us clean cuts 80% of the time with no chipping of the finish! It did occasionally take off a corner, but we saved those pieces for the shorter cuts. The cut edges were a bit sharp, so we used a stone block to smooth it out. It worked amazingly well compared to the wet saw.

TIP: When using a score-and-snap cutter, be sure to score ONCE, firmly and cleanly and from edge to edge. When pressing the tile to break it, set the press at the top of the tile and apply firm pressure. 



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bathroom Remodel Part 4: Shower Tile Prep

Part 1: Demolition
Part 2: Plumbing
Part 3: Material selection and Floor Tile

With our floor tile in, it was time to focus on the daunting task of doing up the shower walls. Let me just preface this post by saying that if there was ever a time to hire out a job, this would be it. There is just SO MUCH engineering that goes into this tiny little corner of the room that it's impossible to learn every detail as a first-time-bathroom-remodeler. And it's not just that the details are numerous; it's that they're all important too! Omitting any of them could result in disaster (in the form of leakage, rot and mold). For this reason, I'm going to try to include as many tips (in blue) and nuggets of information in this post for any of you out there trying to find advice. Disclaimer: I am NOT a professional, so if you want a professional's expert advice, consult a professional. I repeat, I am not a professional.

The first thing we had to do was build out the underlying structure to give the cement board a solid and immovable foundation. We added 2x4s in between the existing studs (and probably went overboard) for the Hardibacker to attach to. Here you can see my niche structure with a few of the added 2x4s. You'll also notice the Hardibacker attached to the right. That was a mistake. I'll explain later.


I rerouted the wiring for a guest-bedroom outlet to go around the new niche. Back in the day, electricians liked to wire things pretty tight, which meant I had no extra slack to work with. I had to feed new wire in, which required me to explore our attic for the first time! It was kind of exciting, but mostly hot, cramped, dark and scary. Also, I think I left some needle-nose pliers up there on accident.


So back to the Hardibacker cement board. Hanging this stuff was quite the ordeal for several reasons. The first was that the material is a bitch to cut; no matter what we did score-and-snap would not work, we couldn't use high-speed power tools because it kicked up ridiculous amounts of cancer-dust (and dulled the blades), and it melted most of our jigsaw blades.

After destroying many tools to cut up the biggest boards on the back wall, I thought, "there has GOT to be a better way". I don't know why we didn't look sooner, but I found this video that changed our lives. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bathroom Remodel Part 3: Material Selection and Tiling

Part 1: Demolition
Part 2: Plumbing

We're still putzing along with our little bathroom renovation, moving at the speed of almost-frozen molasses. For this post, I'm going to take you back in time (November) to where we installed the tile flooring, which has surprisingly been the easiest part of this whole adventure thus far (but certainly not without it's own set of issues).

At this point I had been in the interior design field long enough to know that I should have ALL my finishes and paint colors selected before starting on anything. I went to a local tile showroom and grabbed way too many samples (tile samples are heavy, ya'll!).

I had also designed a cast concrete vanity and shower niche, so I made some concrete samples with increasing amounts of white portland cement to figure out the color we wanted.

Ratios of concrete to portland cement from left to right: 1:0, 3:1, 1:1, 1:3

Basically what you want to do when you've got all these samples is lay them all out along with your other bathroom elements. You can see we've got a sink, a brushed nickel pipe, concrete, and a brown wood tile as our teak-wood stand-in. It may be overwhelming to see it all at once, but here's the trick: rather than trying to decide what you like best, start by eliminating the things that aren't working for you. Hopefully this gets you to a manageable place where you can start making decisions. Of course even with this method, we still debated the choices off-and-on for an hour or more. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

I'm Going For It! *Creating With the Stars 2014*

You may or may not have heard of this little reality series that exists in our blogland called "Creating With the Stars". It's a fun and quirky competition not unlike Dancing With the Stars, except with less dancing in sparkly costumes and more spray paint and power tools.

The 12 contestants are initially chosen based on a single project entry from their 2013 or 2014 repertoire. From there, they are paired off with 12 "celebrity" bloggers who will coach them through four weeks and four rounds of eliminations.


I normally pass on this sort of thing just because I'm not sure I even have enough energy to make it through one week/project (and uhhh, our bathroom is still "undergoing construction"). But one thing got my heart pounding about it this year, and that is the CELEBRITY judge....


MARTHA. My idol.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bathroom Remodel Part 2: Plumbing Adventures

Previously on the Bathroom Remodel:


Before we could put any new walls up, we had a few plumbing adjustments to take care of. Nothing too major, which is why when we got some quotes from local plumbers (coming in between $500 to $1000), Boyfiancé decided this would be a good time for him to pick up a new skill.

The new tub is wider than the old one, so everything needed to be moved over a couple of inches. We also wanted to move that shower head up because apparently everyone in the 60's was either really short, or really enjoyed squatting to rinse their hair.

Old plumbing

Then there was the issue of the new tub plumbing, but let's put off that very painful memory until later.