Posts Tagged tile

OMG I’m So Done With This Damn Bathroom

I am so sick of working on this bathroom. Rather, I’m so sick of working on this bathroom and having one stupid thing after another break or go wrong, or just be poorly designed (or have the instructions not match the equipment).

But before I start ranting, here’s the progress so far (and there really has been a lot of progress, just a whole hell of a lot slower than I wanted):


The tile is done. Well, all but done. It’s all on the walls and floor, and it’s all grouted. The wall tile is Rittenhouse Square 3×6 in white with black accent tiles, and the floor tile is Octagon & Dot, both from Dal-Tile. Grout is Polyblend Delorean Gray, sanded on the floor and unsanded on the walls.

The wall grout was difficult and it’s not as clean as I’d hoped, because I only had just enough grout so I was trying to conserve it, and then I ran out of time toward the end and tried to basically do the entire shower at once, which meant that it had started setting up by the time I got around to sponging the excess off. And wiping, wiping, wiping on a vertical surface was very hard on my arms and back.

The floor grout was a lot easier. Granted, there was only about a third as much floor square footage as wall square footage, but the joints being bigger and the whole thing being horizontal made it a lot easier. I only used about a third of the 25 pound bag, but since I didn’t know better I mixed up the whole thing — which is now completely set up in the bucket; I used a plastic bucket that cat litter came in because I intended it to be disposable.


We haz tile


Jen presciently bought us a Wagner Paint Crew airless sprayer and a roller arm accessory. It took me a while to figure out how to set it up, and the first coat of primer went on pretty slowly. After that, however, the second coat of primer and two coats of paint only took half an hour each. We used Sherwin-Williams Bath Paint, and I have about a quarter gallon left to use on the window and door trim. Sherwin-Williams says the stuff is self-priming, but I don’t believe them. It took two coats to really cover and get out all the thin spots. On the other hand, it went on really well, and I think it was a good value despite being $40 a gallon. The only downside is that it’s so white (I didn’t have them tint it at all) it makes the white tile look off-white. 🙂


We haz paint

Shower Valve

And now we come to the clusterf*** portion of the program.

We got the Premier Torino shower/valve/faucet set (and the matching sink faucet). It’s pretty, but in retrospect I wish I’d looked at a model in person instead of just ordering it off the internet — turning the handle adjusts both temperature and pressure simultaneously, so there’s no way to have a lukewarm trickle; a quarter turn from off is both half and half hot and cold and maximum flow. I’d have preferred the type where turning it adjusts the temperature and pulling it adjusts the pressure.

Anyway, there’s a brass bolt with a threaded hole through the center sticking out from the valve that the handle attaches to. Apparently in order to adjust for different valves, wall thicknesses, etc., it’s overly long and you’re supposed to cut it back to the proper length.

Here’s the problem: there’s a brass adapter that screws into the bolt with a knurled knob on the end; the handle fits onto that with a locking screw to hold it on. So I measured and marked where to cut the bolt to have the adapter sticking out far enough to have the handle sit flush with the escutcheon. No problem. But then I cut it, screwed the escutcheon on over it, and then discovered that there’s a piece molded into the top of the escutcheon that blocks the adapter from going in far enough.

So in other words, it’s impossible to have the handle flush with the top of the escutcheon. Now, the instructions are less than clear: the parts list shows the adapter and locking screw, but the assembly instructions show a screw going through the handle and into the bolt with no adapter. I wonder if I have the adapter, handle and locking screw from the newer model but the escutcheon from the older model.

Right now I have it entirely assembled sans escutcheon, so it works but looks kinda ugly. And I get to have the I’m sure wonderfully pleasant experience of calling their customer service and attempting to explain all this over the phone and ordering at least one new part. Grrr.

Oh, and I almost forgot: I was screwing the shower head arm back into the drop-ear elbow inside the wall. The “tight” spot had the arm at a 45° angle past vertical, so I could back it off 45° or push on almost another whole turn. I looked at the threads and it wasn’t really threaded very far, so I went ahead and cranked it. I got about halfway when the goddam drop-ear broke inside the wall. Or at least something broke; I’m hoping it was just the screws and not the brass fitting. Regardless, I’m going to have to cut open the wall, fix or replace it, and patch and paint. Grr raar raar raar.


The shower curtain rod went up easily, since I’ve already put it up temporarily and taken it down again, um, five times now I think. It’s a double curved curtain rod from Bed Bath & Beyond — I like having the curved rod since I really dislike brushing up against a damp plasticky curtain liner while showering.


We haz a shower curtain rod

The medicine cabinet was easy, as were the sconce lights. The overhead light was more difficult, since somewhere along the line it didn’t quite get set proud of the joists by quite enough, so the bolts hanging down from the box to screw the base onto weren’t long enough. A trip to the hardware store later (the next day) it went up just fine. Note to self, however: leave a longer wire to attach to. Last, there was again something wrong with the fan blocking and it wants to droop down a quarter inch or so from the ceiling, which means I have to climb up into the attic and figure out how to attach it better. Bah.


Medicine cabinet & sconces are in


Light and fan are in

Another annoying issue — chalk yet another thing up to inexperience — is the wall sockets. Those little spacer nubs on plastic electrical boxes that are supposed to leave the top of the box flush with the installed drywall? They lie. All my boxes are recessed about 3/16″. Not fatal — I can unscrew them and put in longer screws and spacing washers. But the other thing I didn’t know is that you have to cut the hole in the drywall exactly the size of the box, or at least no more than 1/8″ larger. The snap-on Decora plates need to brace against the drywall, and I’ve got too much of a gap. I’ll need to get out the patching compound that dries hard as rock and fill in around the boxes, and then paint the compound, and only then attach the switch/socket plates. Dammit.


We got the American Standard Champion 4 from Home Depot. Installation was pretty easy, except for the feed valve, which just did not want to go onto the copper stubout. Eventually I’d damaged the brass compression fitting enough that I just threw that valve away and went with another one. A whole lot of vice grip + pliers action later, it was watertight. That was yesterday at 1:00am.


Toilet installed


Look! It flushes!


My sophisticated leak detection device


Clusterf*** part II. We got a pedestal sink off Craigslist from a guy up in Marysville with two warehouses full of … stuff. It’s fairly nice looking and we paid way less than retail because it apparently got dropped in the box and the top of the pedestal was broken. I was able to superglue it all back together and reinforce it with fiberglass tape and adhesive, so I didn’t think there would be any problem.

Until I got both pieces out of the box and put together in good light. At which point I realized that not only were they not quite the same color (white/off-white), but the top of the pedestal doesn’t actually fit into the groove at the bottom of the sink — they’re different models.

Okay. Fine. The pedestal isn’t really important in that it as long as it’s supporting its share of the weight it doesn’t need to be perfectly mated to the sink, and sometime next year when we have more money we’ll just get a new damn sink. So I put them up against the wall and spent an hour getting the assembly perfectly positioned and leveled and the screw holes marked.

My brand new carbide bit that I used to drill the holes for the toilet flange yesterday no longer wanted to drill through tile at all, so I made a late night run to Home Depot and found a set of tile and glass drill bits that I swear they didn’t have when I was looking for them weeks ago. I certainly wish I’d had them before, since they cut through the tile like buttah.

Hooray, right? Well, I put my wood bit into my drill to complete the pilot holes for the wall mounting screws and when it punched right through into air discovered that I’d made a fundamental error. I’d never seen a pedestal sink unattached to a wall before, so months ago I looked at the big holes in the middle of the back and thought that’s where you put in lag bolts with big washers or whatever. I was wrong, as I discovered when I watched a pedestal sink installation video online.

Here, I’ll let the pictures tell the story:



So since at this point I can’t go in through the back of the wall and put in more blocking, I’m going to have to cobble up some lag bolt solution after all — tomorrow.

Punch List

  1. Get some more grout and fill in all the little gaps, in corners and just where I missed a bit.
  2. Call the shower valve company and get some new parts
  3. Scrape and clean all the excess grout, paint, and joint compound off the tile
  4. Silicone all the tile/drywall joints and around the tub
  5. Put up the @#$%*&! sink
  6. Fill in around the switch and socket boxes
  7. Clean, paint, and reinstall the door and window casings
  8. Fix the fan blocking
  9. Insulate the ceiling

Jen keeps telling me what a good job of everything I’m doing, but I’ve been so frustrated by stupid shit going wrong that all I can see is the imperfections. This project started out as hard work but fun and interesting. It’s not fun anymore. I have two days to finish the last couple of crucial items before we have people over for Thanksgiving, and then presumably complete the rest over the long weekend.

Then I want to not think about projects for a while. The rest of this house had better not be this stressful.

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Lots Of Progress, or, My Wife Is Awesome

The Baby Gate

Since we have a little one who will be bipedal any day now yeesh, Jen’s been after me to put up a baby gate at the top of the stairs. The instructions said it needs to be installed into a solid if not structural elements, which presented a problem. The staircase has sidewalls, but they have about three 2×4 studs each — you can wiggle them about an inch either way without even needing any effort — so I couldn’t install the gate into the obvious opening. There are structural columns at the top of the stairs which are in place of the original outer wall of the gable cottage but which now form one of two arches from the addition on either side of the fireplace — one into the stairwell and the other into the living room. But they’re too far apart for the gate.

So I built extensions, I guess you could call them, that anchor into the columns and make the opening narrow enough for the gate to fit. They’re not particularly pretty (I learn a lesson about carpentry every time I pick up a power tool: in this case, don’t try to drill a perfectly perpendicular hole without one of those mini-drill presses you attach to your drill), but at least instead of having bare ends of 4×4 posts sticking up I covered them with little fence post caps.


And, since they don’t meet the stair sidewalls or the fireplace, the cats can get around them but even a bipedal baby can’t:


So it’s nice to have one project completely done with and checked off the list.

The Bathroom

I got the floor down a couple of weeks ago, but it’s just been sitting there mocking me ever since.

As you can see in the photos, it’s an octagon-and-dot mosaic tile, and I really should have used a smaller-notch trowel. Pretty much every joint has thinset squidged up into it. That is to say, every one of the thousands and thousands of little tiny joints has thinset squidged up into it, some halfway, some to the top. Scraping them out with a utility knife is going to take forever.

I’ve been working slowly on finishing the drywall — it’s not that it’s particularly difficult, it’s just the first time I’ve done it so I’m figuring out my technique as I go along. But the bathroom absolutely must without fail be all the way done by Thanksgiving, so I took the day off work today to get as much done as possible. I spent the morning doing second-coat on the drywall, and then Jen called and said she was taking a half day and would be home to help.

So we decided to attack the walls. I mixed up a bunch of thinset, set up the borrowed laser level along the reference lines I’d already marked, and then Jen went to town setting all the field tile while I worked on making all the odd cuts and fits. The result: we have walls!


There are two reasons we didn’t completely finish: I can’t do the ends of the shower walls because the end-bullnose tiles are on order, and I can’t do the top row of tiles until I’ve skim-coated the drywall (since there will be a bit of overlap). The bottom row of black tiles is just going to be an evening of cutting and fitting, and we were both tired after working all day, so that’ll have to be another post for another day.

And here’s why my wife is awesome: not only did she do almost all of the work to get the tile up, she actually got it up a lot faster than I would have done. If she hadn’t taken a half day off, I’d probably have gotten one wall done and maybe two, instead of all of them. And that doesn’t even mention all the work on the rest of the house she’s been doing while I’ve been putting all my energy into one room. The fact that this place looks like a home instead of a box and tool storage facility is all due to her.


So you’ll remember the missing drain hole for the sink. I’m happy to say that it was pretty easy going in through the linen closet, since it was faced in particle board, not the 3/4″ tongue-and-groove of the bedroom closet, and my measurements were pretty darn close:


(Yes, I’m aware that it’s not centered. The sink, shelf, and medicine cabinet aren’t centered on the old pre-existing drain line, mostly because of having to mount both sconce lights into studs and find a center point between them.)

Now I have to figure out the best way to interface between the 1-1/2″ ABS and the 1-1/4″ standard sink drain and P-trap. I guess the trap escutcheon is going to have to cover a lot.

Oh, and here’s a photo I forgot to put up months ago.


Moral: don’t try to pull eighty-year-old framing nails out of eighty-year-old wood with a little bitty finishing hammer.

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Been A Long Time

… Since the last post. And the bathroom’s still not done, dammitall.

I kinda ran out of PTO (well, not really, but I ran out of time I could stay away from work without making my boss mad), and then we moved in. You’d think that moving in would mean I’d be able to get more work done, but actually living here means I’m not alone when I’m here and thus liable to being called away to look after the baby, lift heavy things for Jen, install shelves in closets, fix the internet connection, and all the other obligations of daily married-with-children home life. Plus it’s very difficult to work in the evenings as either we’re eating dinner, I’m giving Jen a break from the baby, or they’ve gone to bed and the noise would wake either or both.

We moved in on September 25 pretty much without a hitch. We used Mountain Movers, who I have to recommend, as they were tireless, efficient, and professional. I managed to severely roll my ankle going down our porch stairs, and it still hurts two weeks later. If I hadn’t been wearing my combat boots I’d probably have sprained it.

Jen’s been getting lots of unpacking and organizing done. The house looks almost entirely like a home and not a storage facility, although we don’t have the books out yet — mostly because the parlor, where the bookshelves will go, is being used for temporary drywall storage.

Speaking of drywall, our friend Chris has been coming over on weekends to help out. Together we got all the necessary blocking (for nailing/screwing edges) installed, the outside wall insulated, the ceiling drywall hung (not that well, sadly), and about half the wall drywall and cement board hung.

Yeah. So, I’m never drywalling a ceiling again without a drywall lift. That shit is heavy. And next time, I’m cutting the drywall from the back side, because I guess thirty years of playing D&D and other tabletop RPGs has left me able to precisely conceive and measure a top-down plan but nearly incapable of measuring, drawing and executing a bottom-up view. Suffice to say that one piece of the ceiling went up fairly well with a minimum of fitting, but the second, more complicated piece ended up with either half-inch-plus gaps or overly-tight, creaking, breaking spots around the edges. There’ll be a lot of filling with joint compound in my future when I get to the taping stage.

Also, when I say we got about half the drywall and cement board up, I kinda mean the middle half, vertically. The plan is for 42″ tile wainscoting with drywall above. The walls are 95″-96″ high. Cement boards are 36″ wide, leaving a ~6″ gap at the bottom to be filled with a strip of cement board. Drywall is 48″ wide, leaving a ~4″-5″ gap at the top. I still have to fill in those gaps. (Oh, and I discovered that there’s a 1/2″ difference in the floor from one corner of the bathroom to the other. Luckily, the two walls on which I’ll have to cut base tiles at an angle will be mostly concealed by the toilet, sink, and dresser, so I hope it won’t be all that obvious.)

I’m pretty sure I can get the rest of the drywall and cement board up this weekend (Chris is busy). The only pieces larger than 36″x60″ are the closet drywall walls, which are standing on end and thus will be easy to maneuver and install. I need to install the floor cement boards, but for some reason I’m very nervous about mixing the thinset, even though it looks dead easy on TV. This is probably the same nervousness that makes me a lousy cook — when they say “mix until it’s the consistency of peanut butter” I get all anxious; do they mean creamy Jif, or do they mean that oily runny organic stuff? So I’ll be reading the directions very carefully and as much as possible mixing precise weights and volumes together.

I’ve already figured out how to cut all the remaining necessary pieces out of my three and a half remaining sheets of drywall and my nine remaining sheets of cement board, and then I’m going to have to figure out exactly where my tiles will have to sit vertically to

  1. make an entirely seamless pattern extending from wainscoting to shower surround,
  2. end up with my top row of 2×6 black bullnose tiles overlapping the cement board/drywall joints in both areas, and
  3. not end up with slivers of tile either at the floor or at the tub/wall joint.

I was going to take precise measurements and create a scale drawing in Adobe Illustrator, but it occurs to me that just attaching a bunch of tiles together with masking tape and holding them against the wall will probably be easiest.

We just found the camera cable today, so I finally got all the progress pictures loaded onto the laptop. I’ll see about posting those tomorrow while Jen is off getting her hair done and leaving me with the baby (can’t drywall with a baby, y’know, so I might as well blog).

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