Posts Tagged cement board

What’s Wrong With This Picture

Here’s where the sink is going to go. What’s wrong with this picture?

(And no, “it’s red” is not the correct answer.)

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Lessons Learned (First of a Series)

I’m sure there’ll be a whole lot of these posts, but here’s a couple of things I learned from working with backer board and thinset:

1. If you’re using HardieBacker cement board, don’t use generic cement board screws. Make sure to buy the green-coated square-drive HardieBacker brand screws. With the 80-year-old framing in our house, driving one of the generic screws went like grr umph argh oh hell that’s good enough whew that’s one; whereas driving the HardieBacker screws went like zip ZARCH zip ZARCH zip ZARCH.

2. Don’t mix thinset with your bare hands, no matter how expedient it seems to be at the time. Last night I was cementing down the backer board sheets to the bathroom floor, and at first I mixed up what I thought was half the 50-pound bag but only turned out to be about a third of it. That was easy — the drill + mixing paddle seemed to be able to handle it, and hand mixing with a brick trowel wasn’t too hard. But it only put down one and a half sheets.

So I went to mix up the rest and it didn’t want to mix — I put down my drill when I noticed literal smoke coming out of the motor housing, and still there were huge dry clumps at the bottom that the brick trowel wasn’t breaking up. So I just stuck both hands in and kneaded it like the world’s thickest cookie dough, and then washed my hands off under the hose immediately afterwards.

About two hours later, as I was thinsetting the joints, I noticed that my hands felt sticky, like there was a thin layer of rubber or silicone on them. When I finished all the jointing and cleanup at 12:45am, I realized that, no, in fact, it was the skin on my hands that was peeling.

Basically, it appears that the entire top one or two layers of epidermis on my fingers and palms got killed by the thinset and is peeling off. Ick. You can kinda see it in this photo:


I guess this is my first remodeling “injury” — so far hardware stores have been more dangerous than the actual work, as I bash into wire racks sticking out into the aisle and so forth.

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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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