Monday, September 30, 2013

1,441 White Subway Tiles on the Wall

The walls in our shower are tiled (cue the choir of angels signing in the background).  I actually thought that we may never finish tiling the walls because it was just so tedious.  I literally considered just closing the door and crossing my fingers that no one would notice our half tiled shower-it could happen, right?  1,441 tiles later though (I am not joking), we are done with walls.  Whew, I will never tile with small tiles again- it's official.

Saturday was pretty packed with activity so we got a couple of rows in, but Sunday was the day that we really buckled down and did eight hours of straight tiling.

The annoying part about these tiles is that although they are laid out in nice 12" x 12" sheets, the spacing between the tiles goes haywire when you actually place them on the wall.  Because of this, we pre-inserted 1/8" spacers prior to install.

 Lots of 1/8" spacers...

Thank goodness for the spacers though, they do work!  Although, pulling them out after the mortar has dried leads to an unfortunate hand condition that I now refer to as "the claw".  Basically, it may be a couple of days before I can fully flatten my right hand out again.

We also got our shower shelves installed using whatever we had on hand to hold them in place.

So tonight we start in on tiling the shower curb.  Once that is done, we will be able to tile our shower floor, which is quite the mess right now.

Then it is on to grouting, which is going to take awhile.  Unfortunately, I did not even think about grouting when I picked out these tiny tiles.  I have no doubt that it will look fabulous in the end, but this will go down in our DIY history as the most trying tile job that we have ever done.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's a Love, Hate Relationship

You know when you get an idea in your head that you just get set on?  Well, that is what happened to me with the idea of subway tile in our bathroom.  It is perfectly classic, yet somehow modern; exactly what I wanted for our master bathroom.  However, in my blind decision to use it for our shower, I never stopped to think about the dreaded install of it. Boy was that a mistake.

Eric and I are no longer what you would call beginner tilers.  We have mastered leveling tiles on uneven floors, figured out how to do complicated cuts and have a knack for creating straight grout lines.  Knowing this, I didn't think that subway tile install would be a problem at all.  What I didn't consider was that our 12 x 12 squares of tile would require precision to install the likes of which neither of us were prepared for.  In retrospect, buying individual larger subway tiles verses 12 x 12 squares of connected subway tiles would be a much easier way to go.

Tiling started on Saturday afternoon with a plan.  We laid out some tile trying to determine where exactly our boarder would be positioned on the wall and jotted down some measurements.  Once we knew that, we installed our bracer boards on the shower walls.

We always install these level boards when tiling vertically to brace our initial row of tile with.  This sets us up with a perfect grid with which to place all of our tile according to.  With that in place, we set to work by mixing up our white Flexbond mortar (white because our grout will be white).  We spread the mortar on with a 1/4" x 3/8" trowel in small segments and began placing tile.

I thought the subway tile was hard to install until I got to the accent/border tile.  That was even harder.  Every little square wanted to go in its own direction.  Plus, in retrospect we were using too large of a trowel...  For the boarder, we should have used a 1/4" v-notch trowel at most.  You live and you learn, right?  Well, after a couple hours of very aggravating install, we got one row of subway tile and one row of boarder tile installed.  We then stepped back and realized just how bad it looked.  We had mortar squeezing through our grout lines, the boarder/mosaic tiles were not perfectly placed.  Basically it was a recipe for disaster.  Thinking that maybe we were being a bit too critical, we decided to give it a day to grow on us.  Unfortunately, the next day it looked even worse.

We tried to scrape some mortar out of grout lines and salvage our work, but it was no use.  After 48 hours of staring at our work and noticing the imperfections more and more, we decided to rip the boarder our on two walls.

This is what we were left with:

Yikes.  In the process of removing the boarder tile, we did a bit of damage to the hardiebacker.  We also loosened up some of the subway tile so we removed that as well.  To repair this, we spread on a little mortar to flatten back out our surface.  Tonight, I will paint RedGard over the mortar again and this weekend we will go full force tiling the shower.

The good news is that one wall remained unscathed.

So you can get a bit of an idea of the look that we are going for.  At least we know that it can be done.  Surely, we can duplicate this work on the other walls.  We shall see this weekend!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Icing On The Cake

Happy Monday all!  Sure it is the start of another work week, but I find myself really enjoying Monday's lately.  They mean that I get to sit at work and not spend my day running around like a crazy lady doing house projects.  Come Thursday, I will be recovered and ready to start another weekend of projects again.

This weekend was spent working on our shower and finishing up the front half of our bathroom.  I can now say that the vanity portion is truly done.  The final step in the process was mirror molding.  Mirror molding is one of those trendy bathroom upgrades that is very popular on Pinterest right now and we jumped right on board with the trend.  Our reason for deciding to do it was not solely for visual purposes though, we were covering up a few issues...

I mentioned in a previous post that we chose to re-use our 3 x 3 mirrors that we originally had in our bathroom.  They were in perfect condition, so why not?  The only issue is that the sides of the mirrors had years of paint build up from color changes and in the process of re-installing the mirrors, we did a tiny bit of damage.  We chose to sink screws into our walls to act as supports for our glued mirrors as they dried.  Unfortunately, we did not think about the weight of the large mirrors on the screws.  So, we installed and then found that we created about a 1/2" "break" in one of the mirrors on the bottom (not really a break, but we cracked off the backing of the mirror, which meant you could see the wall through it).  So, the molding was brought in to cover the damage and the painted sides of the mirrors.

We wanted the molding to match our cabinets exactly, so I went back to the Home Depot kitchen and bath department to check out my options.  Option one was mirror molding, but the pieces were only six feet long, which means that we would have had to buy eight pieces to fully surround our mirrors- expensive.  Option two was "counter top molding", which looked just like the mirror molding but was missing the cut out in the back to fit over the mirror.  This molding was sold in eight foot lengths so we only needed to buy four- score!  Knowing that my brilliant husband could surely figure out a way to cut the counter top moldings to fit over the mirror, I went ahead and ordered.

Not even two weeks later, the molding came in and we set to work figuring how to make these moldings fit.  My first thought was to use a router, but we needed to cut 3/4" down into the molding and routers only do 1/2" cuts.  Plus, we do not own a router.  This is when Eric had the brilliant idea to use his Dado blade on the table saw.

The blade looks pretty gnarly, but we did a couple of practice tests with it and it worked perfectly!  In no time, our molding went from looking like the piece on the right, to looking like the piece on the left (sorry it is blurry).

From there, it just took some 45 degree cuts with the chop saw and our molding was ready to install. We chose to glue the molding on using an interior kitchen and bathroom grade clear adhesive and then to tape the molding in place for 12 hours to dry.

Sunday morning came the big reveal!

I also added a bit of decor to dress up the vanity.  Most everything decor wise came from HomeGoods, with the exception of the grey vase from Crate and Barrel and the florals from Michaels.

So, there you have it.  The bathroom is partially done.

Up next came the shower.  We started the shower by painting on one coat of our "favorite bathroom building insurance", RedGard.

At this point, we only had half the shower hardiebacker installed, but I wanted to get two coats on the bottom half of the shower before tiling.

Once that was dry, we installed the top portion of the shower hardiebacker, again using 1/2" hardiebacker for wall tile.  Once screwed in (with hardiebacker screws), we began using fiberglass tape and mortar to cover the seams.

We let that fully dry and then it was time for RedGard coat number two.

With that, we were ready for tiling.  Check back later this week for how that went.  Let me tell you this much, we will never use subway tile again in any application- what a headache.

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's The Little Things

In the past couple of weeks, I have opted to do posts on the larger changes to the bathroom because, well, they tend to be a bit more exciting.  But, that is not to say that we have not done our fair share of tedious little projects lately too.  Case in point- light fixture moves, towel bar moves and toilet install.

Light Fixtures:
Just like our old counter tops, our light fixtures were really low.  In fact, they partly obstructed Eric's view when he looked in the mirror.

With our new counter being eight inches higher, everything had to move up.  Luckily, our mirrors were not glued to the wall and we had studs in place to mount the moved lights to.  To patch up the holes from the old light fixtures, we screwed a small piece of wood in behind the hole and then used the drywall cut out from the new hole to fill it in.

 Although this would all eventually be covered by new mirrors, we did take the time to mud over the holes and make them look like they were never there.  The new lights are about a foot higher than they used to be.

Toilet Install:
I don't know what it is about us, but we always purchase the hardest toilets to install.  I love skirted toilets for the ease of cleaning, but they are REALLY hard to get in properly.  We typically go through six toilet rings per toilet install because we average having to rip out and re-install each toilet three times.

Install started with using diamond drill bits to drill the holes for the mounting brackets.  We always buy a couple of extra drill bits when doing this because you have to keep it wet while drilling which can be hard.  The second the bit dries out, it is ruined.  Needless to say, we went through a couple in the process of installing the toilet.

Step two was installing a new quarter turn valve and hose for the toilet.

Then, it was time for install.  We typically like to put down some boards at first so that we can confirm the placement of the toilet.  Once we know that we have it in the perfect spot, we lift the toilet a bit, pull out the boards and drop it down.

We pretty much always use two stacked toilet rings (extra insurance).  If you install a toilet, find that it isn't sealed properly and go to pull it back out, DO NOT be tempted to re-use the toilet rings.  It is time to run to the store and get brand new ones.  Hence the reason that we have a supply of toilet rings in our garage.

After three tries installing, I am fairly sure that the toilet is now sealed and ready for action.  It looks so fancy and pretty and I love how narrow it is considering that the room is tiny.  Maybe one of these days, I will work up the courage to actually use it!

Have a great weekend all!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shower Pan

We have a shower pan!!!!  It seems so silly to be so excited about poured concrete and hardy backer, but let me tell you that getting this shower pan installed was a beast.  First of all, shower pans are not something to be messed around with and definitely not a DIY job (unless you are an expert).  With visions of the potential damage done by a poorly installed pan, I went for the best installer I could find only to discover that he was booked six weeks out.  So, for the past six weeks, we have carefully avoided our shower area and focused on projects we could get done.  Finally, Monday was the day of shower pan install and it happened just in time.  With the rest of the bathroom pretty much done and functional, it is time for us to get going on this last but major element.  Plus, my Mom is visiting in October and I would love to be able to reveal the completed bathroom to her.

Prior to our installers arrival, we made sure that our shower was good to go.  With our insulation in place, floor drain and wall plumbing updated/installed and curb built, we were ready to go.

Day one of install started with a mortar pour in the shower pan to create a nice even base.  Then, a waterproof membrane was inserted within the shower.

This waterproof membrane is crucial.  It attaches to the studs within the shower and folds up over the curb of the shower.  At the end of day one, our installer filled a water balloon up, set it in our drain and filled the membrane up with about three inches of water to sit over night.  Luckily, there wasn't any signs of leakage.

Day two started with installation of the bottom three feet of hardiebacker.  Please note that this is 1/2" hardiebacker for wall tile, verses the standard 1/4" hardiebacker used for floor tile.

Once installed, a sheet of metal lathe is laid in the bottom of the pan and then the mortar is poured on top.

The grading of the mortar pan was the main reason for us not wanting to DIY this project.  Pans have to be graded to at least a certain angle per code, but this angle is slightly adjustable based on the floor tile that you plan to lay.  For instance, we are using river rock for our floor tile.  If we were using large river rocks, the angle of the pan would have to be greater so that water would not pool between the rocks.  In our case, the river rocks are relatively small so this was not a concern.  It made me feel good though when our installer asked to see our tile prior to the pour so that he could adjust accordingly.

The final step was to silicon caulk in the front of our curb.  In two days when the pan is dry, I will get in there and do two VERY thorough coats of RedGard on everything (especially focusing on the corners of the curb).  Come Sunday, we should be able to start tiling!

While the custom shower pan install wasn't cheap (it cost about $700 in labor and supplies), I think it is well worth the money.  If you think of the cost associated with fixing a leaking shower (ripping it out and repairing damage that in our case, would occur in both the bathroom and the poker room directly below), it seems well worth the expense. At least I can have some peace of mind.  On to tiling!

Monday, September 16, 2013


We're back and happy to report that our little house survived the Boulder floods!   Sorry to have left you with notice that I would report back with vanity pictures and then disappear, but life just got in the way.  Plus, we bought this 2000 piece puzzle after days of being stuck inside due to rain and it became all consuming.  I kid you not.

It's the never ending puzzle. I am kind of sick to death of putting it together, but I simultaneously have a compulsion to finish it and then mess it all up again. 

Today though, we are back to our DIYing (new word) and I am happy to report that we now have a  semi- functional bathroom.  If you remember from this post, Eric and I installed our cabinets (ordered through Home Depot's kitchen and bath department) and then had a two week delay after templating before our vanity top was due to arrive.  In that time, we decided to go ahead and add the hardware and get our mirrors installed (recycled from our old bathroom- thrifty DIY).  Of course, we used our handy dandy hardware template for the cabinets- lifesaver.

Once holes were marked, we started drilling. We did this by initially drilling a small pilot hole and then moving to the appropriate drill bit for the hardware.

We decided on pulls for the drawers and knobs for the cabinets. All hardware was purchased at Home Depot.  Boy do I need to dust those cabinets.

Install only took about an hour to complete and we happily moved on to other projects to take care of in the interim. The exciting part of our story comes when I got the call that our vanity top was in.  Yippee!!!

So, last week the installers showed up and got to work installing our ridiculously long vanity.  It took them about three hours to do, but here it is!  Please excuse the mirror install as we are still waiting on our mirror trim to match the vanity.

We chose to go with a quartz counter top in River Shoal for a number of reasons.  The main one was that I wanted a durable surface that wasn't overly busy.  We were slightly limited on material choices due to the length of our vanity ( it is 108" long), so I basically had to go with either granite or quartz.  I found most of the granite to be busier than I wanted, so quartz it was!

In an effort to save a bit of money, I purchased our under-mounted sinks and faucets from Home Depot.  Due to the length of our vanity, I decided on an 8 inch spread faucets rather than the standard four inch spread and I am really happy with the results.  Plus, it looks like it will be easier to clean.

Install was done in one evening and was actually very easy (how often can you say that about a plumbing job?).  It looks a little odd, but it is only because our sinks about six inches off from where our old sinks were.

So, now it about time to kick our rears into gear and start on our shower.  Our shower pan install is occurring as I speak (I will recap this later this week), and once that dries,  it  is go time for shower walls and more tiling.  I said to Eric yesterday, "I don't know if I am ready to tile the shower, I haven't fully mentally recovered from tiling the floor", to which he answered, "we have the rest of our lives after the shower is done to recover, get to work".  Ah, the joys of marriage :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away

In case some of you haven't seen the national news, Boulder, Colorado is essentially under water.  I have never seen so much rain in my life.  It is just never ending.  Luckily, our home is situated up on a little hill so we have yet to see any signs of water in our basement however, we have friends who have not faired so well (people with eight feet, not inches, of water in their basements).

We ask that you keep Colorado folks in your prayers.  This storm doesn't seem to be near letting up.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stitch Fix

We are taking a fashion detour today folks due to my recent discovery of Stitch Fix.  You see, I am the kind of person who likes to be somewhat fashionable, but hates shopping for clothes.  What shopping I do is typically online and is limited to a handful of the same stores- Ann Taylor Loft, Gap, Nordstroms. This has served me fine over the years, but after a recent closet inventory, I noticed that I am in a serious rut and am bored with my closet.

About three weeks ago, I was reading yet another blog post about how wonderful Stitch Fix is and decided to bite the bullet.  The results- I love it!  Here is how it works:

1.  You go to the Stitch Fix site, fill out a style questionaire and schedule your first "fix".  Each fix costs $20 which can be applied to any clothing that you decide to keep from the "fix".  You are sent five items to try on and to decide whether you would like to keep them or not.

2.  Upon deciding which items to keep or send back, you pack up the send back items (in a pre-paid shipping package Stitch Fix supplies) and send those items back to Stitch Fix.

3.  Yup, that is it.  Easy as pie.

My first "fix" came last week and I was actually so excited about it that I tracked the package and drove home over lunch one day to see my items.

The package included one necklace, two shirts, one pair of boot cut jeans and a dress.

Each item comes with these little cards for ideas on how to wear the garment.  It's like having a personal stylist.

Of course, I immediately started trying on.  

In the end, I was pretty amazed by how well everything fit.  I ended up just keeping the black shirt from the picture above.  I loved the zig-zag top, but it was a bit too short in the body for me (tall girl issues). So, I packaged everything I didn't want up and dropped it into the mail drop later that day.

In the end, I paid $20 for the order, but the shirt was $55, so my total came to $35+tax!  You also have the ability to craft the next order a bit and give commentary on items.  I specified that for the next order, I didn't need a dress but would like to see some fall tops and maybe a pair of skinny jeans.

If you interested, you can sign up here:

Full disclosure- This post is not sponsored by Stitch Fix however, the link above gives me a referral credit if you choose to sign up.  The good news is that if you do sign up, they will also give you a link to share with friends and family to receive credit.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Crowning Moment

Such a cheesy title, but I couldn't resist.  Among other things, one bathroom update this weekend was the addition of crown molding.  I love crown molding; it just finishes off a room so nicely.  Plus, I am a bit OCD about the paint joint between the wall and ceiling being perfect and crown molding hides it. What you cannot see, you cannot stress about.  Having said this though, crown molding can be a bit of a pain in the booty.

In the past, Eric has devised complex equations to calculate the corner cuts while the crown is laying flat.  Basically, you have to be a mad scientist to understand his calculations, so I thought I would make life easier this time around and take a pointer from YoungHouseLove.  Per their recommendations, I ran out to Lowe's and bought the Kreg Crown-Pro.
This thing is great!  Basically, you can set it up to mimic the angle that you crown will lay at on your wall/ceiling and cut.  So easy- yeah no more calculations!  Also included is this little angle finder so you can check each angle of the room prior to making cuts.

It was a small miracle that every angle of our bathroom was exactly 90 degrees (may be the only square room in our house).

So, we read through our Kreg directions, pulled out the miter saw and got to work.

In no time, we had the molding installed and I got to work caulking it in (top and bottom) with painters caulk and filling holes.  I do not think it is always necessary to caulk in molding, but in a bathroom I like to.  I do not want moisture getting in behind the molding.

It definitely looks worse before it looks better, but a little caulk and some paint touch ups, and it looks amazing!

We also installed baseboards, which is so much easier than crown molding.

Some were a bit tricky due to vanity drawers, but not too bad.

I again did the caulking treatment to this.  The only difference is that I use silicon caulk on the bottom of the baseboards rather than painters caulk.  Taping makes caulk perfect- tutorial here.

I will be back later this week with more updates.  Spoiler alert- we now have a counter top!