Posts Tagged Tub

To Tub & Toilet

So the grouting is finished & sealed, 2 applications on the floor and 1 application on the shower walls. Now when the grout gets wet, the water runs across it in little beads. According to the bottle, it must be reapplied in 6 months, but then should last 20 years…? Sounds funny to me, but I’ll do it their way.

A large step forward was connecting the tub faucet and then attaching the mixer plate & handle. Pretty straightforward, except when trying to get the tub faucet to point downward. After screwing the faucet on and off about 20 times (and going through about half a roll of teflon tape) I finally got it to point down. Apparently there is a rule of thumb that the threaded pipe sticking out of the wall should be a very specific distance off the finish wall. But where is the fun in after the fact? I nearly cut my palm twisting it so hard, getting it to the right position, but I got it!

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The mixer plate and handle were pretty straightforward. The plate already had a seal attached to the back, so I simply had to line it up level and screw into place.

Then I decided to install the toilet! (I am probably the only person who is excited when work is over, knowing I get to go home and install a toilet…)

First thing was to line up the toilet flange and mark the holes where I would need to pre-drill. Turns out the floor tile is hard as nails. Even with a masonry bit, drilling directly into the face of these little hexagons was next to impossible. The bit would smoke and eventually turn red hot at the tip – wasn’t working. Because these tiles will never be visible, I used a hammer and nail-set to punch a hole or crack the tiles where the screws needed to be – this worked much better. Then I could screw the flange tight to the finish floor. I used 2″ stainless steel screws, and they fit in the countersunk holes just right.

I actually found quite a bit of discussion on plumbing & construction forums about whether the toilet flange is supposed to be affixed atop of the finish floor (as I did) or if it was meant to be attached before the tile so it would be flush with the finish floor. It sounds like it depends on different areas of the US as to which method is more popular among licensed plumbers. And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen both examples when replacing different toilets, and neither have leaked. Who knows.

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Above the flange is screwed into place (it only required 4 screws, but I used 6 just to make sure – this toilet is going no-where!). I have set the toilet anchor bolts into place and the wax seal is to the left, upside down in the plastic liner. Trying not to get my hands too dirty, I flipped the wax seal into place and peeled the plastic liner away. Then it was time to carefully lower the toilet onto the wax ring, trying to line up the anchor bolts with the corresponding holes in the toilet base.

(It was right about this time I figured I should sweep up the sawdust from the toilet – it has been sitting in one of the bedrooms where I’ve got my miter saw set-up so it got a little dusty.)

IMG_2241 BI never know exactly how tight to bolt down the base. I typically tighten the bolts evenly, making sure the toilet has no play and doesn’t rock at all on the floor. When the metal washers start to bend, I figure that is tight enough. I’m always worried about cracking the porcelain – I hear it can happen if you over tighten.

Attaching the tank is pretty straightforward. Set the rubber gasket on the underneath of the tank, and lower the tank onto the base. This model had 3 bolts. I made sure to tighten them evenly until I felt the gasket was evenly compressed. If the tank looked off-level, I simply tighten the opposite side to adjust.

IMG_2245 BI used a metal hack saw to cut off the tops of the anchor bolts, and then snapped on the plastic bolt covers. A simple braided water supply line, voila! I have a both a working tub and toilet tonight!IMG_2251 B

I’m still readying the dresser before I can set the sink into place. I’m using marine varnish, and it requires 6 coats to have a thick and water durable finish on top.

So what’s left before this bathroom and be a bath-done?

  • install window
  • tile, grout, and seal grout around window
  • 2nd coat of paint on walls
  • crown molding around ceiling
  • build & paint medicine cabinet
  • install light fixtures
  • fit door to frame
  • install door & window molding

Ok, maybe I’m not as close as I thought to finishing…

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Finding my Niche

I love the look of white and gray Carrara marble, especially the aged floors and walls one can find in period homes and old buildings. It’s a rather soft stone, so it shows wear after decades of use. But that wear adds to its beauty.

Unfortunately, I really couldn’t afford marble for my bathroom. There is just too much tile on the walls, and even the floor would have been too expensive in marble hexagon mosaic.  I just couldn’t justify investing that much into this modest of a home – a humble 2-bedroom house in this neighborhood won’t see that return on re-sale anytime soon.

But I found a way to get my beloved marble after all – and affordably.

When it came to tiling the built-in niche, I used the mini-subway tiles (2″ x 3″) for the back wall, and I planned to use bullnose edge tiles for the sides to wrap back to the shower wall. But I didn’t like how the bullnose tiles looked on the bottom ledge. Knowing that soap bars and bottles would be sitting here wet, that would have meant constantly dirty grout lines. Not to mention, I’m not sure how I would make a shelf in the middle using smaller tiles – how would it hold itself up?

So while walking through the tile aisle at Home Depot, I saw how affordable 12″ x 12″ marble tiles are – $3.99. And I realized I could get both the bottom ledge and center shelf from a single square.

I cut and installed the bottom ledge first, and I liked how it looked to keep it slightly proud – 1/8″ or so – of the surrounding wall tiles. It gives it more pronunciation, and that “I designed it like this on purpose” look. To make sure it drains, I pressed it into the fresh thin-set and pressed harder along the front edge – so it is slightly slanted out toward the tub.

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For the sides, I used a bullnose tile. Because the niche is 4″ deep, the 3″ bullnose tile wasnt deep enough. I had to use 4″ bullnose tiles, so up and down both sides I had to cut each tile so that the grout lines would line up. I went 4 tiles high -the equivalent of 12 inches- then set the next marble piece in to act as the upper shelf. It sits on the tiles below it.

Where the top and sides meet, I cut the meeting edge at a 45 degree angle to miter the corners. The resulting niche is below.

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The marble looks great, just a hint of natural stone in the field of all white ceramic tile. Both the ledge and shelf are just slightly pitched to drain outward, so water will drain. The only thing I realized afterward is that the factory edge of the marble isn’t exactly smooth. In fact, it’s almost sharp. Not “cut off a finger” sharp, but “ouch,” noticeably sharper than it should be. I’m thinking I will try to hone it down with wet-sandpaper and see what that does.

Grouting this was a little tricky also. The tile float was almost too big, especially in the upper part. But the beauty of grout is that messy doesn’t matter, it all sponges off.

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I’m thrilled with how it looks! Not a huge amount of shampoo storage, but enough for 5 or 6 bottles lined up sideways, and a few bars of soap on the shelf above.

The window ledge and sides will be done very similarly, only I’m planning to use a piece of marble threshold for the ledge. Lowe’s sells them in different widths and lengths, so I can find one to fit and not have any seams along the sill. But I have another week yet until the window arrives. In the mean time, I’m working on getting the wood dresser transformed into the bathroom vanity. Check out how it looks so far:

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One Month Later

It turns out tiling takes forever. Or at least a full month for me. Part of the reason is that I’ve traveled to visit friends on my weekends or helped on house projects with family members. The majority of the tiling I had left required using the deathly loud wet saw, and I feel terrible cranking that thing up later than 7 o’clock at night – it is seriously the loudest piece of equipment I’ve ever used, all wrapped up in a table-top saw. I decided to spare my neighbors the screaming from the wet saw, and in turn the tiling wasn’t getting done. Here is how it looked at the last post:

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The walls were nearly all tiled, just the trim pieces missing along the top, and of course that pesky wall niche. But more on that later, as I couldn’t make up my mind how I wanted to trim it out.

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So it was time for the floor. I sketched out a pattern for the floor that I thought would complement the walls. I knew I wanted white hexagon tile, but I liked how many of the period bathrooms I saw had a black border around the edge, either in black hexagons, little stars, or a solid stripe. In the name on consistency, I used the same narrow black lines that I used on the walls, only a single black line rather than a double.

I started with a 6″ square all around the room and flat up against the tub, then the skinny black liner tile, and then filled in the center – about 5 ft x 5 ft – with the white hex.

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While the border pieces went down 1 at a time, I thought the center field would be faster because the hex comes in 12″ sheets with the tiles glued to a mesh backing. But once again I made it more difficult on myself in an effort to ensure the final result looked like a professional installation. In my weeks spent searching inspiration photos on Pinterest and Google, I’ve come across too many bathrooms where intentions were great – but execution was less than impressive. Below is just one example – notice that line where each sheet starts and ends? I vowed not to let that happen.

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So my solution was to cut the first sheet of every 2nd row in half and lay the sheets across the floor the way one might lay brick – in a running bond pattern. And although the tiles are glued to a mesh, the spacing between the tiles still wants to vary. It took constant eyeballing the lines and watching for any spacing that looked too thin or too wide. And I still used a ton of 1/8″ plastic spacers.

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By this point, I was nearly as far as I could go using full sheets. This last row by the doorway I cut and laid 2 rows at a time, and then it was down to the little fillers around the border. These pieces – each one just a little smaller or larger than the one beside it. What a pain in the ass:

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Seriously – the worst part of the whole tiling job right there. Other spots were tricky, but in a good way – like a “DIY Show Off” challenge, like these chair-rail returns:

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But those tiny slivers to finish the floor? Pretty sure every other finger has been cut trying to push those tiny pieces through the wet saw. I was glad when the floor was finished. Speaking of injury, this tiling project has been cruel. Cut hands and fingers on sharp tile edges; tiny little tile chips from the wet saw stick to my arms, but don’t try to brush them off – more cuts like little slivers of glass; like dozens of little paper cuts!

And then there are my knees. By the time I finished, I wish I had invested in a quality pair of knee pads. Lesson learned for the next flooring project. Check out those hexagons!


But in the end, the result was worth all the blood, sore finger tips, and smashed knees. As my neighbors described it over the weekend when they stopped by for a progress tour, “it looks like a charming historic hotel bathroom!” My goal all along has been something that looks “timeless.” I want anyone who sees it to wonder if it’s the home’s original bathroom. By the way, I have some awesome neighbors who are super friendly and invite me over for homemade ice cream… #homebuyingscore.

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About the missing pieces of trim cap beside the window opening – because I don’t have a window installed yet, I don’t know exactly what size this final piece on either side of the window will be. I’m going to leave it off until the window is installed. Then I can tile the inside of the window return and know precisely where the tile will end into the woodwork which will wrap the upper portion of the window opening. But I can’t wait on the window to get here, so I’m moving on to grout!

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