Floor Tile at last!

Last week the progress finally felt like it was moving forward at more than a snail’s pace. I had scheduled a lot of time to be home (woooooo) which helps in the progress department.

Monday night I picked up tools and made sure I had all the supplies– and then spent the evening with my second family (one of the many) playing games and catching up.  And then I set some tiles on the subfloor to pretend I accomplished something (#honestproject).

I picked this tile from Lowes. I loved the large tiles, the color, the variation in the tile, but the shimmer in it nearly scared me off. I got over it, purchased the tile, and don’t even notice the shimmer on the floor. Whew. Crisis averted.

 

Tuesday night I installed the backer board for the tile. It was, of course, more complicated than I hoped and the pros say to put it down with mortar and screws (I wasn’t initially anticipating the mortar part). So getting the last wonky spots by the tub leveled with shims and floor leveling compound and then getting the whole thing covered in backer board took the evening.

Wednesday night I started on the tile. This is my first time tiling (which kind of surprises me) but I suppose you have to start somewhere. They make it look so simple on HGTV. And it isn’t rocket science, but as I spend the entire long evening getting so few tiles in place, mostly learning to use the tile saw, and figuring out some complicated cuts. It makes me appreciate the pros and that I am far from being a pro!

My sister recently tiled at her house, so they loaned me their tile saw and tools and I am so grateful to not have to buy my own! My brother in law warned me that since they had bought the $90 saw, the blade guard is trash and doesn’t work so the saw sprays water at you while it cuts. Okay, that sounds harmless. And it was harmless but not without its own particular charm. Mind you, it isn’t just spraying water at you – it is spraying tile dust water at you. So by the end of the evening, your hair has the same texture as straw, sort of cemented together in tile dust. Your entire front is soaked, and you have to clean your safety glasses off after every cut. Fancy.

And still, I’m so grateful for the loan of the saw so I didn’t have to rent or buy one (and believe me, I would have bought this same saw because of the price).

The trickiest spot is that heating vent, that would have been mid-tile which wasn’t working (ask me how many tiles I broke trying to make that work).  And of course, it was the first line of tiles while I was getting used to the saw and its nuances. So I did a thin row of tiles along the edge and incorporated the vent as the second row (on the edge) so as to make the cuts around it. Live and learn.

At 9.30 pm, I realized my mortar was setting up fast and I might need more — and of course, the Blue Store closes at 10. Sigh. So I drop everything, run to the store for more mortar, meant to pee there and forgot, and was home by 10 to continue. I think it was around 11 pm as I stood on my deck, a torchiere lamp lighting the tile operation, being sprayed in the face with tile water and dust, moths fluttering around my head, mortar goop all over my whole body, cringing as I used that loud saw, hoping the neighbors had fans in their windows to muffle the racket. I just had to laugh at myself and the whole situation. Yup, this is the definition of insanity or tenacity. You decide.  I finished up around midnight– and by finished, I mean I put things away because I was half done with the bathroom and it was past time to go to bed. Of course, I couldn’t shower because there was freshly installed tile that I couldn’t walk on… so I slept filthy and showered in the morning when the mortar was dry.

 

Thursday evening I finished up the tile. It felt like I was getting the hang of it and I made more complicated cuts with less trouble and less broken tiles. I finished up shortly after 10 pm. Wooooo! It really looks great. I’m not saying there aren’t imperfections and I guarantee this won’t be my best ever tiling job, but I am saying I like the tile a lot. And I like the idea of one day having all the things we love about bathrooms like floors and walls and sinks and toilets. It is going to be so great.

I was planning to go with a lighter gray grout that would contrast with the darker charcoal tile but in the end (with some coaching from a friend) I went with the matching charcoal grout which was merciful with my newbie tiling job.

I started Saturday with a trip to buy a new toilet. There are a lot of toilet options out there ya’ll. I wanted a dual flush toilet (less water for pee, more for poo) because I’m on a septic and it just seems like the thing to do. There were so many options when it comes to buying a new toilet. So I compared some prices and features, read some reviews, and ultimately got this one.  The only thing I didn’t do on purpose was the elongated bowl — I’m not opposed to it, I just didn’t pick that on purpose. They really should let you test drive toilets in the home improvement stores. I’m sure they have them up on a high shelf for a reason, but it would have been nice (and the most awkward thing ever) to sit on them and see how the height / seat / bowl feels (I mean if I had no shame).

 

So I bought the toilet and then grouted the tile around the toilet in case my dad would be able to come help me install the toilet. I wanted everything as ready as it could possibly be since I’m now going on Day 4 without an indoor working toilet and I’m getting a little desperate.

 

Blessedly my dad and Grandpa came over in the afternoon for a couple hours and we had to modify the flange assembly to the proper height now that the floor was in. And in this case when I say “we” I mean my dad for the most part. He’d done all of the previous flange fitting stuff and was into the details and I was not. I’m so grateful for his help! I want this toilet on right so I never have to think about it again or find it is rotting out the subfloor with a bad connection. Grandpa watched baseball for the most part and was the first to inaugurate the new toilet moments after it was installed.

I finished grouting the rest of the floor on Sunday and man oh man am I loving the new floor and the new toilet. The toilet does feel almost dangerously tall after my last short toilet was installed under the tile and at an angle. This one is tall and level and doesn’t rock at all. Amazing. First world upgrades my friends. This is living.

There are lots of youtube videos and lots of tutorials online if you’re thinking about trying to install tile yourself. As with everything, it is work — but on the other hand, it isn’t rocket science and it is a whole lot easier than floor leveling and plumbing. I will also say that it hearkens back to dreaming within my means. I can’t afford to hire a professional right now but I can afford to learn a few things. Not such a bad thing, notwithstanding the midnight tile sawing and being sprayed in the face.

 

A few tips I didn’t see other places, if you’re thinking about tiling:
  • If you use a cheap saw that sprays tile water at your face, go ahead and start the project wearing a hat. It makes the clean up afterward about 100 times easier. Obviously, as with any power tools, you should already be wearing safety glasses.
  • Clip your nails before you start. Maybe you’re like me and can’t find your nail clippers because your whole bathroom is scattered around your kitchen, but if you have shorter nails, there’s less room to get them jammed full of mortar and you’ll spend less time trying to pick them clean and cringing at how bad they look at work the next day.
  • Be prepared to be very messy. If you are tiling your only bathroom, you basically tile yourself out the door and then have to wait for the mortar to set — meaning you should either dash over to a friend’s house for a shower or sleep gross (I chose the latter because it was the middle of the night).
  • Rags. Get out lots of rags. I found it super helpful to have a couple wet wash clothes for wiping mortar and rinsed them regularly throughout the evening. It goes without saying your clothes will get messy.

Mid-May

Apparently I never posted this… so here’s what happened over here in May.

Several weeks ago: my dad came over last Saturday for a couple hours. Our goals were to finish the sink plumbing (the one that had rusted through) and then level the floor. Of course, we got started considerably later than planned, so…

My dad had gone to the real hardware store and the guy gave him a fernco that should work. We had to make a gasket out of these little rubber sheets (my new favorite plumbing lifesaver) and this tape. Then my dad clamped the fernco on tightly over the gasket and the old pipe and voila! Solved! Now that we had that figured out, we could get to the floor leveling.

So the floor… it is hard to put in to words just how wonky this floor is. The tub is level. And the subfloor is 4 inches lower in the corner by the toilet than in the front of the bathroom door. It sinks two inches over the bathroom doorway alone. Gah. There is no indication it is moving still, but last weekend we added some braces to insure it doesn’t. My dad calls this the “belt and suspenders” approach which is a vast improvement over the previous homeowner’s “no belt, no suspenders, and probably no pants” approach.

By the time my dad headed home for dinner, we got the section by the toilet level, the new subfloor installed, and the toilet reconnected (again) – still wobbling away on a temporary platform because clearly #wearethatfancy.

Fast forward to Monday evening (yes, a full two days later), I’m working on the jagged floor vent in the bathroom (which is maddening and took 3 trips to the home improvement store to not find a solution) and suddenly I can’t help but notice the bathroom smells like sewer gas… I look over and the fernco that had been tightly installed is now sitting a couple feet away on the floor and the hole (thus the sewer gas) is sitting open. Great. So I guess that isn’t the solution we need after all.

I think I’ve figured out the solution, and believe it or not, it isn’t simple (shocking) and it is going to require removing some more drywall. This will mean all but the drywall on the wall behind the toilet is being replaced. And that piece isn’t in great shape …. Mmm hmmm. One step forward, one backward. That seems to be how it goes over here.

The Next Week:

That Saturday, I cut the old cast iron plumbing stack out, ripped out the unsecured and rotting stud walls surrounding the old stack, and figured out what I’d need to do to get the new stack in place. I put in the new fernco on and the new sink connection, but still need to plumb the stack up through the ceiling and out the roof.

Yard season is starting up again and it is feeling like everything needs to happen right now!! Gah! So I did some yard clean up during the week, mowed a couple times (different parts of the yard). I figured out some other details that I needed to think through (bathroom closet, where I need electrical, what I need to buy for the plumbing stack, etc).

The following week:

Saturday was go time. My dad had lined up a Grandpa sitter (my mom is out of town) so we’d be able to hit it hard on Saturday and get the floor finished up and maybe even the plumbing stack out the roof.  Instead the sitter canceled, complicating our plans. I got up early and pulled the remaining drywall and insulation off the walls on either side of the patio doors, filled the trailer with demo trash from the deck, removed the rest of the drywall in the bathroom, cleared the building materials from the clogged dining room to the deck so we’d have more room to work, and pulled out saws and tools.

My dad and Grandpa showed up around 11:30. We hitched the trailer up and Grandpa got to ride along with me for some errands so my dad could work on leveling out that floor. Grandpa was a good sport for the ride, told me what a good driver I am repeatedly (obviously it bears repeating), and waited patiently as I unloaded the trailer into the dumpster. We went from there across town to pick up something for a job at work, and again, Grandpa waited patiently at the lumber yard. But that long drive through line at Wendy’s nearly did him in. By the time we got back to my house, he was tired from all the running around (or waiting in the car) and was ready for some good ole’ Tiger’s baseball. I covered him with a blanket and he was on the edge of his seat (figuratively) to see if the Tiger’s could pull off a win in 1968 when they were down by 3! (Spoiler alert: They do win). Grandpa is not always content to just sit and watch by himself, so the fact that he was content to do so was a huge gift. What a guy!

Late afternoon, my brother Donal and his family showed up so CK could run the hills with his buddy Daisy. They visited with Grandpa, Donal helped my dad for a bit, and CK ran the hills and “helped” with the project. He loves a good project! CK removed a few nails with his tiny hammer, picked up nails with the magnetic stick, and then uninstalled and reinstalled my heating vent about 100 times. Always such a help!

By dinner time, my dad had gotten the new subfloor installed and leveled (except one piece on the end that I needed to redo). Woooooooo! LEVEL SUBFLOOR!!! I made a run to Lowes to get the plywood I needed for that one remaining tricky piece, ate some leftovers for dinner, and promptly fell asleep on the couch. Like a boss.

Sunday I got that final piece of floor in and the rest of the floor screwed down. I framed in the new closet wall and plumbed the vent stack back up into the ceiling. Apparently my dad doesn’t trust me to cut into my roof by myself (which I find moderately amusing) but if he is that concerned, I can wait for him on that. In the meantime, getting that closet framed means I can move on to install backerboard for the tile and get a floor in. Wooooooooooo.

The Bathroom Update – the easy (ish) stuff

I already told you about the Bathroom Dilemma and the Towel Dying experiment that yielded some lovely dark purple towels. So I mixed up a lovely dusty, mediumish purple for the bathroom (1 part old house bathroom paint + 1 part old house laundry room cabinet paint + 2 parts clearance white + 2 parts clearance azure gray + 1/2 part wet pavement paint from table painting project)… should probably come up with a fancy paint name for it– maybe we’ll call it moody violet. Or almost free purple.

Someone said to me this weekend “Oh I know you were thinking about what color to do the bathroom, I just didn’t realize you meant now.”  Ha! I guess I didn’t realize I meant now either, but it just felt like time. And I have a few days off work over Christmas and a couple moments between social events. Why not now?? (Okay the why not is probably because it is messy and disruptive-but too late for that now).

I should note my amazing Gramps came for a day after Thanksgiving and we disassembled the terribly crooked door frame, replaced parts, put it back together level and with the door actually latching! Grandpas are the best!  And this Grandpa can fix anything! Finally having a bathroom door that latches shut feels like living the high life, ooooo the luxury.

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Bathroom before:

Bathroom before1 bathroom before2

Bathroom now:

DSC_9928 DSC_9935DSC_9939DSC_9929DSC_9934  DSC_9941 DSC_9947DSC_9949DSC_9944   DSC_9952 

What I did:

  • Spackle & fill a lot of holes
  • Paint walls ($5 in clearance paint + paint from various other projects)IMG_2707
  • Replace shower curtain rod with one of those curved rods ($20 black friday deal) — Testimonial after first shower: AMAZING! It makes the shower feel so much larger!!
  • Scraped out icky caulk along tub and toilet
  • Caulk along tub/floor and toilet/floor ($4)
  • Reinstall (trimmed) trim on the inside of the door frame (removed when Gramps helped fix the door frame)
  • Scrape varnish drips off floor (they’ve been bugging me since I moved in bc it looks like dried pee)
  • Caulk trim around door frame, paint trim
  • Replace mirror (Ikea $15)
  • Notice that a horrid patch from the previous people shows with the new mirror (used to be hidden behind the old one). Sand down awful patch, re-spackle, sand, paint.
  • Spackle / patch / repair beat up door
  • Sew a curtain for the storage shelf area (fabric from stash)IMG_2715
  • Sew a new curtain for the window that fits the whole window (fabric from stash)
  • Put up shelf over the toilet — found a $5 Habitat Restore shelf — bought, cleaned up, put on a coat of white paint, perfect!
  • Project Total: $65 (including the door frame repairs I did with Gramps)

Someday Dreams:

  • New toilet (installed level)
  • New vanity / sink / faucet
  • Install bathroom fan (summer project since it involves cutting into outside walls)