Grouting Tile

After a 12-hour Superbowl Sunday full of installing tile, we reward ourselves with the pleasure of adding grout the following evening. The grout process is pretty simple and requires the least amount of tools to accomplish. Below you will see the items needed,

Grouting Supplies

Because of the subway tile that we used, the grout joint will be less than 1/8″. For any tile that uses such a small grout line, you will need to use a Non-Sanded type. For obvious reasons, the difference between sanded and non-sanded is sand, haha. The addition of sand is good for being able to cheaply add volume to the joint without compromising strength. The good thing about non-sanded grout is that it’s silky smooth and won’t scratch the tiles. The process of grouting starts with a box of dry mix that you will add water to in a bucket and mix till you have a smooth buttery consistency. Once this is achieved, you simply take your grout float and scoop some out then apply it in small amounts into the joints. Read More


Subway Tile Installation

Another great step towards completion is the installation of the subway tile in the shower. We went with a Snow White 3×6 subway tile from Home Depot and a matching Snow White grout.

The installation started out by figuring the final layout of the tile. In the first image below you will see that I tried to get a feel for where each of the tiles were going to fall before I started to install them. Though I do feel there is a much easier way to do this, the only way I could think of was to tape each one to see where it landed. I didn’t tape up all of the tiles but I felt like I was making progress with this method.

Tile Preparation

After I came up with the starting point for the first tile, I mixed up the first batch of thinset and started laying tile. I mounted a yard stick onto the backer board that was level and became the ledger for the first row. Since all of the tile for the entire shower will be based off of this first row, you need to be sure that you start out nice and level.

The rest of the tile work will be done over the next 12 hours. Working my way up from the bottom row to the ceiling, I painfully laid out close to 500 tiles until I was done (physically and mentally). The first image shows that I went from where the yard stick was to the top. Then I mixed another batch of thinset and completed the trim pieces on top, bottom and valve. After I was done I was wishing that I placed them out in a different way but since I didn’t realize until much too late, it will have to do for this house. I was upset with small tiles on the top row shown in the lower pictures but since I will be caulking the tile and ceiling joint, it won’t be that noticeable.

Here’s to my first shower tile install 🙂

White Subway Tile

White Subway Tile

White Subway Tile

White Subway Tile

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RedGard Waterproof Membrane

The next step after the thinset is dried on the walls of the shower will be the application of RedGard waterproofing membrane. This waterproof coating will be the final protection from any water that could seep through the grout of the tile. Since sealing tile grout can only do so much, waterproofing your backer board is essential.

The application of RedGard is very simple as long as you keep a couple things in mind. Besides the toxic smell of something that resembles an old memory of bleaching hair, it’s the application process that becomes the challenge of whether or not this will go smoothly and quickly. The consistency of the RedGard is like pudding and will be like applying putting to your walls. being said, you can imaging how messy this process can be if you are not careful with the amount that you apply on the wall at one time. The trick I found that worked well is to use a 4 or 5 inch paint brush and paint the RedGard on the walls then follow up with a 3 or 4 inch 3/8 nap roller to even out the coat.

Once the RedGard is applied onto all of the walls, it dries pretty quickly so you will need to balance between being as neat as possible and moving quick enough to apply before it dries. Once you have completed all of the surfaces of the backer board, wait about an 2 hours and apply a second coat the same way.

RedGard does color change which makes it really easy to tell when it’s dried. When you apply it onto a wall you will see that it is extremely pink in color. Once it dries is turns dark red (like the image below).

Remember to wear cloves, eye protection and a long sleeve shirt. Once this stuff dries on your skin, it will take days to get off without using chemicals. Also, mask away any surfaces that are in your target zone but won’t be getting the RedGard treatment. I got a little on the window frame and it’s possible that it may be on there for life.

Here are some of the images from today, feel free to ask any questions about the process as it’s was fun yet challenging.

RedGard Waterproof Membrane

RedGard Application


Taping Drywall and Thin-set

Over the past two evenings I was able to get the thin-set applied in the shower stall and the first layer of tape on the drywall. For the thin-set,  I used an alkali-resistant fiberglass mesh tape on all of the seams and corners before the thin-set was applied. This is very similar to how you would tape drywall, but just a little stronger and you don’t have to add thin-set to hold the tape on. The tape goes on by cutting it to size and because it has a sticky side to it, you can place it where you need it and it will stay put until you are ready to spread on your thin-set.

Here are some pictures of the thin-set I used, all mixed up and then applied. I used a 3″ putty knife to apply the thin-set and then spread it out as smoothy and evenly as possible. Unlike drywall compound, once it’s dry, you can’t sand it smooth. You need to make sure it’s as good as possible and ready for tiling when done.

Materials used for Thinset

Mixed Thinset

Applied Thinset


After I was done with the application of thin-set, I had to let it dry. Since the night was still young, I decided to tackle the taping of the drywall. I started out used a setting-type “hot” compound that you add water and mix yourself. The benefit to using the setting-type compound is that dries at a set time. Unlike regular premixed compound that could take up to 48 hours to dry per coat, this “hot” mud can be purchased in drying times of 5, 20, 45, 90, and 210 minutes. The good thing about that is that you can do multiple coats in a single day. The bad part is that you need to know how to mix properly to get a good, smooth consistency and you need to work quickly. Even with the 210 minute stuff, it starts to set a lot faster than you would think. It’s not like it’s 100% normal until you hit 210 minutes and all of a sudden, BAM! it’s dry. It starts to harden during the end of the time frame and you need to get a feel for when to stop. Also, when I mean stop, I mean stop applying, and start to clean off your tools quickly! It dries very hard and it is a nightmare to get off. Since it doesn’t break down with water like the premix stuff, you SHOULD NOT pour unused material down the drain.

The reason that I know how much stuff can go wrong is because I did all of those things on the first night and really screwed things up! I used the 90 minute mixture, I didn’t put enough water in the mixture, I didn’t mix it good enough, and I kept working until after it was starting to harden. So, what does this mean? It means that I had to scrape all the compound off that I applied on the walls because it looked like I tried to apply blue cheese with a spatula, then run down stairs to start cleaning my tools, curse at everything and anyone around me, then be depressed because I felt like I failed at something that should have been easier. Luckily there wasn’t that many joints done before it started to get really hard.

So, I slept it off and went to Home Depot last night and picked up a normal 5 gallon pail of premixed, mid-weight compound. I was able to go home and give it a quick mixing, and started to apply it immediately to the walls until I was completely finished with the first coat of taping the joints and corners.

Here is the setting-type joint compound and me all excited to get things rolling like the pros:

setting-type joint compound

And here is what it looks like after you fail using the setting type compound and switch back to premixed

Drywall compound first coat

Drywall compount first coat

Drywall compount first coat



Drywall Installation (walls)

A very exciting and grueling part of the remodel process is the installation of drywall on the walls. Unlike plaster, drywall comes in very handy 4×8 sheets of gypsum and is faced with paper or mold resistant paper as you see below. A common color for mold-resistant drywall is usually green in color and somewhat heavier than regular drywall. To normally hang drywall is technically a simple process of measuring your wall and cutting the sheets to fit into the spot needed, then using drywall screws, screw through the sheets into the wall studs behind it. Now, if every wall in your room is perfectly square and level, you will fly through this process in no time. If you are dealing with some new walls and some that are close to 150 years old, then you have a tough job ahead of you.

Below you will see the finished product of about 12 hours of “hanging” drywall. The goal of hanging drywall is to use as large of a sheet is possible wherever you can to limit the amount of seams between sheets. You want to keep factory tapered edges together and all butt joints together. You’ll also want to stagger all butt joints so you will never have 4 corners meet at one point. One of the last and I feel a really important step is to leave a slight gap between the floor and walls. Reason is for expansion and contraction of the house. If you find a piece of drywall really snug against the floor, it’s best to trim a little off the bottom so in the summer when the wood subfloor swells, you don’t end up with your drywall cracking under pressure.

I did take note of one problem that I ran across while hanging drywall that I didn’t realize was a problem until I was about to screw it in. The R-13 insulation that I added on the back exterior wall was not laying as flat as it should because it is made for a 15″ wall cavity. Since I had to add studs inside the cavity to straighten the wall, they were only 13-1/2″ wide. That caused the insulation to bulge slightly and when I went to hang the drywall it was keeping it from laying flat against the studs. It was a simple fix by taking away some of the extra insulation, but it was still an extra hour added to the process.

Once all the drywall is hung, the next step will be to tape and “mud” all the joints with compound.


Drywall 5

Drywall 4

Drywall 3

Drywall 2



More Plumbing, and Hardie Backerboard

It’s amazing how much we have done in just three days! It was the first weekend since we started that we had two complete days work on the master bathroom. After setting the tub a couple days ago it gave us the green light to move forward with building the rest of the room with confidence that the core of the bathroom is in place, secure, level and plumbed.

Saturday morning started out with the valve body for the tub and shower. We wend with a simple Delta 1-handle faucet in an oiled bronze finish. The valve body has 4-ports which all have 1/2 npt make threads that make it easy to use all types of fittings for the installation. For the tub spout, you have to use copper piping so in the image below, you will see the prep work and soldered joint for that port. The other three ports I was able to use 1/2″ npt to 1/2″ PEX adapters. This, as all PEX connections make life so easy for connecting water lines.

After the joint was soldered, I was able to install the valve body using the 1/2″ piece of drywall shown in the image below as a depth gauge to help position how far out to put the valve. The valve body has a plastic template that needs to be flush with the finished wall so if the cement backer is 1/4 and the tile is 1/4, then you will need to place the valve 1/2″ out from the framing.

Delta Valve and tub spout

Tub spout detail

After the plumbing was installed, I was able to turn on the water and test for leaks before we closed up the wall with the backer board. The leak test was a success, yay!!

The cement backer board is the next on the hit list. It’s just like hanging drywall except a little harder to cut. The only tough part of the whole job will be the window sill and making sure it’s waterproof. There will be multiple steps in waterproofing the sill including the 100% silicone shown below, then the backer board, then mesh tape and thinset, then tile, grout and lastly another bead of silicone as a final layer of protection.

Window sill waterproofing

Here is the overall shot of the Hardie Backerboard installation. Later on this week I will be sealing the seams with the 2″ mesh tape, thin set and a nice coating of RedGard water proofing membrane. For one day I think we made huge progress!

Side note: The windows were previously installed in the house before we bought it, they are all crooked but the framing is straight. Not much we can do with that but it’s okay.

Cement Backer



Setting the Tub

Now that we have the electrical and the insulation done in the new tub surround area, it’s time to set the tub in for it’s final resting spot. The tub that we purchased was called a “self leveling” type of installation which mean that if you have a very flat surface for it to sit on, all you would have to do is slide the tub into place, and install the provided stainless steel screws to the framework. Well, wouldn’t that be nice? So what I learned is that there is no self leveling tub in the world that could compensate for the slope that we have going in this bathroom so I had to get a little crafty in the installation.

Luckily there are 6 foam feet on the bottom of the tub that can be shaved to the angle of the floor slope. Since they are about 2-1/2″ thick, you have a lot of distance that you could compensate for. Now, being said, if you decide to go the route that I did by cutting the foam, you can’t rely on the foam to support the weight of the tub on it’s own, you’ll need to support in by other means. This is where we go online an get so confused by all of the “proper” methods to set a tub. You will see all types of ideas from expandable foam, sand, gel, cement, concrete, mortar, and glue. The best solution is to always follow the manufactures instructions but in this case since it was a self leveling system, they didn’t call for any extra support. For this reason, I went with the 50 year old tradition of mortar. It dries hard, doesn’t shrink if you mix it right and it’s really strong.

The purpose of the mortar is to take away any of the air gaps that are going to be in between the bottom of the tub and the sub floor. Since I have made cuts to the foam supports, this will be a very important step to ensure that when we are in the shower that there is no creaking or flex in the tubs bottom.

There are two important things that I learned about using mortar for a tub setting. One is that you want to put down plastic so that the subfloor (OSB) will not suck the moisture out of the mortar prematurely and second, you will want to mix the mortar a little on the dry side so the you don’t have excess water that will cause the mortar to shrink once cured.

Here is the mixture of the mortar being applied where the center of the tub will sit. I made a bunch of small mounds that will be squished once we set and level the tub.

In the image here, you can see the little dance I had to do to get the tub level again once we place it back in its spot. It’s a process of sliding the tub front to back while the mortar spreads out below the tub.

The entire time I am constantly checking for level as I continue to perform the mortar dance. Now that it is level, I will add about 150 pounds of sand bags into the tub and let it dry over night. Yay!!

Leveling the tub



Insulation, Drains, and Electrical

Today was a day to do some of the smaller yet important details of the bathroom. First part that I tackled was the tub drain rough in. It was the first time that I have done this so it took a lot of time to get it just right. The tub that we purchased was a Jacuzzi Deep Soak so the height of the overflow was much higher that most of the standard tubs. The advantage of this type of tub is that you can fill it up all the way to 19″ which makes it about 5″ deeper than the one we had before. Using my miter saw to cut the 1-1/2 pipes to size, I used the same marking method that did to the main drainage while gluing which seems to work really well.


Here is the drain and vent installed in the floor. It took a lot of taking the tub in and out to get the length of the piping just right. I put the tub back in it’s place and glued it all together. Once it dried, I was able to remove the tub so I can insulate the walls.

While I was waiting for the glue to properly dry I took the opportunity to add some of the electrical boxes and start to prep the wall for drywall soon. Here is a quick shot of the main panel for the lights and fan. A little 2×6 blocking was added to limit flex in the 3 switch housing, not necessary, but I add them for piece of mind while wiring up the switches later on.


When the glue dried and we were able to remove the tub out of the way, it was a simple task to add some insulation on to the back wall. It’s the wall with the window which is obviously an exterior wall so any insulation would be better than none. We were able to use R-19 insulation because of the thicker 2×6 walls that I added so in the pictures below you will be able to get a small glimpse of me working 🙂




Drywall Installation (ceiling)

It’s always a monumental day for me to look back and see a room come together. The insulation and drywall are the two key elements that really start to show the shape of a room for me. Today was one of those days. The original ceiling was in almost good enough condition to leave as it was and just tape and sand. Well, that’s what I though… When I took the small section of ceiling out the other day to frame the tub surround, I for the first time saw how crooked it was. Because there was trim covering the seams and edges, I guess I never noticed how much of a slope the ceiling had.

In order to fix this problem it required the whole ceiling to come down and the lath had to be removed. After the clean up I grabbed the lowest point of the ceiling using a laser level and used that point as a reference. It was mostly the edges that were actually bend up which made the repair a lot easier than before. Keep in mind that the ceiling joists were strapped by true 1″x8″ strips of wood and that I will be attaching the ceiling to the straps. Being said, when I have to lower the edged down, I don’t actually have to lower the joists, I can just shim the strips of wood down.

After I got the strips of wood level, I started measuring the drywall down in the dining room and got Daniela to help carry and hold up some sheets while I screwed them in. It’s one of those fun times that you don’t realize until you wake up the next morning wondering why the hell your shoulder are so sore.


After the ceiling was hung, I immediately started to cut out the holes for the lighting and fan. As I mentioned earlier, we will be adding three recessed lights and one exhaust fan. One of the three recessed light will be for the center of the shower and the other two are overall room lighting. I penciled in the template for the recessed cans used a roto-zip to cut the holes. Since the attic is completely open, I’ll do the wiring from up there when it’s time.

Cutting holes for recessed lighting

The Fan was a simple install also. Just cut out the hole a little larger than the unit, then slide it through and screw into a joist or use blocking to create a place to screw into. The wiring will also be done in the attic at a later date.



Framing out the walls

Now that we have a very solid subfloor to work off of, it’s time to add the walls that will determine where everything will go and fit. The design will stay very similar to how it was before with a few changes to the sizing of some walls. The last tub was kind of thrown into an area that was close to fitting, but needed a lot of trim work to cover the huge gaps everywhere. Also, when removing lath from these old homes, they weren’t too concerned with the straightness of the walls, mostly because they could add more plaster to compensate for the difference in thickness. Changing over to drywall will be really nice for a fresh, straight surface, but in order for the drywall to be straight, the studs will have to be cut, shimmed and blocked.

Adding the framing for the tub/show will be relatively easy with the exception of the large beam the runs parallel to the floor. The framing will have to be cut around the beam which will also give us the opportunity to create a nice size window box around the window. Of coarse I’ll need to tilt the bottom of the window box slightly (about 5 degrees) in order for the water to flow away from the window and so that it doesn’t pool up in a corner.

I used 2×6’s for the window and valve side of the shower and will be using the original wall for the last side (rear). The rest of the framing in the room will 2×4 only in areas that need it. We have been tossing around ideas about what to do with the space behind the shower and it’s either going to be a closet, a open shelved space or completely left open. For now I will frame it open as I could always add to it without having to cut away walls and framing in the future.

You’ll notice that the ceiling had to be exposed slightly in order to get the studs to sit on in the right spot.