Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bathroom #4 - Part 1

Feeling stress at work and needing a break, I decided to take a couple days off last week from work and tile our master bath. I had done the other 3 bathrooms a few years ago, but I had left this one alone. Mainly because I couldn't shut our bathroom down for a couple weeks while I worked through there.

It's a long process, so I'm breaking this up into 2 parts to get it posted before the year ends :)

bathroom_tile_01 Here's the before picture of the bathroom. It had ugly, gray carpet, cheaply made, stained, and old. Probably 10+ years old from when the house was built. This was throughout the house, including in all 4 bathrooms. In the first year I was here, I replaced the carpet in the other three bathrooms with tile. Each of those projects was smaller, from the hall bath at about 30qs ft to the downstairs guest bath with a corner shower and half wall in the middle at about 60sq ft. However our bath was the largest, and toughest, at about 95 sq ft.

We had replaced the carpet in the rest of the house with a combination of new carpet and hardwood, so this carpet was the last bit in the house that needed to be replaced.

In other projects I'd done more planning, but here I had taken vacation and was dedicated to this project, so I thought I'd wing it. I'll give you the outline of what I did and then the details. The basic process is:

  • remove trim
  • measure and cut backerboard
  • remove carpet, pad, tack strips
  • glue and screw backerboard
  • cut tile
  • glue tile
  • grout
  • clean and seal
  • replace trim

Sounds easy, and it's not that bad, but it is time consuming and it's work.

The Details

After I finished the 3rd bathroom about 2 years ago I was motivated. I removed the trim from our bathroom and started cutting backerboard. I'm not sure what intervened, but the backerboard has been in my closet along with the trim. So that step was done for me.

I had started by cutting about backerboard to fit about half this room. I started from the far left corner above, intending to start there with the tile as well. I've heard this is the best way to be visually pleasing to the eye, and I wanted to get as many full tiles as I could.


The image above is the vent in the far North side of the bathroom. Here I measure the vent dimentions and transferred them to the backerboard as shown here.


Once I had these done, I had a good template for cutting out the board. This board goes down on the subfloor, which has always been plywood in the rooms I've worked on.


I spent a lot of time on my knees, and buying a set of knee pads if highly, highly recommended. These make a big difference and prevented soreness on my knees. They don't help with the strain of getting up and down constantly, but that's a part of getting older I've learned to deal with.

Below you can see me measuring out the backerboard. I had all the large pieces measured and broken before I pulled up the carpet.


Pulling up the carpet isn't that bad. Carpet is typically just tacked down onto small nails and held in place with tension. With the trim removed, I could usually grip the carpet near an edge and pull it up.


The carpet is usually in pieces, and in this case where were two pieces in this main room, and one just to the right of where I'm standing above. They tend to pull up together, and you have to watch for carpet tape and remove it if you don't want all the carpet coming up. In my case, I didn't want to lose the toilet the first day, so I separated that piece from the others and pulled up this room as one large part.


Once the carpet is up, this tack board is all around the border of the carpet. It's not hard to get up, but it's sharp with little brads sticking up, and you have to work your way around. This was the near the end for me as I went in a circle.


Between the carpet and pad, I filled two bins with trash. It was a dirty, messy, smelly job, but I was glad it was done. With little kids growing up here, we had numerous overflows of the toilet, and that carpet wasn't horrible, but not a lot of fun to pull up.

Once that was done I glued down all the backboard with the same tile mortar that I'll be using for tiles. I also had some backerboard screws I put in as well. I think you could get by without the mortar, but I've used both and it's worked well for me.

Now it's time to break out the real tools :)


When I decided to tackle the bathrooms, I knew that a manual cutter wasn't something I wanted to mess with. I had heard wet saws work much better and with 4 bathrooms, plus a 5th in the basement if we ever finish it, this seemed like a good investment. I'm not sure what I paid, but I got a 7" one and they were $149 at Lowes as of this post. You fill it with water, and then turn it on and slide the tile across, as shown.


It's not hard, and if you go slow, it cuts fine. However it throws a nice stream of water back, and the front of my shirt and pants usually end up wet. You also need to regularly add more water to the tank. Fri and Sat this was no big deal. It was nice, and I'd measure a few tiles and then cut them, setting them in the grass to dry while I went to measure the next batch. I'd cut a new batch of 2-4 tiles, set them out, and take my dry ones up to fit in place. This worked out pretty well.


These are mostly full tiles, with straight cuts, but as you can see, you can actually get some intricate cuts at times. Like this one that went from the bathroom, with an angled wall, to the closet.


I slowly made my way threw the bathroom, as you can see. I used 1/4" spacers to mark my place, and when I had the entire main room done, I glued them all down in one session.

Tile Animation

That was Sat night that I glued them down, and let them sit overnight. You're supposed to avoid all traffic, but our closet is through the bathroom, and Tia was coming home late. I left the spacers in place, and it didn't seem like things moved. I hadn't done the closet or toilet room, or even removed the carpet from the toilet area. But it was a long day. I was beat, and I showered downstairs and lay down to wait for Tia to get home and watch the Miami/Oklahoma game.


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