Category Archives: tiling

Getting in the mood

Our bathroom remodel has incrementally gone from a minor makeover, to a major job, and I haven’t even started it yet. It’s almost like our bathroom heard about all the work I did in the upstairs bathroom, and wanted to get in on the action.

At least the upstairs bathroom had the decency to wait until I was underway before it started throwing curved balls at me. Like a sibling who feels s/he has been shortchanged, the downstairs bathroom is being downright pushy and demanding in comparison.

The first step beyond the quick fix I planned was when we discovered the leaking tile problem in the shower.

Then we decided to replace the stupid tiny shallow bath with a shower enclosure.

And then this week, the beloved managed to drop the tank lid of the toilet and break it. Oops.

How did he manage to do that? Well the filler part of the toilet sometimes sticks, and you have to take the tank lid off and give it a bit of a tug to get it filling again. And …

So now, instead of replacing the guts of the toilet tank, we are in the market for a new toilet as well.

And what did I do when the beloved rather sheepishly confessed he had broken the toilet? I kissed him. Then danced a little happy dance. New toilet! YAY!!!

I had been planning to put down some laminate click lock flooring over the blah vinyl we have in there as a quick and temporary cover-over, but now the bath is coming out, and the toilet is coming out, it is the perfect opportunity to tile the floor at the same time.

Existing vinyl floor. Could be worse, I suppose …

So, we seem to have added floor tile to the list of things happening in our bathroom. Replace toilet, replace bath, new backerboard and tile on the walls, new tile on the floor. Seems like our bathroom is up for a major renovation.

I have been collecting things for our bathroom makeover for a while now. A few months ago I came across a beautiful black marble vessel sink on Craigslist for $50. Bargain. The same place also had faucets/taps incredibly cheap, so I got one of those, too.

Then I found a place that sold off-cuts of marble, quartz etc for countertops at bargain prices, and had a piece of white quartz cut down and edged to fit the top of our existing vanity cabinet. Suddenly we had a modern black and white vibe going on, which immediately suggested an art deco-style bathroom.

My challenge is how to use the tile to bring it all together. There are so many options, and so many possibilities. As we are trying to do this on the lowest budget possible, I am now scouring Craiglist, the salvage yards and any tile sales I come across in an attempt to find the cheapest, and best, tile possible.

It’s great to find something cheap, but it also has to fit with what I have already collected. So, every time come across something that might work, I set up a mood board to see how it might work.

Here are some that I have already put together:

The first one was inspired by some ‘salt and pepper’ granite tiles that I found at the salvage yard. They have a lot of them, so there would be enough to do the shower surround and the floor.

Option 1

The problem with this is that I think the speckle of the granite and the speckle of the quatz countertop will compete with each other and seem busy. I would prefer a more tranquil feel in our bathroom.

Plus they are salvaged tile, which will need the grout scraping off, and not all of them are in great condition. They clearly weren’t removed as gently as the white carerra marble tile I used in our upstairs bathroom.

My second option was to use some white subway tile from a large hardware chain store, then liven them up a little with mosaic accents on the wall and floor.

Option 2

Then I found some glass mosaic tiles that were on sale. I quite like these small tiles, and would pair them with grey marble tile on the floor (also on sale). I tried two options with this. The first has a plain feature wall.

Option 3

And a striped wall. Which I love the idea of, but might be too busy with this tile.

Hmmm … I like all of these options, and they are all perfectly do-able. None of them are really getting me excited enough to get going with them. What do you think?

In the meantime, my latest craigslist crawl has turned up some white glass subway tile on close-out special. Looks like another mood board might be in order.

Absolutely floorless

Well almost. Down to the bare boards: that’s where I was last time I wrote.

blank slate

I had wrestled out three layers of vinyl tile, then a layer of rotten plywood underfloor. After much thought and conscience wrangling, I removed the vanity, and finally the toilet. Which left me with a nice blank slate to build from.

In Australia, at this point, you would pour a concrete sub floor, and in it you would include a floor drain, called a Palazzi trap. You would grade the bathroom floor towards the Palazzi trap, so if the bathroom ever flooded, the water goes down the drain, instead of ruining the rest of the floor and the house. Then you tile on top.

They don’t do that here. Here they put down a waterproof membrane, a layer of plywood, a layer of backer board, and then a layer of tile. So if the bathroom floods or the pipes leak, you have to pull it all up again, replace the damaged bits, and start over. Which seems a little crazy to me, but that’s cultural differences for you.

Here pouring a concrete subfloor is considered old fashioned and not to code. And no one has heard of a Palazzi trap. When in America, do as the Americans.

So, down went the waterproof membrane.

A layer of waterproof membrane underneath everything

And down went the ply sub floor. This involved careful measuring, and cutting around the curved-edge bath, and the sewer pipe.

First piece of ply down

This looks challenging, doesn’t it?  It is actually quite straightforward. Lay down an over-lapping layer of masking or painter’s tape, that goes over the edges of the area you want to cut out.

Tape the area you need to cut

Use a craft knife to cut around the edges, carefully peel it away, and then you have a pattern.

Then cut out your pattern

Lay this on top of the ply sheet, and cut around it using a jigsaw.

Place pattern piece on ply, then cut with a jigsaw

See, fiddly, but not difficult. Imagine if I had to cut around the toilet and the vanity. Now THAT would have been fiddly AND tricky. Now do you see why I pulled them both out?

Eventually the ply sub floor was down.

I used the same process with the backerboard, but it needed a layer of thinset (a kind of mortar) underneath.  This ensures a smooth level surface to tile onto.

Backer board down

While I was waiting for the thinset under the backerboard to dry, I set to work on getting the tile ready to lay.

As you may remember, I found enough marble tile at our local salvage yard to do the upstairs bathroom for a grand total of $30.

Marble tile from the salvage yard

The down side of this tile was that some of it had been laid previously. So it had a layer of thinset on the back.

the disadvantage of pre-used tile

Before I could lay the tile this had to be scraped off. And it had to be done carefully so as not to break any, because when I say there was enough to do the upstairs bathroom, there was Just. Enough. To. Do. The. Upstairs. Bathroom. Eeesh.

No pressure or anything. I had about two tiles to spare, so I had to clean and make any cuts I needed to make without really breaking any. At. All. Anyone who has done any tiling knows how tricky this is.

Just as well I like a challenge.

Cleaning the tiles involved soaking them in a bucket for 24 hours to soften the mortar, then using a scraper to scrape them clean.

Soak that thinset!

It wasn’t quick or easy. Wet and repetitive. Luckily I had some assistance in the form of the two children with this process.

I would love to report that they did this happily and willingly, but actually I issued them with a 5 clean tile punishment for every misdemeanor.  Astonishingly, their behavior rapidly became angelic. They were polite to one another, and to us, helpful and cheery. They cleaned up without being asked. Their rooms were spotless, and their homework was done the second they got home.

It was quite strange. Here I was prowling around waiting to pounce on the slightest thing, and there they were frantically being as good as gold.

I think I am going to buy some more tiles from the salvage yard. I am sure I can find some other things to tile.

I know, I’ll turn the backyard into a mini version of Antoni Gaudi’s Guell Park:

Antoni Gaudi: Guell Park. image source

That should keep them out of mischief until they go to college.

I digress. Eventually the tile was all clean and ready to lay. Then I played with a few layouts, and cut all the tiles that needed to be cut to fit around sewer pipes, curvy baths and the asymmetric room itself. I was finally ready to put those tiles down.

Starting to tile

It’s at this stage you start to get excited

And very gratifying it was. After they were laid, I waited overnight and then grouted them.  Then waited over night and cleaned off the last of the grout, and then sealed the whole thing.

In the meantime, as the toilet was out already, we decided we may as well take advantage of our local City’s generous toilet rebate scheme and buy a new low flow toilet. They give you $100 if you replace your old water-waster toilet with a new Watersense accredited one. Our existing toilet used the equivalent of Niagara Falls each time we flushed, and with the rebate – and reduced water bill – as incentive, it made sense to replace it.

Cue several days of internet and Craiglist research. Eventually we settled on a toilet, and I answered a question that had been niggling at the back of my mind ever since I took the toilet out. I had successfully removed a toilet, but could I install one?

The answer to that is yes. Yes I can. And I have the photo to prove it. But as that photo also shows the tiled floor in a finished state, let me first remind you of what the floor looked like originally.

Before

Vinyl tile before

And here it is now.

After

After

After with our shiny new low flow toilet

Isn’t that better?

So the bathroom is getting ever closer to completion.

Best of all, while tiling, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with the vanity cabinet. First it was going to be pink like the walls, and then I tried the same blue as on our kitchen cabinets.

After the first coat of blue

But that wasn’t doing it for me either.

Eventually, my steam-punk upcycle of the vanity lights provided me with inspiration.

Lights post steam-punking

I decided to steam-punk the vanity cabinet. Which is exactly what I am in the process of doing. But you are going to have to wait until it is finished before I show it to you. And that will be part of the big bathroom reveal, coming next time. Stay tuned.

And in case you are wondering happened to the old toilet? I put it on Craigslist for free, of course. And someone wanted it. Really.

He came yesterday and took it away. He was from Tonga, and was going to ship it back to his village at home. I gave him the $20 white vanity top we didn’t use in the upstairs bathroom as well. He said he would take anything we had, and to call him whenever I pulled anything out, he would come and pick it up. Tongan interiors: 1. Landfill: 0.

P-e-r-f-e-c-t.