Phase 3 is complete
Grout is down. Toilet is back in

New bathroom

New vanity, tub tile, floor tile, and floor mat

We finished putting the floor tile in the bathroom on Sunday, which needed at least 24 hours to cure. So we went to work like normal on Monday. I didn’t think I would have enough time to grout Monday night, so instead I put up the sanitary base on the wall between the tub and the vanity. On Tuesday I worked from home, so I started off doing the grout. I woke up around 7, had a quick breakfast, then mixed up the grout. We chose the same color grout for the floor tile as we used for the tub and vanity countertop — parchment. While I was letting the grout slake I got out the utility knife and razor blade and removed any mortar in the grout joints that I had missed with the pencil while laying the tile. I probably started grouting right around 8:00 a.m., and finished around 10:00 a.m.

New tile and grout

The new tile and grout

One detail that the Home Time tile video mentioned about grouting was that there would be a “grout haze” when done, which I would need to wipe off. I had not noticed any haze when grouting the tub or the countertop, but I definitely noticed a haze on the floor tile. I think I might have been a little more paranoid about wiping off the grout with the sponge for the previous tile projects, or maybe the difference lay in the fact that the floor tile is slightly textured, so it is more difficult to get all the grout out of the small dips in the tile surface, or maybe a combination of both. I had remembered that the video said to wipe off the grout haze with a clean towel, but I couldn’t remember when, so I went and watched part of the video again, and realized that they recommended doing it as soon as possible, and to simply step on the tiles, being careful not to step on the grout joints. So I spent 20 minutes or so doing that, and got off most of the haze, though I will probably have to go over it one more time.

Close-up of drain

Close-up of the floor drain. I tried to even out the edge with grout

After dinner on Tuesday I decided to put the toilet back in, figuring that the grout would have had sufficient time to dry. It wasn’t completely dry, so I was careful to not step on the grout joints. I took the rags out of the toilet drain which were preventing the sewer gases from coming up, and removed the rest of the old wax ring with a chisel (I didn’t need a chisel, but the wax is really sticky, and I didn’t want to scoop it up with my hands, so it worked pretty well). Then I spent a good 20 minutes cleaning the toilet, and then finally started to put it in. We weren’t sure exactly what sort of wax ring to get, so we got several — one deluxe wax ring, one deluxe wax ring kit (with new nuts, bolts and washers), and one non-wax ring kit. I decided to dry the simple deluxe wax ring first. Although the tile video showed putting the was ring on the drain hole, and then setting the toilet on it, the instructions on the wax ring said to put it on the toilet first, and then set it on the hole, so I followed the instructions that came with the ring. The tile video mentioned I might need some plastic shims to keep the toilet from rocking, but it didn’t seem like the toilet was rocking at all to me, so I didn’t worry about it (especially since I only had wood shims).

sanitary base

The sanitary base between the tub and the vanity

I did make 2 mistakes. When I got ready to put the nuts on the bolts, I noticed they were pretty rusty, so I decided to open up the package of nuts and bolts in the other wax ring kit, and then promptly realized that the new nuts would not fit on the old bolts. So I just stuck with the old washers and nuts, and wasted a dollar or two. The second mistake was trying a new gasket that sits between the toilet base and the tank. The old gasket seemed ok, but I thought a new one would be good. Clare had bought one at Pell’s that looked a bit different from the old one, but it did say that it was for a Gerber toilet, which is what we have. (Sidenote – Kathleen Harriman said she has toilet envy of our cool pressurized Gerber toilet, which Steve Harriman installed for us). I had quite a time getting the tank to sit right using the new gasket, and several test flushes, I realized that it was leaking just a bit from that seal, so I went back to the old gasket. Unfortunately, I had already put on the new $30 toilet seat at this point, and scratched it up a bit removing the tank. Oh well. Nothing I can do about that. After putting the old gasket back on it seemed to be leak-free. I then went around and caulked around the toilet, between the tub and the tile, and between the floor tile and the sanitary base. I am still not very good at caulking.

toilet back in

The toilet is back in, with a new seat, and some fresh caulk

We still have lots of work to do in the bathroom, but the 3 major projects are complete — (1) the tub surround, (2) the vanity, and (3) the floor tile.

Order of operations
Tile is on the floor

putting in new insulation

Ready to put in some new insulation

So we finished the vanity about a week ago, and had planned to do the floor tile next. Part of our bathroom project involves building some sort of shelves/cabinet where the washer and dryer used to be, since otherwise we have some empty space, and also because we want to hide the plumbing where the laundry tub used to be. I had been thinking for some time that we would want to put the shelves in before tiling the floor, but we still haven’t really figured out exactly what we are going to do for that, and it started to seem like we might never get floor tile down if we waited. Eventually I decided that we could do the floor tile first, so we decided to do it this weekend, hoping that it will be done by the time my parents come to visit next weekend.

All the old tile is out

All the old tile has been ripped out. Now just a bit more cleaning to do.

The plan was to get all the prep work done Friday night, then put in the tile on Saturday, and grout Sunday. We left work a little later that we had expected on friday, and then we also ended up talking with the Harrimans for quite awhile. We stopped there to pick up the tile saw that they agreed to lend us, in exchange for helping them with their website. As to be expected, we got talking about our respective projects. They have more than we do, but hey, we are still novices. So we got home a little after 8, heated up some leftovers, then got working on getting the toilet out. That was actually no problem at all. I shut off the valve, then flushed the toilet, which got most of the water out, but not all. Clare had the brilliant idea of getting most of the remaining water out of the bowl using a cup, which worked quite well. A bit of water spilled when I lifted up the toilet, but not that much. After lifting the toilet off, we stuffed some rags in the hole to prevent sewer gases from getting out. We put the toilet in the foyer temporarily.

new drywall is up

New drywall is up

Then I got to work removing the rest of the old right around the toilet. I worked on this until about 10:30 or so, then decided I would finish up in the morning. In the morning I finished getting off the last bit of tile, and also worked on ripping out more of the drywall around the toilet that had gotten moldy. Clare and Liz were working on cutting the new drywall when I thought I noticed more termite damage on the nailers behind the old drywall. It turns out that it was not termite damage, but that some of the insulation was a bit moldy. So I ripped out about 10 square feet of the insulation and put in some new stuff, and a new vapor barrier there. Though I had poo-pooed the purchase two weeks ago, the staple gun that Clare bought came in very handy. Then we started hanging the drywall. Unfortunately most of the pieces were about 1/4 inch too big, so we spent quite a bit of time whittling them down with the utility knife until they would fit. This time, unlike last, I marked the location of the studs before hanging the drywall, which made life much easier. So most of Saturday was consumed with drywall and sweeping up the bathroom. Clare and I did get some of the tile out and talk about the best layout plan. We decided on doing full tiles by the doorway, which means we will end up with some pretty small tiles right by the vanity, but they should not be too visible. I finished the day with 2 round of mopping, so that the surface should be nice and clean, and the mortar will adhere well.

Clare cuts some tile with the tile saw

Clare cuts some tile with the tile saw

Sunday morning we got out of bed around 7:30. For some reason Clare wanted to shower, but I got straight to work (after a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee). The first thing to do was to finalize the layout, which involved setting some of the tile on the floor (without any mortar), and making sure everything was straight, then marking the position of the tiles using a chalk line. Once this was done, I could start measuring the first few cuts that we need to make. This is one way in which we deviated from the instructions in the HomeTime tile video. They recommended laying all of the field tile first, then waiting a day and laying the edge tile. Since we had so few field tile to lay, this seemed like overkill, and we were anxious to get the project done, so we can put the toilet back in. I mixed up the thinset mortar and began making measurements while Clare got the tile saw and tile cutter ready. Since the tile saw sprays some water around, we decided to do it outside. It turned out to be a nice day — partly sunny and 55 or so — but it was only about 35 when we started at 9 a.m. Clare was a real trooper though.

Combing out mortar

Combing out mortar

I probably laid down the first few tiles around 9:30. It is best to work in relatively small sections, so we made 2×2 or 2×3 boxes with the chalk line. I began by scooping some mortar out of my bucket with a margin trowel, then I used the smooth side of my notched trowel to comb it out. I chose a trowel with 1/4″ wide notches with 1/4″ spaces and 3/8″ deep. The tile video recommended 3/8″ deep for tiles 12″ or larger. Our tile are 13″ (actually 12 13/16″ — to make it easy to do measurements using a 3/16″ grout joint. We decided to use a 1/4″ grout joint). After spreading out the mortar with the smooth side, I then combed it out using the notched side. This gets the proper amount of mortar down. I filled one 2×2 box with field tile, then set a few cut pieces which Clare had cut very nicely. After I had set the cut pieces, I removed one of the field tiles, to check to see how well my mortar was adhering (also recommended by the Home Time tile video). According to the video, the mortar should cover about 90% of the tile. If it is less than this, then the mortar is probably too dry, or if greater than 90% the mortar might be too wet. I thought my test tile was more like 70%, so I added a bit of water to the mortar, and also concentrated on getting a consistent 45° angle with the notched trowel. I then replaced re-combed the mortar where I taken the test tile out, and put down a fresh tile.

test tile

Test tile. Is there enough mortar?

I continued laying tile for several hours, and Clare continued cutting tile. For all the straight cuts we used a simple tile cutter which scores the tile and then snaps it. But for the trickier cuts, we used the tile saw. The tile saw has a circular blade with a diamond edge. It is not jagged like a circular saw though. The saw sprays water on the blade as it is cutting to keep down the heat and the dust. Clare used one neat technique with the saw to get some rounded cuts, which we learned from the video of course. She made several very skinny cuts into the area that we wanted to remove, then nipped them off using the tile nippers.

fancy cuts with the saw

Clare makes a fancy cut with the tile saw using the many teeth method.

I continued laying tile until about 1 p.m. or so, at which point I decided I need a break, so Clare and I had some lunch. By this point we were mostly done, and had mostly field tile to lay down. As I started to lay tile after lunch I started realizing that the tile was deviating from the chalk lines. I began to get worried that the tile was not going to fit how we had envisioned. So I put down a few tiles and sure enough, it looked like we might end up cutting tiles by the doorway, which is exactly what we were trying to avoid. So I consulted with Clare, and we decided to just squish some of the grout lines instead of cutting the tile.

all the tile is laid

All the tile is laid

I finished laying tile around 3:30 or so, and then spent about a half hour cleaning up. Now we have to let the mortar set-up for at least a day. Hopefully we can grout tomorrow, then put the toilet back in soon.