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27 February 2007

Master Bath Remodel Update

This weekend was a busy one for the master bathroom renovation. The mastic finally set up after blasting the heat for the entire week. My wife and I were then able to start grouting the floor. Trust me; you can do a tile job. For anyone who thinks that it is a complicated DIY project listen to this. My wife is 9 months pregnant, and grouting away while I take pictures. It is not hard folks.

We let the grout set for 24 hours and then on Sunday I sealed the shower tile and sanded and painted the walls. I picked up a gallon of paint from Benjamin Moore’s down the street. I have to say, I usually use cheap paint and I think I am finished with that. High quality paint makes a hell of a difference. I was able to put two coats on and then start the baseboard trim all in one day. I would have finished the trim if it hadn’t been for that problem that I have with measuring. Oh well, looks like a stop by the hardware store on the way home is in order for today.

Next Steps:

Reinstall the Sink
Finish the Trim
Second Coat of Sealant on the shower
Paint the Ceiling
Put up Crown Molding.

Some of these steps will have to wait. I will get the sink in and the shower in working condition but then I have to turn to another more pressing project. With the baby on the way and no way to sanitize bottles, I have to get the dishwasher in this week. It was delivered yesterday and is sitting in the middle of my kitchen. I am starting to feel the pressure.

26 February 2007

How to Install a Toilet

Installing a Toilet by:
Mark J. Donovan

The installation of a toilet is a relatively easy job for a homeowner. With a couple of wrenches, a screwdriver and a few shims a new toilet can be installed an about one hour.
Toilets can be purchased at any home improvement store or plumbing supply center. Typically a gravity flush toilet costs between $150 and $300, however the price can double or triple for more elaborate units, such as pressure flush systems. Today’s toilets are mandated to use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, where as older units used as much as 5 gallons. The initial 1.6 gallon toilets were notorious for frequently clogging, however over the past several years suppliers have improved the performance of these low water-use systems.

Setting the Toilet

A toilet usually consists of two main parts: a bowl and a tank. It is best to first install the bowl. Prior to seating the bowl, check if the closet flange has been temporarily plugged with insulation or a rag to prevent sewer gases from escaping. Remove this. Next set the bowl on top of the closet flange to determine if it sits level. If it does not, prepare some shims to use later.
Next remove the bowl, and insert the closet bolts (approximately 2” long bolts) into the slots on the closet flange.
Then turn the bowl over and install a wax ring gasket over the outlet of the bowl. This outlet is also know as the “horn”.
Place the bowl onto the closet flange. Make sure the bowl is well seated by rocking the bowl down. Once the bowl has been seated, place a level on it and use the shims as necessary. Next, using nuts and washers tighten up the bolts. Note: be careful not to over-tighten these bolts as it could crack the bowl.
Next attach the tank to the bowl using the tank bolts, nuts and washers. Again, do not over tighten.

Installing the Float Supply Unit

Install the float supply unit into the tank and hook up the water line to the tank inlet. Again, do not over tighten and make sure to use the washers supplied.
Next, turn the supply line on and adjust the float as necessary. Finally, caulk around the base of the unit and you are done.

About The Author

Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit http://www.homeadditionplus.com and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com.

23 February 2007

Marble Tile

I was in the Home Depot the other day and I found these beautiful marble tiles that were on sale for $1.95/ea. It was such a good deal that it was hard for me to pass up. Even though they were not the right color for my bathroom tiling project, I wanted them. Marble Tiles!!! What a beautiful way to add class to a bathroom.

Unfortunately I don’t have any experience laying marble tiles and from what I can tell you need to have a very level floor in order to get a nice look. The key with marble tiles, or any smooth natural stone tile is that you do not want it to look like tile, you want it to look like a stone face. This is accomplished through perfect height adjustment, close grout lines, and grain matching.

I am a pretty handy DIYer but I am not about to try to make the floors level in a 70 year old house that is built on pillars. I guess I will have to save that dream for another project. I will keep watching for a slate tile that I like to go on sale so that I can redo my kitchen countertops.

Mastic taking Longer Than Expected

Well, here I am smack in the middle of DIY Bathroom Remodeling Project that is going nowhere fast. Now I know as an engineer that when we design a product and spend all the time testing it, working with it, writing recommendations about how to use it, and then simplifying it down into directions for consumers that it is pretty dumb when they don't listen. I should have listened. Now I have a whole floor full of tiles that I have been waiting on for a week to set up. A quick analysis of what happened:

  • The tiles are too large to use mastic (12x12)
  • The room is too cold for them to set up quickly(62 F)
  • There is too much humidity (70%)

The last few days I have cranked the heat up in the bathroom and the tiles are finally setting up. I should be ready to grout this weekend. Then it is a matter of slapping some paint on the walls, crown and base moldings, changing out an overhead light, and reinstalling the fixtures.

I wish that I had a little more time to work on the bathroom. I would like to put in wainscoting and a full glass shower door but that will have to wait. Unfortunatley, I have to get a dishwasher in before the baby comes (2 weeks but could be any time now). That will be the next not so do it yourself project.

22 February 2007

Tiling a Floor - Simplified

I found this article by Mark Donovan, who has quite a few more years experience than I do when it comes to tiling. I though it really laid out the procedure well.

Flooring: Installing Ceramic Tile
by: Mark J. Donovan

Ceramic Tile brings a texture, richness and color to a room that Linoleum has yet to truly mimic. Tile floors can be installed in any room, however they are most frequently seen in Bathrooms and Kitchens. I particularly like them in entryways, where they serve as a transition point from the outside to large carpeted or hardwood floored rooms. They make for easy clean up and are impervious to water damage.

Tile Types

Ceramic tiles come in two basic types. Glazed and Porcelain. Glazed holds up the best for heavy traffic areas and porcelain works well in bathrooms. Porcelain is typically more expensive, so consider your budget and the size of the area you want to tile. Tiles also come in many shapes and sizes. For flooring, however, I would suggest using larger tiles up to 12” x 12”.
For proper installation the base foundation or the underlayment is critical. Typically it consists of ¾” to 1 ¼” of plywood. Tiling over Linoleum or existing tile is also feasible, as long as it is solid. I also recommend when Tiling over Linoleum that you first apply ring nails or screws 6” on center over the entire area. Tiles can also be installed directly over Concrete. Make sure in all cases that the floor is level and free of dust and debris prior to installation. There are leveling compounds that you can apply before applying tile if necessary.
Preparing the Site
Before actually installing the tile, it is best to lay it out in the room to see how it will look. Pay close attention to how it runs out toward the walls, in the corners and next to cabinets, tubs and toilets. The trick is to lay the tile out such that stubby tiles do not show up in highly visible spots. Once you have completed this, make two marks with a pencil outlining the most centered tile. These lines should be perpendicular to each other. Also take note of the wall that is most visible from all the others. Now remove the tiles. Next draw or snap a line perpendicular to this wall that is in line with one of the marks you made on the floor.
Then, draw a perpendicular line to this first line. This second line should be centered with the first line and fairly in line with the second mark you made on the floor. Once you have completed this task, re-layout some of the tiles along the perpendicular lines and observe if they run out in a way that will limit cutting and stubbed tiles. Once this is completed, remove the tiles and prepare for the actual installation.

Installing the Tile

Again, make sure the area is free of dirt and dust. Next apply the ceramic adhesive or mastic to the flooring, starting in the center, where the two perpendicular reference lines intersect. Apply enough material to cover 6-10 square feet, if no cuts are required. If cuts are required limit the amount of mastic application to about 2-4 square feet. When applying the mastic, first spread it with the flat end of the trowel. Lay it on relatively thick, approximately 1/8” to 3/16”thick. Then turn the trowel around and run the notched edge over it. This creates ridges in the mastic that helps to hold the tile down more securely. The larger the tile, the larger the notches should be. For example, I use a ¼” notched trowel for 12” x 12” tiles.
Note: Only make up enough ceramic adhesive for 30 minutes, as this material has the tendency to harden up rather quickly.
Once the adhesive has been applied, begin installing the tiles working from the center outward. On larger tiles you should back butter them. Basically, apply a thin coating of mastic to the back of the tile prior to laying it on the floor. This will help ensure a good bond.
As you near the walls or edges of cabinets, tubs and toilets, you will need to cut some of the tiles. I highly recommend the use of a Wet-Saw. A Wet-Saw will allow you to make very accurate cuts, both large and small. You will also save money, as you will waste many fewer tiles with bad cuts or broken tiles. Wet-Saws are not that expensive and once you see your finished product you will certainly be installing more tile. Wet-Saws can also be rented as a cheaper alternative.
When applying Tiles, you may want to use Lugs. Lugs are effectively spacers that come in various thicknesses. I typically like to have no more than a ¼” space between the tiles. Employing Spacers will ensure uniformity with your tile spacing.


After the Tile has been completely installed, allow it to sit for 24-48 hours before applying grout and walking on it. Grout comes in many different colors and is very easy to install. Simply mix the grout with water or a special bonding agent and apply with a rubber trowel. Run the trowel on a bias when going over tile corners.
Once the grout has been applied, immediately wipe the tile of excess grout, using a wet sponge and a bucket of water. Wait 30 minutes and again wipe the tiles down of any residual grout. Wait another 60 minutes and repeat. If grout is left on the tiles to dry, you will have a great deal of elbow work scraping it off.
Let the grout sit up for 24 hours and it is ready for use and admiration.

About The Author

Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit http://www.homeadditionplus.com and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com.

Google Sketch Up

I came across a post at houseinprogress.net about this tool that Google is now offering for free called google sketchup. It is a way to dive into the world of 3D modeling and see what your home renovations may actually look like. In a matter of about an hour I had a full mock up of my master bathroom project, complete with shower, tile, and a couple colors on the wall. Here is a quick picture of it. Now I can make sure that any renovations that go beyond the cosmetic will actually add value to my home. Thanks Google for a great tool.

21 February 2007

Laying the Rest of the Tile

After the full tiles have set up I go back and mark the tiles to be notched. I then took them to the garage and used a wetsaw to cut the notches out. I will "butter" these pieces by spreading the mastic on tile instead of the floor and then press them into place. Here you can see I have placed the rest of these tiles in place. All I need to do now is wait for them to set up so that I can begin to grout.

I think that tiling your bathroom and kitchen is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to add value to your home. It has been proven that the kitchen and the baths are where you get the most bang for your renovation buck. Linoleum will not sell a house, but tile just might.

20 February 2007

Laying the Tile

Before you start laying the tile you should place them down to get an idea of the pattern you want to lay. It varies with each room but lay them out so that you do not have very thin tiles at the ends of the row. You then want to look on the package of mastic or thinset and see what the recommended notched trowel size is for your tile size. I am using mastic along with 12x12 tiles in this project and it is recommended that I use a ¼” square notch. Normally, it is not recommended that you use mastic with larger tiles. This is because the mastic sets up by evaporating water out and the larger tiles hinder that. I have had good results in the past however so I am going to go for it. Here you can see the trowel that I will be using.

You then want to spread the mastic or thinset down with the trowel and scrape at a 45 degree angle leaving a set of nicely profiled lines. Lay a tile, and then pull it back up. Check to see if there is 95% coverage on the tile. If so, then you are in good shape and you can keep working a small area at a time. Remember to place your spacers between the tiles.
I like to lay all the full tiles at once and let them set up, then go back the next day and mark the notched tiles for cutting.

This is where I am currently with this project.

19 February 2007

Removing the Fixtures

Here is the next step in showing you how to tile a bathroom floor. Step 2 in tiling a bathroom floor is the removal of the sink and the removal of the toilet. You may be tempted to tile around them but the right way to do it is to remove them; it will look nicer in the end too. Removing a pedestal sink, like I have to do, is an easy step. You turn off the water, unscrew the water supply lines, unscrew the drain pipe, and then unscrew the bolts holding it to the floor and wall. You can then easily lift it up and away.

The next step I will show you is how to remove a toilet. This is also useful if you are trying to remove flooring or if you need to know how to fix a toilet. You want to turn off the water just like when you are removing any plumbing fixture. You then should flush the toilet to drain the tank. Use a large sponge to remove the rest of the water from the toilet bowl. It is advantageous to remove the tank from the bowl and replace the seals. I won’t be doing that in my renovation because the toilet is rather new. The next step is to disconnect the water line usually on the bottom of the tank on the back left. I have American Standard toilets but you may also have a Toto toilet or a Kohler toilet, there are many brands but they all work the same.

Then you unscrew the nuts on the toilet bolts. You may need to hold onto the bolt with a pair of locking pliers so it does not spin when you are unscrewing the nut. If this is the case, place a rag between the bolt and the jaws so you do not damage the threads. Once the nuts and washers are off you are ready to lift the toilet bowl straight up off of the bolts and set it aside.

You then want to remove the old wax ring and scrape off anything left of it. You can remove the toilet bolts at this time also as you will get new ones with the new wax ring. Be sure to stuff a rag in the drain when you are done to prevent septic gases from leaking up into your space.

Tiling a Floor

Tiling is one of the easier projects that a DIYer can take on. You can tile over hardwoods (not recommended), tile over plywood, tile over linoleum, tile over cement, even tile over old tile. You just have to pick bedding that is compatible with the sub floor you have; it will say right on the package. There is a reason I don’t recommend tiling over hardwoods. Mainly, if you have them, why hide them? You can refinish old hardwood floors, I have a whole section on that. There is another reason however and you will have to bear with me for a minute as I am an engineer by profession. Graining in hardwood floors runs in one direction. Because of that, the thermal expansion is greater than for other sub floors. Plywood is formed so that each successive layer has the graining running in a perpendicular direction to the previous layer. Because of this, it does not expand and contract as much with a temperature change. If you must tile over hardwoods, screw down a thin layer of plywood over them before tiling.

The first step in a successful tiling job is to remove the baseboard trim. Take a box knife and score the caulk on the upper edge. Then, get a pry bar like the one pictured to the right. Bang it in between the trim and the wall and pull the trim off. I am in the process of tiling a bathroom right now and below is a picture of all the trim piled nicely in the center of the room. If you take care the trim can be reused when you are done.

16 February 2007

Budget Analysis for Refinishing Floors

Alright folks, here is the damage:

Sander Rental: $100
Used Sandpaper: $ 80
Polyurethane: $ 60
Tools: $ 20

Total: $260

Not too bad for a project that will probably add a couple thousand to the resale of my home.

Long Island Dad

Long Island Dad

Here is a post related to DIY that I found to be particularly sound advice. I myself have never been afraid to tear into anything. Don't follow my example. Remember I was trained as a carpenter for a number of years. I seem to have a knack for getting myself out of bad situations and if something turns out ugly, I can always hide it with a nicely crafted piece of cabinet work. Follow Long Island Dad's advice on budget and time however and your DIY experience will be much more pleasant.

Refinishing the Floor

I decided in our case not to stain the floors. I wanted the wood to stay lighter and the sun will allow it to darken a little over time. I went straight to the finishing. If you are going to stain, make sure you let it dry and then finish sand in between staining and finishing. Also, odors are a big concern, check out the lines of water-based stains, the odors are kept to a minimum and they still do the job. You will still need good ventilation though. On to the finishing. Follow the directions, don't shake finish, it will create air bubbles that are hell to sand out once it dries. I like to use a paint roller for the first 2 coats. Go for a small nap or even better a foam roller. The floor will soak the stain up so expect to go through quite a bit. I bought 2 gallons for a small bedroom. I used Minwax semi-gloss and it worked very well. If it is in your budget, spring for something that is made for floors. Again, Minwax makes a great water-based polyurethane for floors. You want to make sure all the dust is up by wiping the floor with a tack cloth and some mineral spirits. Then you start rolling the finish onto the floor. Maintain a wet edge. After each coat sand and then remove the dust. For the last coat I like to use a nice lamswool applicator. It will flow the finish on smoothly giving great results.

15 February 2007

A Note on Sanding

Sanding is the most important part. I was trained as a furniture builder and finisher in a high-end furniture shop and I can tell you that from my experience you CANNOT get a good finish without a good sanding job. This means you will have to be patient. Follow the directions, always work with the grain, and start with a higher grit sandpaper than you think you need. For really bad floors I would start with 80 grit, if they just need a light going over you are best to start with 150 and up. Don't be afraid to go to higher grit at first, you want to get comfortable with the machine and the way it moves before you start taking layers off.

Don't stay in one spot too long. It is tempting to try to grind out the trouble sopts, don't do it. You might not see it now, but when you lay the finish down you will have a nice divot that isn't as smooth as the rest of the floor. Keep the machine moving, use a light touch, and always go with the grain. You will see some sites that tell you to start at a 45 degree angle to the grain for the first pass. DON'T DO IT, you most likely do not need to take off as much as you think.

I start with the 80 grit, move up to the 150 grit, and then hit the whole thing on my hands and knees with a hand orbital sander at 220 grit. This may seem excessive but trust me it works wonders for the finished product. I go as far as to hand sand with the grain after the orbital, this takes out the little spirals. Trust me, that is extremely anal, you don't have to go that far.

Floor Sanding Edger

Another beneficial piece of equipment is the edger, also made by Silver Line. This baby works just as well as the drum sander. Both of these should be available for rent somewhere near you. Check the link for information on the SL-7 Edger.

Floor Sanders

Here is a picture of the floor sander we rented after the first pass. It is a Silver Line SL-8 drum sander, constant 1800 RPM with a soft drum to keep it from gouging. I'll tell you this is one sweet machine, and easy to use too. My wife (again all 100 pounds of her) had no problem man-handling this 115 pound beast. Check the link to get the manual and presentation.


The Unsanded Floor

Here I have posted a picture of the floor one the carpet and plywood was pulled up. We have not started sanding yet, so you can regard this as the before picture. Here you can see that the old floor has a nice tone to it but there is some kind of white splatter all over it. I am not too worried about that as it will sand out probably with the first pass.

Pulling up the Old Floors

If you are lucky, you already have hardwood floors showing and you can simply clear the room and go to work. If not, you have some demolition work to do. Now don't get too discouraged, demolition is the fun part, so much fun in fact that I like to sit back with a beer and the camera and let my little 100-pound wife loose on it with a crowbar. Let me tell you, letting her take out some aggression on a part of the house is not only fun to watch, but quite good for a marriage.

In this picture you can see my wife putting the smack down on the plywood subfloor (after already ripping the carpet to pieces and heaving it out the window into my truck). You can also see the "nice" hardwood floor that was hidden beneath it.

Project 1, Refinishing Hardwood Floors

The first project that many DIYers often want to take on is the refinishing of hardwood floors. This at first can seem like a daunting task but honestly is not that bad. I have done it in 2 of my 3 bedrooms and can assure you it is very easy.