Same guy- new name - new website!

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Drywall Over a Plaster Ceiling

The Inglewood home we're remodeling is full of plaster from around 1940. Earlier plaster walls consisted of coats of plaster applied over wood lath that supported the plaster. In the 1930's something called "rock lath" was developed which was basically a pre-manufactured gypsum board made of plaster between two layers of paper. It's very similar to today's drywall, except that it was generally 16" or 24" by 48".

Throughout our project house, the walls have held up fairly well, though there are often cracks at the points where the old rock lath are joined. We've left most of that, repairing the worst ones.

The living room, has suffered more damage because of the failure of the roof flashing around the chimney. This has been fixed and now we're putting the ceiling back together. Because of the many cracks and previous patches to the living room ceiling, we've decided to drywall over it. Leaving the plaster in place serves two purposes: 1) It's way less mess and work involved & 2) the current ceiling insulation will stay intact.

The ceiling joists are nearly 16" on center. I say nearly, because it's not quite consistent throughout. Our drywall needs to be securely secured so we'll need to first add furring strips that will support the drywall.

To make furring strips I ripped a 2x4 into thirds, around 1 1/8" each. I attached these to the ceiling using screws after marking the ceiling joists so that my screws would actually hit something solid. My furring strips were exactly 16" apart giving me plenty of places to attach the drywall.
Don't forget to adjust any electrical boxes so they are flush with the new finished surface.
Once again, the drywall panel lift was an invaluable tool for helping me raise the nearly 12 foot pieces to the ceiling. It rents for around $30 for 4 hours from Home Depot and is worth every penny.

After three coats of joint compound and a sanding, the living room has a perfectly new ceiling. Although, I'm not sure anyone will appreciate it as much as I do...


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Make Arched Corners for a Doorway

The home that I'm currently working on has quite a few Tudor characteristics throughout, including a couple arched doorways in the kitchen and living room. The homeowners wanted to open up the wall leading into the kitchen with a larger doorway and match the corners to the others. Here's how I did it:

1. Open up wall and reframe the larger opening with new header. Our wall IS load-bearing so I had to build a simple temporary wall on either side of the opening to carry the weight of the ceiling joists while I installed a new header and removed part of the wall. (Opening up a wall? See these posts.)
The opening would be around 5' wide, so a built-up 2x6 header would be called for. Make the header at the height equal to the highest point in your arched doorway.

If you wanted to keep the square corners you could just drywall over this new framing as it is, however, we want to make curved corners. These curves are for cosmetic purposes only, they will not carry any load, but rather just support the drywall.

2. Frame the corners. Depending on how large of a curve, you'll have a few options for this. If it's a larger curve you may want to cut the profile out of a piece of plywood for either side of the wall and then frame in between to hold it together. Mainly, you want to have plenty of places to screw your drywall, especially along the edges where you'll add the cornerbead.

Our curves weren't very large, so I was able to cut the entire profile out of some scrap pieces of 2x6 lumber. I made the first one by tracing the curve onto it from one of the existing doorways. Once one was complete, I used it as the template to make 3 more, giving me enough for both of the corners.

At this stage, remember where you want the finished wall to end up. If you're adding 1/2" drywall, the curves should account for this. I'm actually matching mine up to the old plaster, so I left them 1/2" from the surface of the plaster so I can patch with drywall and just tape and mud all the joints.

The curves can be nailed or screwed into place and you're finished. Be gentle so you don't split them and have to start over. The drywall will come in the next week or so as I begin work on the kitchen. Read it here.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tips for Installing a Pedestal Sink

At my Inglewood Cottage renovation project (these posts), we're trying to put things back together in a way that fits the older character of the home. This means the bathroom has new beadboard wainscoting and cool black-and-white hex tile. Next, of course, is the pedestal sink.

A pedestal sink is a common choice for a smaller bathroom when space is an issue. In this particular bathroom there is a huge toiletry closet behind the door, so there is plenty of storage. This is sometimes a concern when there will be no storage in the bathroom vanity.

The homeowners picked out a beautiful Kohler pedestal sink and it was time for me to install it. The old sinks usually had some metal brackets that first attached to the wall for the sink to rest on. I guess that was too easy... :) Now you have to find a way to attach the sink through the two holes provided. Because of the location of these holes under the sink where there's not usually any elbow room, you have to approach this differently.

Step zero: install the faucet and drain. It will be much easier for you if this is done before you attach it to the wall. You could wait to attach the connectors, but go ahead and get most of it installed.

Then, unless the hole is located right over a stud, you'll want to pick up a couple toggle bolts to attach the sink. I'm going through quite a bit of plaster and drywall, so I bought 4" toggle bolts.

Set the sink up with the pedestal and use a level to get it in the right spot. You want the surface of the sink to be level front-to-back and left-to-right. Once it's there, mark the two holes on the wall.

Next, drill a couple holes sized as recommended for your toggle bolts. My holes were 3/4". When that's done, you can put the toggle bolts through the sink and then insert them into the holes. Make they've sunk deep enough so that the 'wings' spread out against the back of the wall.

Now you need to tighten the toggle bolts. Some pedestal sinks may be designed so that you can actually get a screwdriver in there. However, many are not and you'll go crazy trying to figure out how to do it. Here's the secret: get a right angle screwdriver.

There are many versions of the ol' right angle screwdriver from fancy ratcheting ones, to cheap ones like mine that get the job done. I mainly just use this for installing pedestal sinks, but it's the right tool for the job.

Once it's secure you can hook up the plumbing and go have a nice day...


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Three Headaches to Avoid When Installing a Toilet

Toilets aren't much fun to deal with, however whenever you're renovating a bathroom, you'll probably need to remove and reset the toilet or possibly install a new one. Here are three tips that will save you some frustration when you go to put the toilet in.

1. This is a biggie: Make sure that the toilet flange bolts are at least 12" away from the finished wall. (Sometimes called a 12" rough-in.) This is the minimum amount of clearance that you'll need to fit most standard toilets. The problems often come after you've added something to the wall, such as tile or beadboard wainscoting, that reduces the room you have for your toilet. Take this seriously and think about it ahead of time.

The best fix is to move the flange over if possible. This is what I did for this project, however, if you're dealing with old cast iron pipes in the crawlspace you don't want to hear that. You might be able to install something called an "offset flange" that will buy you an inch or two and may save the day.

If you're stuck with a flange that's simply too close to the wall, you'll have to go shopping for a toilet that will fit. The big home stores usually stock 1 toilet that will fit in a 10" space (measuring from the bolts to the wall.) You could also search the salvage yard for an toilet that will fit. Yep, that would be a used toilet... :)

2. Make sure your connections are right. Especially when you're replacing an old toilet, you may have a connections that aren't compatible with the modern 3/8" compression connectors. You may need an extra adapter fitting to get everything to connect. Also, the height of your new toilet may be different than the old, needing a longer connector than you have on hand to make it work.

3. When you're installing the nuts, don't forget the plastic covers. Install the plastic base before the washer and nut. IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure the plastic base is installed with the correct side up. It will probably say on the top "this side up." This is important for making the cover snap together with the base piece.

You can probably tell that I've dealt with all of the above situations before. If you think ahead in these situations you can save yourself some frustration and perhaps a couple extra trips to Home Depot.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eye-Catching Hex Tile for the Bathroom

With the tub and surround installed (see this post) it's finally time to do some tile.

This bathroom was desperately needing some charm when we started. Well, it's going to get it, starting with some old-fashioned-looking white hex tile with black squares.

The old vinyl flooring was installed with adhesive over a thin layer of 1/4" plywood. This was all removed to discover a layer of 3/4" oak boards over a 3/4" pine subfloor. Many of the oak boards had water damage around the toilet, so I went ahead and removed all of them and added a layer of 3/4" plywood throughout the bathroom. This will give me a nice solid surface to tile over.

Before tiling, I installed a layer of 1/4" Hardibacker cementboard. I like to use this product because it won't soak up moisture and expand the way that plywood does. This helps to prevent cracks in the tile and grout over time. We want this tile to last a long, long time.

Like other small tiles, this comes on sheets to aid in installation. I love the look of this tile. It's a very classic design, yet quite remarkable nonetheless.

(Side note: Did you ever see one of those geometric calendars that are supposed to contain a hidden picture if you stare at them and let your eyes focus beyond the picture? Well, try it with a floor like this sometime. You might see the black squares 'popping out' of the design and make some interesting figures... ) (I'm okay, really)


Monday, December 14, 2009

Custom Fit for Tub and Surround

Everything seems a little more difficult when you're working on an old house. My current project is a 1940's home full of plaster walls and original trimwork. Nice to look at, but tricky to work with. I guess it's a good thing that I like a challenge...

The bathroom was probably not originally designed to include a shower so the window was never a problem. Now, a shower is a requirement, so the question is, "What to do with the window?" There are a few ways to deal with a window in the shower:

1. Remove it completely. This might be easier with a wood-sided house because you could patch the hole. This home is brick, making this a more expensive and difficult option.

2. Replace with glass blocks. This is also expensive and labor-intensive. It's also tricky if the window hole is not the appropriate size for 8" glass blocks plus mortar lines. It would be a better solution if the surround was going to be tiled. Irregardless of cost, this is probably my favorite solution in most cases.

3. Replace with an all-vinyl window and vinyl trim. Not a great idea, but probably better than wood. In an older home, it would be expensive to get a window that matched the others. You'd still want to get some kind of frosted glass for privacy, and a plastic curtain might still be a good idea to keep water out of the window sill.

4. Leave the old window and put a plastic curtain over it. Quick and easy, right?! (And cheap!) This was the solution that this homeowner decided to go with. It would also work okay with the new acrylic surround, except that I'd have to carefully cut a window out of the surround as you can see in the picture. The trim will come right up to the cut and get caulked with waterproof caulk throughout. When we're finished a small plastic curtain will be installed so that the water will be deflected from the window.


The distance between the original plaster walls was 60". However, the new tub and surround is supposed to attach directly to the studs. After removing the plaster the space for the tub was 60 3/4" wide, making the hole 3/4" too big.

As I told the homeowner, who is a musician, this was a time for some improvisation. :)

The solution that I came up with was to slide the tub to the left. This means that only the right side had a problem. I needed to build it out 3/4" by attaching some scrap 3/4" plywood to the studs. I could now install the tub and surround. This worked great, but it meant that I'd now have to cover the entire wall with a layer of 1/2" drywall to finish out around the surround & tub.

The problems with older homes can normally be solved, but these are the reasons why sometimes it's just easier to gut the place in the beginning and start over... not that I'm suggesting that or anything...


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Buddies at Home Depot

My son Noah is 5 which means he loves working with any kind of tools to build things, especially when he gets to help me on a project.

Last weekend we were painting our house and made a Home Depot run to buy paint. Before we left, Noah had to suit up in his work apron and, of course, his hard hat. The crew at Home Depot enjoyed seeing him and we had to get a picture with the 'snow man' in the tool rental department.

Now you know that we take our work very seriously around our house... :)

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Time For a New Basement Door

The small home that we're renovating has a full unfinished basement with a concrete floor. This has made our under-the-house repairs much easier. However, there's also an exterior door down there. It had completely rotted and been boarded up. Time for a new one.

First, let me mention that many of these older homes are built with downstairs door just like this. The huge problem with this is that water will pool at the bottom of the stairs and eventually damage the door and possibly get into the basement. The very best solution is usually to build some sort of roof covering over the stairs so that it stays dry. For our project, I would just be replacing the door, but using materials that might last a little longer.

I started by ripping out the old door, which was pretty easy considering its condition. The homeowner bought a salvaged 32" exterior door at Hailey's Salvage. My plan was to first build the door frame out of pressure treated 2x8 and then install the unit and trim around the edges to close the gaps as well as possible.

Knowing that water would pool at the bottom of these stairs, I wanted to prevent the door from sitting in the water as much as possible. For this reason, I actually made a threshold out of a treated 2x8 and then put door stop trim all the way around the inside of the jamb, including across the bottom. Not only will this close the air gaps, but hopefully also be another roadblock to any water entry and get the door up off of the floor.

To attach the frame to the masonry walls I first attached some plywood nailers on either side using some long Tapcon screws. I actually had some treated plywood scraps around that worked great because they are less likely to split than using other lumber. This held quite well and once they were installed it was just a matter of installing the door frame, leveling it up and nailing it in like any other door installation.

The entire door frame is made out of pressure treated lumber, ready to battle those elements...


Monday, December 7, 2009

Solder a Simple Copper Connection

The cottage renovation is in full swing. We're starting at the bottom and working our way up. That means that we needed to replace a few pipes in the basement that were old galvanized steel and deteriorated to the point that it was reducing the water pressure.

Mostly, I was using PEX with copper crimp rings and barb fittings, however, there were a couple copper connections needed near the water heater. (You're not supposed to use any plastic pipe, such as PEX or CPVC within 18" of the water heater.) Anyway, I thought I'd share the simple process for a solder joint when working with copper.

To get started you might pick up a basic soldering pack at the hardware store. It might contain a small propane torch, solder, flux, and flux brush.

1. Cleanly cut the copper pipe. It's best to use a pipe cutter meant for this purpose because you'll get a square cut. It's much more difficult with a hacksaw.

2. Clean the pipe. I've got a helpful little tool with steel brushes for both 1/2" and 3/4" pipe. A small piece of sandpaper can also do the job. You want to scrub the pipe until the copper is shiny. Family Handyman, in this article about soldering copper, calls cleaning the pipe "the A-1 key to copper soldering success". Don't skip this step. (By the way, you can even reuse old copper pipes if you clean it properly to make a good connection.)

3. Brush some flux on the areas to be soldered, both the end of the pipe and the inside of the fitting. Flux is a chemical composition that helps clean the copper to prepare it for solder and it also helps in the heat transfer.

4. Heat the fitting with a propane torch. Notice I said to heat the fitting. This is important. Specifically, you want to apply the heat to the female end of the fitting that's receiving the pipe. The flux helps the heat to also heat up the pipe inside. Move the flame back-and-forth across the fitting to heat it evenly.

5. Hold the solder on the joint in a spot opposite the flame. This is the coldest part and you want it to be hot enough to accept the solder. When the fitting is hot enough it will just 'suck' the solder in and you're done. Enough solder should be taken in that it drips out the bottom of the fitting, but there's no need to overdo it. The heat will do the work.
6. Let the pipe cool. It will stay hot for a while. In my case, I later attached some 1/2" PEX to the barb on this fitting using copper rings with a PEX crimp tool... but, that's a lesson for another day...


Friday, December 4, 2009

Flip This 1940's Cottage

I started a new project this week that will consume my time for the next few weeks. One of my favorite clients is a real estate investor who has enlisted me to help him renovate a brick cottage in Inglewood. I thought I'd share some 'before' pics to give you an idea of what we're dealing with.

The main bedrooms and living room are full of beautiful old stained trimwork. Thankfully, the trim, doors and windows have never been painted and they still look great aside from a few careless paint drips. We're hoping that some matching hardwood floors can be resurrected after the carpet is removed as well.

In addition to some upgrades to the plumbing and electrical systems, most of the work that we'll tackle will be cosmetic, which means we get to do some really fun stuff.

The kitchen will be a main focus. The cabinets will stay, but there will be new counters with a tile backsplash and floors as well as a new dishwasher.
The old bathroom is quite small, but will be completely redone with new fixtures, hex tile floors, and beadboard wainscoting. Hopefully, I can add some of the 'old-house character' while including modern conveniences.

The living room is actually in decent shape aside from where there was a leak beside the chimney due to failed roof flashing. The roof repairs are done so we'll soon begin patching the walls and drywalling over the plaster ceiling which is full of cracks.

It seems like quite a bit of work at this point, but it will fly by. Stay tuned to watch the progress!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Open Up The Kitchen Wall

After seeing the results of one of my recent projects where I opened up the wall in one of their neighbor's kitchens (this project), these homeowners decided to have me do the same to their home. It's always a rewarding project when you get to be part of such a dramatic transformation in such a short amount of time.

This a newer neighborhood so the homes, although somewhat different, are built with nearly the same layout, making this job very similar to the other one that I did. This was NOT a load-bearing wall, which helps speed things up and saves a little money as well.

The countertop was made by my friend Chris Barber over at Barber Woodworking. It's made out of red oak and stained with an "Early American" stain color to nearly perfectly match the cabinets throughout the kitchen. As always, Chris does great work and created a wonderful centerpiece for this entertaining space.

In this picture you can see where Chris was scribing the end that would butt up to the wall so that he could cut it to fit perfectly. He used the same bolting system as last time to secure the countertop to the framing. (See this post.)

I also installed three art-glass pendant lights that not only provide a lot of light to show off the new countertop, but also bring out some of the homeowner's character in the project.

With a Thanksgiving gathering coming up, I'm sure these clients will enjoy sharing their transformed kitchen with friends and family who will gather there.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Office that Was A Garage

We passed our final inspections and I wanted to show off some pictures of a recent project that involved changing an old garage into new finished space that's slated to be an office.

When I started the uninsulated walls were covered with 3/4" boards and the floor was very rough concrete that was far from level. After gutting the walls to the studs it was time to pour a new slab to level the floor and add a back patio.

The room also held all the laundry facilities and service panel, so the idea was enclose all of this in closets to hide the mess while still keeping it easily accessible. I framed in the walls and had John Dorn Electric come out and do all the updated wiring. I also insulated all the exterior walls and the attic.

In addition to moving the door over to make room for the utility closet, I added a large front window that I found at a salvage yard. It was quite a find because it fits in naturally with the other older windows in the house. It even had the old counter-weights intact. The Jeld-Wen casement window on the end of the home and the fantastic solid-wood back door were also treasures from the salvage yard.

After a week of drywall work it was time to add trim from top to bottom. The small shelf that runs along the lower part of the wall covers the old concrete block that was at the base of the garage walls. I also added crown moulding and baseboard to match the interior of the home.

Before I was done I also added some tile around the back door where the floors will get the most wear and tear.

It was an fun project because of the variety of parts that came together to create this new space for the homeowner. She also had the house painted while I was there, so the changes were that much more dramatic, inside and out.

With an additional 200+ square feet, finishing this space added around 25% more living space to this cozy little home in East Nashville. It was my pleasure to play a part in the changes that will be enjoyed for decades to come...


Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Fix A Wobbly Half Wall on A Slab

In opening up the wall between the dining room and kitchen at my current project, I've found that the remaining half wall is very wobbly and tends to lean back and forth. This is a problem because we'll be putting a bar top on this wall and it's likely that someone will lean on it from time to time.
This particular wall is resting on a cement slab. Here's how I successfully stiffened up the wall...

1. Remove enough drywall to access the floor plate (the flat 2x4 that runs along the bottom of the wall.)

2. I'm using something called a "hex sleeve anchor" to secure the bottom plate to the floor. The idea is to drill a hole in the cement then drive these down. As you tighten the nut it draws the bolt upward and spreads the anchor out which makes a very tight fit in the concrete. I'm using 3/8" diameter bolts that are 3" long.

3. Drill a 3/8" hole through the floor plate with a standard wood bit, then, switch to a hammer drill with a 3/8" masonry bit to drill at least a couple inches into the concrete. You want the hole to be deeper than the bolt by at least 1/2" or more. This gives some space for the debris that accumulates at the bottom.

4. Carefully tap the anchor into the hole you just drilled. Make sure you strike it squarely so you don't bend the bolt and make it impossible to tighten the nut. (Trust me on this one... :) Drive it down until the washer is resting on the 2x4.

5. Use a socket wrench to tightened the nut until the floor plate is snug against the floor.

I used this process to insert four bolts and it did the trick. I found this to hold better than other methods such as using Tapcon screws.

The anchors hold the bottom plate very securely and greatly reduced the movement of the wall, but I also needed some extra bracing to keep the studs from moving back and forth on the bottom plate. For this I used a couple scrap 2x6's with 45 degree angles on each end. I nailed it in place and even drove some heavy duty Spax screws into it as well.

In the end the half-wall felt much more solid and is ready for the countertop which will also strengthen it up even more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't Supersize That Header!

I've started a new project where I'll be opening up the wall between a client's kitchen and dining room. I started removing drywall and found this enormous header above the doorway...

And it's a NON load-bearing wall!

The header is a double 2x10 with a flat 2x4 on the bottom. In a non-bearing wall like this the flat 2x4 is all that you need so this is overkill. Most likely, the builders had some 2x10 scraps laying around and decided to use it. However, I also did some renovations at the neighbors home and it had the exact same header. Hmmm...

Even if it was load bearing, this is grossly oversized. I guess it doesn't hurt anything, but it's always best to use the appropriate materials for the job, and that includes the right size of materials...


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Counters and A Dishwasher

When these clients were looking to buy a home they were hoping for one with a dishwasher. The home they ended up buying fit their family well, but... no dishwasher. That's when they called me...

Installing a dishwasher from scratch takes a variety of skills. There's electrical work, plumbing, and perhaps some carpentry as well in this case. The dishwasher would be installed in a spot where the fridge used to live. Since I'd need to some sort of counter above the dishwasher, the homeowners decided to go ahead and replace all the countertops with new laminate ones.

I installed a new 20 amp circuit and ran 12-2 wire to the location through the basement. I was also adding a garbage disposal under the sink, so I ran an additional circuit for that as well.

The dishwasher is only 24" wide (standard size), but the space where the fridge used to be was nearly 36". To finish it off, I installed an end panel next to the dishwasher consisting of stained 1/2" hardwood plywood capped with a thin strip of stained poplar. This left a space that was around 10" wide that the homeowner could use for storage shelves.

As best that I could, I tried to use a stain on the end panel that would match the older cabinets. I've had pretty good results using a Minwax stain color called "Ipswich Pine". It's has a little orange tinge to it which matches the older woodwork fairly well.

Not only did they add a dishwasher which will save them time, but they got another three feet of counter space out of the project as well as a new garbage disposal. Isn't it amazing how these sorts of 'luxuries' are missed once you've gotten used to using them!

Let's hear it for indoor plumbing! :)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How To Add Valves Under The Sink

When it comes to plumbing repairs, valves are your friend. If you have a valve under the toilet, for instance, you don't have to find the main shut-off, which is often in the deep recesses of a crawlspace. Instead, you can turn off the water supply to the toilet, swap out the fixture, and turn it back on.
If you don't have a valve, by all means, add one when you're working on it!!

I'm working on a short kitchen project right now where I'll be adding a dishwasher and garbage disposal to an older kitchen. There are no valves in the kitchen, so adding some was the first step of my project. It's fairly basic, but that doesn't make it easy.

Often older homes have galvanized lines that corrode enough to make it hard to work with, but not quite enough to replace all of it. Here are some hints:

1. Turn off the water somewhere, usually the home's main water shut-off valve. If it's in the back of a crawlspace, it may be easier to shut if off at the street if it's easily accessible. Once the water is off, turn on a fixture in the lowest part of the home to drain as much of the water out of the system as possible. No use making any more mess than needed, right?

2. Disconnect the current supply lines- under the sink, in my case. If they are stuck, you might try using a little WD-40 to loosen them up.

3. Connect your valve. That's sometimes easier said than done. The valve section at Home Depot must have at least two dozen different types of valves. Which one do you need? Here's a starting point for you- most of the time, the hot/cold supply lines under the sink are 1/2" galvanized. The means you want a valve with one end labeled 1/2" FIP. This stands for "Female Iron Pipe because the valve will be threaded inside to receive the male end of the pipe that's under the sink.

The faucet connector after the valve can be tricky. If it's newer, it's most likely a 3/8" compression fitting. These are, by far, the most common for new fixtures. However if you're adding a valve you've probably got the original supply lines which could be any number of things. If you're unsure what it is, just take all the parts to the home store with you and get whatever fittings are needed to put it back together.

The iron pipe side is usually connected with Teflon tape or pipe dope, which is a gooey form of pipe thread sealant that you can 'paint' on the threads. Compression fittings don't need Teflon sealant.

4. Test and fix any drips. Drips happen. Usually it's a matter of tightening up your connections or redoing it with more sealant.

You'll see that I chose a dual outlet valve for this project. That allows me to connect the water line as well as the dishwasher to this one valve. Quite handy, eh? I've put a cap on it for now because I haven't got the dishwasher installed quite yet.

When in doubt, call a plumber... :)


Saturday, November 14, 2009

New 18" Tile Floors for Two Bathrooms

I spent the last few days working in Mt. Juliet at a beautiful new home. Most of the time, new homes are marketed with lots of space, but not necessarily many upgrades inside. These clients have been working hard to make their newer home a showplace with lots of custom trim, tile and paint colors. They called me to lay tile in their two upstairs bathrooms.

Both the upstairs master bath and guest bath came with vinyl floors and white walls. The homeowners wanted the floors to seem as much like one large piece of tile as possible. We did this by using huge 18" tiles and very small 1/8" grout lines.

The tiles are glazed porcelain, which is a ceramic tile that has a coating of porcelain making it nearly impervious to stains or mildew as well as easy to clean.

I started by laying 1/4" Hardibacker cement board throughout both bathrooms over a layer of modified thinset. The purpose of the thinset is to give a solid supporting layer underneath the cement board and fill any small holes or cracks. The cementboard is very resistant to moisture and won't expand or contract like a wood subfloor does.

One of the other tricks to this project was that it was upstairs in a home full of white carpet! A scary thought when you consider carrying around a bucket of tabacco-colored grout. Nonetheless, with ample preparations like lots of plastic anywhere that I might decide to walk and dropcloths in the work areas the carpets were still white when I left!

Working with 18" tile isn't that different than other tiles. I have a small tablesaw-like wet saw which cuts these tiles without a problem despite it's small size and 4 1/4" blade. Some of the sliding-table wet saws will not work with 18" tile because the arm that holds the motor will be in the way of the large tile.

At the end of an intense four days, the floor was looking great but will be even better when accompanied by some color on those walls, which, I'm sure, is coming soon...


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tile A Doorway in ONE Day!

My garage conversion project is winding down to the final details. The room has a cement floor (remember this post?). All along, the plan was to carpet the entire room, however, as we got close to finishing, the homeowner asked me if I'd lay some tile at the backdoor.

Tile at doorways is a great idea because this area will get the most wear and tear from wet and dirty feet that come through the door. A ceramic tile will endure the torment for years to come and still look great. For this project, I would only be tiling a 4' x 4' area connecting the backdoor with the utility closet where the mud sink is.

I did it in one day.

How you ask? With a nifty product called SpeedSet. I'm sure there are other brands out there, but it's a quick-setting thinset mortar that allows you to grout the tile 2 hours after laying it. It's great for small applications like this or time sensitive projects when you don't have the luxury of time to wait on thinset to cure.

I laid the tile after lunch and grouted it before I left for the day. Check that project off of the punch list!