Gotta keep chugging through this bathroom renovation to get to the pretty afters ya’ll! It’s a big change! But before I can show you that fun stuff, let’s go through the nitty gritty of the renovation. This is a real life blog. Let’s look at the ugly.
Before I could go much further in my bathroom, I needed to get a few things done. Post-insulation, my next step really should have been to drywall, but that was going to take more than just one set of hands, so I turned to the next item on my to-do list: prepping for tile! The original disgusting and uncleanable sheet vinyl floor was doing no one any favors. It wasn’t as bad as the kitchen (which was somehow disintegrating), but boy was it gross.
Here’s a close up picture from demo so you can appreciate it EVEN MORE!
It was gross and it wasn’t staying. I had debated one hundred different mini-hex tile patterns before setting on a much more simple option from Home Depot. This shot of the overall bathroom palette really showcases the tile too. That high contrast has me all kinds of giddy!
Before tile, comes prep though. It was time to conquer those vinyl floors! For that I headed out for more supplies. I picked up the following at Home Depot one evening.
- 2 sheets of HardieBacker concrete board
- 3 gals of Simpleset pre-mixed mortar
- 1 box of special screws for concrete board
- 1 cheap flooring trowel
- 1 roll of mesh seam tape
First I cleaned out the bathroom of tools and random junk and swept the entire space to start with a clean slate! I measured my concrete board and cut of the excess length using a box knife again. If I could go back I would have used a circular saw and speeded things up, but at the time I didn’t own one. By going over the cut a few times with a box knife I was able to create a weak point which allowed me to then snap that section off.
Then I had to cut a hole for the toilet. First I measured where that lined up on my sheet of concrete board and drew an outline. I took out my drill and drilled some holes in each of the corners.
Then I took out the box knife again to cut the rest of the hole out. Spoiler alert: I still snapped the HardieBacker in an unfortunate place that wasn’t my intention . Oh well! Just another seam to cover! That first piece was fairly easy to lay down in place though, but before I could move on to the second piece, I had some other work to do!
I originally planned to place a pedestal sink in this room and that sink was going to go right where the oddly almost square heater vent was. Well that wasn’t going to work! When I filed my mechanical permit for my new bathroom vent fan, I added on two quick HVAC ducting tweaks to the permit. This was one of them! I picked up more supplies from Home Depot (I was averaging 2-5 Home Depot visits per week for all of November and December!): a 90° angle turn register box, a couple of flexible angle pieces, and some foil duct tape (actual duct tape!). I used a small battery powered circular saw (borrowed from my neighbor Erik of course!) to cut a new hole the size of the register box in the floor and through the subfloor. Because there is a crawl space beneath the bathroom, I was able to climb around in there and use the new ducting pieces to extend the existing ducting about 1 foot so a new normal sized duct register would be closer to the bathroom entry wall and parallel to that wall. I secured it all together with the foil ducting tape (NOT regular duct tape!) but waited to attach the register box until the HardieBacker was done.
I was exceedingly proud of myself for extending the ducting too! But then came the hole patching part of this job. I was trying to avoid going back into the basement crawlspace, because it’s gross down there and I hate it, so I was determined to patch the floor from above. I used some clamps I already owned to secure a couple of scrap wood boards in place and aligned with the level of subfloor. Then I just used my drill to tighten some screws through the floor and into those boards.
I cut a piece of plywood to the dimensions of the missing floor and then screwed that into the new supports as well as an exposed floor joist. An easy floor patch! It seems crazy to put in this effort to move the vent 3″ over, but by turning the vent 90″ and using a modern size I was able to save a lot of floor space. This would have allowed me to have a pedestal sink too, but I later switched to a wall mounted sink and in this spot now lives a big basket of toilet paper.
Once the floor was patched and the new register vent in (combined a two hour project), I was able to finish laying the HardieBacker! I cut the board to size and noted where the new vent location was. I made sure to dryfit the board before I grabbed the thinset again. I used the flat side of the float to glob a bunch of thinset onto the floor and then smeared it all around.
It covered the floor patch job pretty easily and helped mitigate any change in height between my patch job and the existing floor. I then spread the thinset all over a 2 foot deep section of the floor until it was about 1/8th inch thick.
A quick switch to the square grooved side of the float allowed me to then make some nice lines in the mortar. This helps to establish some suction once the HardieBacker is laid on top. My grooves didn’t have to be perfect or straight, they just had to be there! See how you can no longer tell where my floor was patched? That’s the end goal! I had laid the piece by the toilet the night before and then returned then next day to do the remaining section. You can see above where I accidentally broke the backerboard trying to cut the toilet hole! Whoops…
Once the floor was covered with thinset grooves I was able to take my sheet of backerboard and lay it on top pretty easily. I left the boards in place and allowed the mortar to dry overnight, before returning the following evening to finish up. I took more mortar and smooshed it into the gap between the sheets of HardieBacker, wiping away any excess. Then I cut strips of the mesh tape to length and gently smoothed it over the mortared seam with my hand. The goal is to close the gap and then smooth the thinest layer of mortar over the tape. You can see below too that all this went down before the plumbing inspection was finalized so my new shower pan was full of gross water!
At this time I also took out my drill and screwed the special HardieBacker screws into the floor. The screws kindly came with a special drill bit so I didn’t even have to worry about that. The HardieBacker needs to be screwed in every foot so further strengthen it’s connection to the subfloor. You can see how many screws that adds up to quickly! Unfortunately, I have the arm strength of a 2 day old newborn child and I couldn’t get any of the screws to recess into the HardieBacker! It was so frustrating, because this is essential to having a nice flat tile floor! I went over to my neighbor Erik’s house where he was working on his kitchen and borrowed his impact driver for an hour. With that, I was able to get all my screws in place with minimal effort. Seriously, ladies and gents, go buy an impact driver. If you ever need to screw anything in, a drill is just not up to the task! It’s better for making holes not filling them. The impact driver prevents me from stripping all my screws and makes screwing things in much easier. After seeing the difference between using my drill and Erik’s impact driver, you can bet your bottom dollar I bought myself an impact driver the next day. Shout out to Jeff Senn at Home Depot who spent a good hour with me debating the best model and brand of impact drivers. I landed on this Milwaukee combo kit which threw in a hammer drill and had some extra oomph to make up for my baby arm muscles. I’ve yet to use that hammer drill though, so perhaps I should have gone with a single tool…
I wasn’t done with the floor underlayment after I got all those screws drilled in though. I had measured during my dry fit of the second board where the new vent location was, but waited to cut it out a until after the HardieBacker was installed. Now it was time to knock this off the to-do list as well! I clued in this time and used a larger 1″ drill bit to make bigger holes in the corner of the vent this time and then cut from those. Then I cut it off from there with a circular saw borrowed from my contractor neighbor Erik.
It came out much more quickly than using a box knife, I’ll tell ya that! then I got out a good ole hammer and some baby brad nails and drove them through the register box into the wood subfloor, securing it all together.
Luckily it all worked out and then new matte black vent cover I picked up from Home Depot fit perfectly! I was more proud of this duct work than any other work in the bathroom thus far. It felt so very adult to do this quick switch! Woot woot! This room was coming together now!
And just like that, I felt I could walk barefoot in one more room at Berrybrier! Not needing shoes to protect your feet from gross bathroom floors is pretty amazing, let me tell you! Now this room was ready for tile and drywall and all the other bathroom renovation steps. It felt so good!
Have you ever prepped for tile? Thinking about getting started? You can totally do this. It’s EASY! I was shocked by how easy it was!