It’s done — whoopee!! — get ready for the reveal!!! Welcome back to the One Room Challenge: Berrybrier Master Bathroom Edition. I finally have a place to get ready that doesn’t make me concerned for my personal health and it looks so good! First, let’s remind you where we all started here.
The Master Bathroom at Berrybrier is — like most Master Bathrooms — right off the Master Bedroom. It’s an awesome addition that is so great to have, even if it is only a half bathroom. When I bought the house, it was right there, peeking out into the periwinkle and red Master Bedroom.
Once my tiny little master bathroom was painted and tiled I could not be any more excited to start getting my plumbing and accessory fixtures installed into the room! The space was really starting to look like I’d envisioned when I first laid out my mood board.
I grew up in the same house almost my entire life. It’s the only house I ever remember living in. My parents bought it when I was one and a half and they still live in that house today. I had a bedroom in the center of the house with no outside windows except for a skylight, which sounds a lot drearier than it was in reality. My room was always light and bright and I never had to close the curtains to change. My room was right next to the bathroom which had been redone in the 1950s. It was all green and black tile with floral wallpaper and an old sink. There was even some neon orange accent tile that some previous owner then painted black, but by the time I was in middle school the black paint was chipping in a few places exposing the orange. There was this great vintage mirrored medicine cabinet in that bathroom. It may have been original to the house. It had a lovely arched top and two hinged, adjustable wings which was just perfect for checking out your hair before the middle school dance. I loved that medicine cabinet! It was so great for looking at your hair from all the angles, because it had two hinged, mirrored sides.
When I went away to college, my parents decided to renovate that bathroom in the middle of my junior year. It was going to be a gut renovation and they were transforming the space to look far more aligned with their Spanish Mission style home. They removed the mirror and all the old tile and the old sink and gutted the entire space. The bathroom is a lot different now. There’s a skylight that lets in tons of natural light and it’s got lovely new Mexican accent tiles that work really well with the house. There’s also a giant tub which is awesome for those of us who enjoy laying in scalding hot water for long periods of time.
After they renovated, I didn’t really think about the old bathroom again. Well as I headed home after Christmas 2017, my dad ran out to the garage to get something I “might want” and came back with the medicine cabinet from the old bathroom! He’d saved it in his garage for several years since the renovation and wondered if I wanted it for my new bathroom. Yes! Yes, I did! The medicine cabinet was made of wood and while it was in good shape, all the paint was flaking horrendously. I was able to peel it off in big sections, easier than you would an orange.
Anything that could fill that gaping hole above my sink was going to be a vast improvement and this was just icing on the cake. I just couldn’t wait to have a place to store my toothbrush and see my face when I washed it! Plus I really needed a good excuse to finally put away that hammer.
When I got back to Portland, I took the mirror and gave it a good long sanding to get off all the old flakey paint. I wore a mask and sanded outside just in case there was lead paint, even though the first couple of layers did not test positive for level. I wiped everything down before bringing it back inside… and then I left it on the floor of the kitchen for a few weeks.
It became Malary’s pearching place for a little while during the finishing touches of the rest of the renovation actually!
But eventually I taped off the mirrored bits one night and set about priming it with some of the dark tinted water lock paint I had left over from priming the bathroom. There wasn’t much of the wood you’d see from the front of the cabinet, just the pair of strips between the main panel and each side panel. But the backs of each side panel and the whole inside of the cabinet definitely needed a couple of thick coats of paint to refresh everything and provide a nice clean surface for all my toiletries.
A coat of the primer went on quickly and I followed it with two coats of the black paint I’d bought to use on my kitchen cabinets. Painting went quickly, since there wasn’t much surface to cover, but it was a bit difficult to get in all the areas rotating the sides back and forth as I went. I followed the paint with a layer of Safecoat Aqualac to make it a bit more durable and to provide a more wipeable surface. on the interior.
It only took an hour here and there across a couple of days before the whole thing was done and it just needed a couple of screws to hold it on to the studs in the wall cavity to secure it properly. I used my impact driver which I am obsessed with. I then caulked around it and touched that up with wall paint to blend things together. Now that bathroom was really looking like a legit space. Nothing like filling in a giant hole in your wall to make something feel more complete!
And I really do love having this piece of my childhood in my new bathroom. I had wanted to use a vintage mirrored medicine cabinet in the space from the start and this one was just perfect! Possibly more perfect than anything else I could have ever found, honestly. I really did luck out with this piece! I love the rounded detailing of the top of the cabinet and the little etched flowers. Plus the tilting sides are perfect for getting ALL THE ANGLES of your face.
I think the cabinet adds just another little layer of history to this bathroom, making it feel more like an authentic space in the house. And that’s the whole goal right? Return the original character to my house. My parent’s place was built in the 1930s, which is probably when my house was renovated to include an indoor bathroom (it’s highly unlikely that it was built with indoor plumbing when construction was completed in 1909), so the era of the mirror feels spot on!
I’ve begun to play around with the bathroom art and I found this storage shelf on Wayfair that squeezes perfectly into the corner of the bathroom and provides some desperately needed storage in this small space. Of course, I’d ideally fill it with ALL THE PLANTS. I’ll show you a styled out version of the space when I’m close to the reveal!
The bathroom has come a loooong way from the disasterland that was here before and for that I am so grateful. It had taken 3 months to get to this point and I could almost taste the finish line, but there was still more to go! I hunted far and long for the perfect shower curtain before I finally found this one which is actually a tapestry I am planning to convert to a shower curtain that extends to the ceiling. It just means a battle with my sewing machine so I’m procrastinating that… still. In the meantime, my old shower curtain does the job just fine.
The medicine cabinet is a little change in terms of the overall vibe of this room coming together, but I am just so dang excited to check it off the list. It’s so much more functional, it’s a piece of my childhood and it’s got the perfect vintage flair that makes this bathroom look old.
Do you ever incorporate old pieces into new renovations to stick with the character of the home? Do you like that bit of history it adds to the space or what would you do? Let me know in the comments below!
There’s a new throne to bend the knee to in the Land of Laurel and it ain’t made of iron. That’s right! I’ve got a gorgeous porcelain throne for ya’ll to fawn over today. It’s downright spectacular. And oh so necessary. You see, back in early January 2018 I was just over 2 months in to my bathroom renovation and it was time to kick it into high gear. I had a deadline, one not set by me, one I couldn’t just ignore as it passed by, a big, important deadline. My little sister was moving into Berrybrier to live with me! Hi, Bronwyn! And well… she needed a place to relieve herself that wasn’t the tiny hell bathroom off my own bedroom. As much as that delightful little space worked for me, she was going to need a space a bit more… accommodating and far less… disgusting.
Luckily, I had a space that was pretty darn close! See the capped toilet flange below? That was my first step for getting the bathroom into more of a… useful… space. The plumber had installed it when he was doing rough in and after I’d tiled around it, and drywalled, and painted, the flange was finally ready for a toilet. The center part was just a cap that prevented the sewer gases and smells from coming into the bathroom. For which I was grateful. I popped it off with a screw driver and exposed the hole beneath.
Then I grabbed a reinforced wax ring toilet install kit from Home Depot and stuck it in the hole. The reinforced plastic part keeps it pretty centered.
Then I took the bolts that came with the kit and stuck them into the toilet flange. They slide nicely into place upside down, which is better than ones that screw into the flange from above since it’s easier to aim your toilet. I had bought the Kohler Memoirs Two Piece Toilet which is easier to install since it literally comes in two pieces. I lifted up the bottom part with the help of my friend Nikki and aimed it at my bolts and wax ring while her dog chased Malary around my house. With a little finagling we landed it just so for a perfect fit! Then I slipped the plastic covers that came with the toilet over the bolts to protect the porcelain and screwed on a nut to hold the toilet in place. I tightened the nut enough to keep everything snug and then simply sawed off the excess bolt with my hacksaw. Easy, peasy.
I snapped the bolt cap covers on and then it was time for the tank. This guy I was able to place on myself after Nikki left. It came with bolts already placed in the bottom of the tank and again I just aimed those bolts at the holes in the bottom part of the toilet. Then they got nuts which I tightened with a wrench being careful not to tighten too tightly which could break the porcelain. As I did that I stuck my level on top to make sure I was keeping things plumb.
One more check that it was level and I was ready for the fun stuff! The toilet lever that came with my toilet was already installed when I unboxed it. That’s convenient right? Wrong.
Lovely polished chrome in finish, there was nothing wrong with it, except I was using Delta’s Champagne Bronze (a brass /gold look) finish on all the other plumbing fixtures. So I popped one of Delta’s Cassidy Collection Toilet Levers into my cart and got ready to switch it out.
I also went ahead and screwed in the toilet water supply line into the tank and into my favorite water shut off valve that looks so cute coming out of the baseboard. I kept the water off still, but I wanted it to be ready to go once the lever was switched out.
Switching out the lever was also super easy. I took a short handled screw driver and just unscrewed the single machine screw that was holding it in place and popped off the lever.
The Memoirs toilet looked kinda cute all handleless and naked too! But.. that wasn’t going to stick around for long! I’d carefully noted the placement of the original nuts, washers, and other bits that came off the original toilet lever and meshed those in together with the new Delta parts.
I kept the delta parts that held the lever to the toilet themselves and screwed the original Kohler handle arm and chain into the new lever. That way the interior of the tank was mostly the same.
The Delta lever had some with a plastic handle that was supposed to replace the handle and chain, but that seemed like opening a larger can of worms than I was ready for so I just ignored that bit.
I checked several times to make sure the combination of parts together were still raising the flapper and thus “flushing” the toilet before I even considered turning on the water to this new throne!
But after it passed that test several times, I decided it was ready, got my bucket and dry towels ready and turned the water shut off valve to on. The tank and bowl began filling with water until it magically stopped at it’s capacity point. The moment of truth: would it now flush?!
Yes! It worked! And with no issues or re-dos or mishaps along the way! Turns out installing a toilet is really not as hard as what you’d think. And when everything in the bathroom is brand new and never before used, it’s not even the little bit gross!
So now I had a toilet! A whole toilet to myself! Well, for myself and my sister who moved in the very next day! Sure… we had to wash our hands in the kitchen sink until I got around to installing the bathroom sink and faucet a few days later, but eh, no big deal! Plus a functioning toilet and shower felt a thousand times better than the gross original bathroom!
In all the plumbing fixtures were one of the most expensive parts of this bathroom renovation. BY FAR. Which is to be expected since they are the fancy finished bits! Here’s the breakdown of the toilet bits and pieces:
Reinforced Wax Ring $8
Toilet Water Supply Line $6
Sink water Supply Lines about $20 for two lines
Toilet Lever $25
Toilet Install Total: $439
Now, you could totally spend a whole lot less if you went to Home Depot and bought some cheaper fixtures, but since I was trying to restore some of the original character of Berrybrier back into this house and I wanted a specific look, I splurged a bit for pieces I liked and would like for years to come.
If I was a better blogger I would have snapped a picture of the final toilet all installed with it’s lid on but I am not a very good blogger so I will go ahead and just give you this sneak peek. The toilet installed, complete with a few plants on top of the tank and a preview of the installed sink!
Ohhhh progress! It feels sooo good right? Boy is it nice to have a place to shower and relieve yourself after months of a messy construction zone! I mean, the rest of Berrybrier still looked absolutely insane considering the kitchen floor disaster, but even that was looking up! My sister Bronwyn had moved in with me which meant a whole bunch of free labor. Yay! Double time progress!
Happy 2019 y’all! I’m so excited for this new year and I definitely have quite a few goals for the year! I’m hoping to get this blog caught up to the current renovation stages over the next few months and then dig into some fun new stuff. I definitely want to hear more from those of you who read this blog too! Let me know who you are by commenting on this post! Or share with friends and family who might be tackling similar projects. I’d love to continue to grow the readership of this blog so I can continue to put more effort into posting for you guys. And trust me I have a lot to show you!
When we last left the bathroom it was looking like this with a newly tiled and grouted floor and fully drywalled walls! This felt like a huge amount of progress considering just a few weeks earlier it had been gutted down to the studs.
Well after finishing the floors, I laid rosin paper over them to protect them and taped and mudded all the drywall and now it was ready for paint! Finally, finally, finally, this room was looking good and I was *this* close to being able to shower at my own house again! I knew I wanted to do a dark green color for this space and it had been one of those early on decisions I made for this room. I’d even included the paint color in this original design palette I made for the space. Benjamin Moore’s Forest Floor 1498 is bold, dark, and delicious!
I picked up primer and paint from my local Benjamin Moore store: Dick’s Color Center in central Portland. I used my favorite no-VOC, indoor/outdoor primer for the ceiling: Zinsser’s Bulls Eye Zero.
But Dick’s recommended a different primer for the walls which I could color tint to match my paint selection. This stuff had more water protection (good for a steamy bathroom!) and by tinting in a dark color, I’d have fewer coats to paint on top. Insl – X Aqua Lock primer is not no VOC so I wore a mask while painting to avoid the fumes.
I’m no stranger to painting, so this project was a nice and relaxing change of pace from many of the other things that I’d been doing for the first time at Berrybrier. I started by priming the whole ceiling and while that dried, I took out my brush and started cutting in the primer on the walls. I usually just cut in by hand without taping because I find that taping takes forever and I have a steady enough hand. On a priming layer, the steady hand barely matters since I will all be covered with paint anyways. Boy, was it so fun to coat over the bare drywall and see the space really come together!
I did decide to tape off the brand new shower surround though since I would need crisp clean lines there and I threw some trash bags over the showerhead and shower water valves the plumber had installed after the permit was finalized. I did not want to get paint on those newly install fixtures!
There were lots of other fixtures that were not installed yet (like the medicine cabinet and light fixtures) which allowed me to roll right over the edges of the drywall without fussing with cutting around anything. Not having any lighting installed meant I was still using my work light as the only source of illumination in the space which creates some weird lighting!
I also waited to install all my trim work so I could continue rolling to the lower part of the wall and around the windows, thus avoiding cutting in at the trim. Cutting in takes way longer than rolling so it was nice to save that time. I did leave the drywall exposed in those spots rather than painting what was about to be covered.
I also didn’t put too much attention into get perfect paint lines where the walls met the ceiling since I still had to paint the ceiling. That helped speed things along too.
When it was time to get out the roller for the primer, boy did the room feel like it was really truly a bathroom again! The tinted primer was SO similar to the paint color, just more matte and slightly cooler in tone. It was actually really pretty! Conveniently the room was so small I was able to roll up the walls as far as I could reach through the entire room and then do the bit above the shower before moving my ladder to the center of room to roll the top 8″ inches of the remaining space. Nice to be able to do that whole top bit without moving the ladder!
Here it is fully primed and OH MY GOD, ARE YOU EXCITED?! BECAUSE I AM EXCITED!! This room was looking damn fine and this cool green hue was helping me forget the previous magenta pink color real fast! Thank god for that! Below you can see a peek of some of the old wallpaper that was in this space in the space where my future medicine cabinet would be installed too. Isn’t that fun? No idea why it’s applied to the back of the lathe and plaster of my bedroom wall though; any ideas?
While my primed walls were drying, I took out my measuring tape and began to determine cuts for the baseboards in this room. I was prepared for my usual method of measure five times and cutting three. I wanted to do some gnarly baseboards in this space that would look more original to the 1909 house. As far as I can tell the only original trimwork at Berrybrier is the baseboards in the upstairs room which can’t even be original since the upstairs was converted from an attic to living space sometime in the early 1900s. However, the rest of the house sports trim from the 1960s or 2000s so the upstairs bedrooms example is better than anything else!
I nabbed this shot from the upstairs back bedroom with my iPhone and then headed to Woodcrafters, a local woodworking store hoping to match the profile or find something similar. I was doubtful I’d find an exact match and I knew I’d never get the same look of many many years and layers of paint, but I hoped for something similar that would at least envoke the same tone. These baseboards are made of three pieces: 1×8″ flat stock with a 2″ decorative moulding on top and a quarter inch shoe base at the bottom. These were all old mouldings too and the sizing of each board was exact whereas now a 1×8 is actually 3/4″ by 7-1/4″. I was fine using modern boards, because I sure don’t have the cash to buy exact replicas! I based the trim around the door on the window trim which I was reusing, replicating the 5″ flat stock at the sides with a 6″ flat stock header.
I ended up deciding to skip the shoe base in the bathroom because I really didn’t feel like dealing with yet another surface to wipe down and clean in that room. I found a similar trim piece to the decorative moulding at wood crafters and picked up some 1×8 flat stock as well. I took all my measurements for the room and then went to cut my trim only to discover my chop saw only cuts about 6.5″ bevel cuts leaving me to hand saw the other 3/4″ on all my boards. UGH. But with such a small room, there weren’t many cuts so I knocked it all out in less than an hour. I dry fit all the pieces and then placed them on top of all the boxes of bathroom stuff (light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, toilet, etc) that were all stacked in my kitchen and began priming them.
My kitchen looked like a chaotic crazy mess at this point, especially considering the crazy town, half-sanded floor disaster. All the boxes did create a convenient work surface though! You can see below I painted the flat stock and the trim piece for one short wall section. Once the decorative moulding is placed on the flat stock, caulked, and painted, you’d hardly know they weren’t one larger piece!
Now a lot of trim is MDF these days, but I really prefer to use finger jointed pine for painted trim since a) it holds up better to water, b) isn’t a bunch of sawdust held together with toxic glue, and c) has less toxins and off gassing. It’s easy to paint tim when it’s not on the wall like this too. No worries about getting paint anywhere! Just have to remember to paint your boards in the direction they’ll be laid in the space: vertically or horizontally.
It was nice to be able to ping back and forth from the trim to the walls and ceiling while they dried. This project happened in early December 2017, so dry time was a little slow in the winter cold humidity. I prefer painting in Spring and Autumn on warm days that aren’t too hot so you can start your second coat of paint just an hour after the first coat is done since things dry more quickly!
I always use the same type of paint: Benjamin Moore’s Natura. It’s the best paint on the market. It’s no-VOC with no-VOC paint pigments and it’s formaldehyde free as well. It has next to no fumes and goes on super smoothly. The darker paints are a bit thinner than the light colored paints, but both are easy to apply. It’s NOT CHEAP. But it’s worth it to me.
The first coat of paint went in on top of the primer in the bathroom and it was SO HARD to see what had been painted and what was still to come because the colors were so similar. I ended up applying two coats of paint and after that looking at wall sheen to see any spots I missed and need to touch up. The first coat looked a little rough, but it was so exciting to see the full transformation come together!
I actually taped off the ceiling for the first time to see if that would help get crisp lines in this room since I wasn’t planning to do any crown moulding. In the end I actually think it did more harm than good. I ended up going back to touch up a lot of it afterward where leaks had happened or layers of sections of tape didn’t line up right and the line jumped.
When the whole room finished the second coat it was such an amazing feeling. This room had been such an adventure from the start and each set felt so BIG and DRAMATIC. Every time I finished something I felt like jumping for joy and I couldn’t stop smiling. I think one of my favorite things about DIY is the obvious progress you see with each step as things improve and look better and better!
Soon enough the room was painted and I was able to slip in a couple of light fixtures. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY I COULD FINALLY SHOWER AT MY HOUSE AGAIN! I demo’ed the bathroom in late October and now it was mid December and I could finally live and sleep at my house again. I was ECSTATIC!
That was nothing with out trimwork though! My trim boards had all been primed and had one coat of paint. They were ready to be installed! I borrowed Erik’s – my neighbor – nail gun and some of his nails and got to work. The nail set he let me use was great because it came with three sizes. I was able to use the 2″ brad nails on my flat stock and the 1-1/4″ nails for the decorative moulding piece. If I’d used quarterround in here I’d have used the 3/4″ nails for that.
This was actually my first time using a nail gun and I was really nervous. Especially after Erik told me he once had nailed his hand with a framing nail gun. Thanks for that helpful tidbit of information! In the end the nail gun was SUPER easy to use and I loved it! It became my second favorite tool after drum sanders (which will always be first since they saved my kitchen floors!). Just line up the board where it needs to go and nail it in. I aimed for the floor plate and the studs where I could, but lightweight trim holds fine to drywall too!
After that? A WHOLE LOT OF CAULKING. Now I could make a lot of jokes about caulk, because, well, obviously it’s hilarious. But I actually really hate caulking. It’s one of my least favorite DIYs, which is unfortunate because I have had to do SO MUCH CAULKING at this house!
It was difficult to get into the space between the window trim and the shower wall to caulk so I ended up finding a good trick. I bought a small amount of flexible tubing and a tiny clamp for a few bucks and clamped the tubing to the end of the caulk bottle like so.
This allowed me to get into this tight spot much more easily. Also I apparently make very intense faces while caulking. You can see how the caulk filled the clear tube, but the flexibility of the tube allowed me to get the caulk right at where the trim met the wall.
Then it was just a matter of wiping the excess caulk with a wet finger (the part I hate the most since it’s messy). I used to bring a small container of water around to do this, but have since learned that it’s much much easier and neater to use a wet sponge to wipe the excess caulk. So, ignore this technique I’m showing and go get yourself a sponge! Also yeah, I did bring a plant into this bathroom at this phase to make it look pretty mid-renovation! Also I hung my old shower curtain up temporarily, since this bathroom was finally useable again. That was a HUGE step!
Installing the baseboards did mean pulling up the rosin paper and see the room really come together for the first time though and that was exciting enough to counter balance the hell that is caulking! I caulked all the seams as well as where the tile met the floor for maximum water resistance. I took this shot with my iPhone after I’d caulked most of the trimwork. Yowza! It was looking good in here!
Up close you could see a whole lot of caulk and spackle filled holes though. Not great. Luckily, a quick coat of paint was all it would need to make it all come together.
It’s just amazing what a coat of paint does isn’t it?! Crisp, clean, and complete.
I’m going to leave you there today, but this room is SO CLOSE to done! At this point, all I had left was installing plumbing fixtures and lighting and the medicine cabinet. And then – just the fun stuff: final styling and decorations!
Have you ever gut renovated a bathroom yourself? How did that process go for you? Was each stage an exciting next step or were you headsdown waiting for the finish line? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear more too about what you’d like to see more of this year or what kind of posts you like to read. Do you want me to get into more nitty gritty details on DIYing or do you want to see more styling posts about quick and simple things? Or do you not really know and maybe just want to say hi? Love you guys, thanks for reading! Here’s to 2019
I thought walls were a huge step, but, baby, I’m falling head over heels for my tiled floors! The floors were something I’ve just been dying over for months. I found dozens of complicated multi-colored tile floor patterns that I wanted to try, before finally settling back down and going with a clean, classic, and readily available option from Home Depot (my home away from home). I’m still saving those ideas of fun multi-colored patterns for the future though! There’s still the upstairs dormer bathroom and that has got to take shape eventually… so finger’s crossed! My inspiration for this room just got me all kinds of giddy about the tile I’d picked, but seeing it finished is even better!
I bought three cases of the tile at $53 bucks per case. I ended up returning an entire case of the tile in the end and only using the first two cases, or about 18 SF of tile. Saving that extra money was almost as exciting as the tile itself! And I’m allllll about my tile! I picked this tile for the spacing of the flowers. You can get options with more or less space between the flowers, but I preferred this since it had enough that you’d easily see the flowers in the small bathroom, but not enough that you’d feel dizzy! Here’s the shot from the website showing the tile in all it’s ungrouted professional photo glory.
Including the tile, here was my short Home Depot shopping list compiled here for you. That’s it! Tiling isn’t so bad, y’all.
Once I gathered the supplies and completed the prep work in the bathroom I came home from work one night in mid-November ready to tile! I finally turned on my ancient furnace which helped keep the house above freezing, which was a refreshing change. After that, I went ahead and dry laid all my tile so I could assess how it would fit in the space. I used this dry lay to also take the tile nippers out and make all my cuts. Luckily with 1″ hex tiles, a quick nip will cut through the tile pretty neatly. Not every one was perfect, but plenty were good enough!
Then it was time to start setting the tile. I carefully picked up my dry laid tile and stacked it sheet by sheet in order of how I’d place the sheets. I made a pile of all my cut tiles I could pull from as needed. Then I popped open my thinset container and used the flat side of a thinset float to spread out a thin coat (about 1/8″) before making grooves with the v side. This is the same process I’d used to lay the HardieBacker during prep. Then I had to actually lay the tile! It all started off smoothly.
First, I spread my thinset about 14″ deep across the back end of the floor by the shower pan, made my grooves, and laid a sheet of tile. Then I back filled any cut tiles and moved on to the next sheet in the row. I did this for the first and second rows without issue. It started to get warmer in the bathroom as the furnace heated the house and as I worked my way across and down the bathroom floors, my thinset started drying at the edges before I could lay the next sheet. Not dry-dry, just drier… I tried working faster and faster, laying the tile as quickly as I could. The room felt hotter and hotter as my efforts increased in speed. By the time I finished I was sweating heavily and the last sheets had a couple spots where the spacing didn’t feel perfect. After tweaking them to make them better, I began to clean up and realized it wasn’t just the little bathroom that was hot. The whole house was oddly warm. I checked the newly installed thermostat: 86°F. Apparently the thermostat went rogue and decided it should feel like a tropical island in November in Portland, OR! So if the tile’s not perfect perfect, I blame the thermostat!
In all, the dry lay and then wet lay of the tile took most of the evening for even just this small room. I was pretty excited to return the next day and finish up with grout! I left the heater on at a more reasonable 70°F temperature to keep the tile and thinset warm enough to set fully overnight. but already things were looking pretty good! I wish I’d taken more pictures of the ungrouted tile, but I’m a terrible blogger and an undivided focus DIYer, so I only took this one overall shot when I finished.
The next evening, grouting I was much better though! I poked any thinset to make sure it was fully set in place (it was!) and double checked the heater was at a more reasonable temperature (it was!), before cracking open my pre-mixed grout. You can get mixable grout for cheaper than the Fusion Pro stuff I used, but I didn’t want to worry about mixing multiple batches or making it the wrong consistency. I figured for my first time grouting, I’d take the easier approach. Also, I’m lazy. Ha! I debated white, grey, and black grout options, but ultimately, picked up a gallon of the charcoal which is the black Fusion Pro option. Black hides the most, I decided, and dingy grout is no one’s friend! I got a little nervous when I opened the container though, because it looked kinda blue! Also shout out to my filthy partially sanded kitchen floors photobombing below.
Once I actually started grouting, the grout looked more black. That was better! Whew!
Grouting was easier than laying the tile, just take the grout float and smoosh grout into the open space between the tiles, smoosh over a few times to make sure the gaps are fully filled. After smooshing, wipe away the excess and you’re left with something that looks a little crazy. You have to let the grout set a minute or two before wiping up the excess though.
But then you just dip a sponge like this in some warm water and ring it out really well and wipe up the excess grout. This sponge helpfully had a more abrasive side I could work at any tough spots with.
As I wiped with the damp sponge, it started looking like a real floor pretty quickly! If any water started to pool, I wiped it up with sponge and rung out the sponge again before making another pass.
After the first wipe down, it looked better, but it definitely needed another go round. By getting the majority in the first pass with a slightly more than damp sponge, I found a damp sponge could get nearly all the rest of the grout haze on the second pass.
That second pass got 95% of the grout haze and all of a sudden the floors looked DONE! It was momentous for sure! I’d not had a proper bathroom in a long while at this time and no bathroom meant I couldn’t actually stay at the house since there was no where to shower! Sure there was still some grout haze on the tile, but I would get that after the grout and tile set fully. It was really looking close to done in here. Walls, tile, who needs paint and toilets anyways?
There was one casualty of the grouting though: my hand. If you’re using dark grout, wear gloves! The grout stained my hand and finger nails and no amount of soap and water could get it off. After a week though it slowly faded away… thankfully!
This felt like a small price to pay for floors that made me want to drool with happiness! I adored the high contrast look and classic feel. The dark grout was practical, but also seemed more contemporary. Overall, this project was a 2 night success! 5 out of 5 stars, would recommend. Significantly easier and less annoying than drywalling. And arguably, way more fun to pet! Because petting tile is a thing right?
The high contrast floors feel so clean and classic don’t they? I just love black and white floors. Gwen’s kitchen floors makes me drool with envy. Black and white can go modern or traditional. Here I think it walks a nice middle line, just like me. This floor also reminds me of my Oma who had black and white hex floors in her Jack and Jill bathroom at her house in Berkeley. Hers was white with black dots only, forcing you to make the flowers with your brain. Something I have many memories of staring at that floor and doing! It’s funny how little things like this can remind you of someone. 20 years later, I’m still staring at hex floors. And loving it!
Have you ever tiled anything before? Did you think it was a difficult or easier DIY project? I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to tile more things soon! If you’re getting ready to tile, better check that thermostat though. Can’t have another one going rogue!
To properly read this post, go mix yourself a cocktail and drink every time you read the word “screw.” Also you should probably smirk every time you read the word too, since, you know, we have the sense of humor of 12 year old boys over here. Got your drink handy? Okay, let’s get into this.
Once the insulation was in I started trying to find a good friend to help me install the drywall in the bathroom. I knew there was absolutely no way whatsoever I could do the full install alone. Lucky me, eventually a friend casually mentioned he worked a summer installing drywall in college. Bingo! He had no idea what he’d just gotten into with that comment. I immediately started talking about my upcoming project and dropping hints. With the floors now covered in HardieBacker It was time to whip the walls in shape. I just had to wait for the plumbing inspection to finish so I could drain the drywall pan!
Luckily, I soon passed inspection and after dropping too many hints, went ahead and asked my friend Janik to come help me drywall. Before that could happen I was faced with the dilemma of how to actually get the drywall… because 4’x8′ sheets weren’t going to fit into my VW Tiguan! As usual, I was discussed this issue with my neighbor Erik. And because he is an angel child, the man volunteered to meet me at Home Depot with his truck the next Saturday to buy drywall. He had to go anyways to pick up a few things. At this point we were each going to Home Depot 3-4 times per week and we were picking up things for each other on 1/4 of those visits. You guys, my inbox of electronic receipts from Home Depot is over 200 messages. In just over 1 year!
Anyways, I drove to Home Depot that Saturday and looked at drywall stuff. Erik met me there and convinced me to buy a bunch of drywalling stuff and then told me the drywall was cheaper at Lowe’s. We got into our respective vehicles and drove 10 minutes to Lowe’s. But when we were there, they only had normal 1/2″ mold resistant green drywall board. HomeDepot carried the ultra-light version of the same product. So back in our cars we went and back at Home Depot I purchased the sheets and tools which we then slid into the back of Erik’s truck. At my house, Erik helped unload the sheets of drywall into my kitchen storage room where I was staging everything for the bathroom remodel. I was glad we went back for the ultra-light drywall at that point considering how dang heavy the ultralight version was!
Janik was coming over the next weekend, so I was able to fully assess my supplies and read up on the tutorials on hanging and mudding drywall on younghouselove.com. I gathered everything I had purchased and double checked I had everything I needed a couple of times.
I started with the easiest piece of drywall on my own: the lower part of the exterior wall, just to see how quickly this could go. After I measured the wall a couple times, I scored the paper outside of the drywall with my boxcutter and snapped it neatly along that line. I cut a second piece to fit around the window frame and then shoved the whole thing against the wall and screwed in drywall screws every 16″ with my handy new impact driver. The whole piece took 20 minutes tops, so I figured the whole room would go very quickly. Ha!
Now they make special drill bits for hanging drywall that prevent you from screwing through the paper and I eventually tried them, but I didn’t care for them as they prevented me from seeing and feeling the screw go in. It’s important to sink the screws just enough to recess their heads, but not enough to break through the paper. Here’s an example of a perfectly sunken screw.
Because the strength of drywall really comes from the paper, it’s super easy to cut (much easier than the hardiebacker!) and once the paper is cut the rest snaps very easily. This means screwing in the boards is a bit sensitive, since if you break through the paper, your screw is no longer holding on to anything at all. Here’s where my screw went in a little too far, you can see the rough edges. It’s a delicate balance of trying to get the screw to sink juuuust right. But once you get the hang of it, screwing into the drywall is pretty easy and if you mess up, you just sink another screw near the first. No big deal.
Later that week Janik arrived at my house ready to help hang the rest of the drywall. We got right to work templating the places to cut holes into the drywall sheets on the opposite side of the room. I took some primer that was nearby and dabbed it all over the edge of the sconce electrical box edge. Then we simply cut our sheet to the correct length and pressed it against the wall and electrical box. The primer left a nice circle on the sheet and I cut that out with a jagged edge drywall knife and gave the sheet a tight fit around the box.
Piece after piece the walls came together and the bathroom became room-like again! It worked well to have two people on this job as one person could hold the sheets and the other person could screw. That sounds dirty, but you know what I mean! We made a good team since Janik is much more of a precision type person and I am a “well, it’s good enough” kinda person so the drywall job ended up right in the happy middle of those two as we worked efficiently around the room. I was particularly grateful for a second person when we started the ceiling since our arms were both screaming waiting for the other person to finish screwing in the sheets above our heads.
I had Janik wear an extra pair of crocs that were lying around Berrybrier since crocs are the shoe of choice for this renovation. I’m sure he appreciates this being memorialized on the internet.
The ceiling was absolutely the hardest part since this is an old house and nothing is perfectly square. Holding a sheet of drywall up above your head while another person tries to figure out what needs to be cut an an angle in order to make it all fit is exhausting and really a great arm work out. But I hate arm work outs, so I was all for cutting a bit deeper and mudding a bit more.
We diligently worked around the room and ceiling cutting out for the plumbing pipes and medicine cabinet with the same technique we’d perfected with the electrical box, though we some how messed up on at least one plumbing pipe hole and made an extra hole. Otherwise, we just cracked joke after joke about screws and time passed pretty quickly. All of a sudden it was 2am, 8 hours after we started and we finished screwing in the final piece of drywall in the ceiling and paused to get water in the kitchen. As soon as we stopped my body rebelled and I was ready to collapse with exhaustion. But the bathroom had walls again!!!
I took a few days to let my arms recover from the first real arm workout I’d done in 5 years. But there’s no real rest for the weary round here. It was time for some mudding, the hard and dirty part of drywalling. I was not looking forward to it. But I psyched myself up with chai lattes and the promise of actually being able to shower. That tends to work for me!
First I taped down rosin paper to protect the floors from stray drywall compound. Then, I started out by filling every single one of the ten billion screw holes with a bit of drywall compound, before moving on to the more challenging parts. I continued with the next baby step: the seams along the middle of the walls. I spread a thin layer of joint compound in the seam with my 6″ knifeand laid the paper tape on top, then gently pressed it into the seam with a tad bit more mud. I spread slightly more mud over the tape working with the 8″ knife. After this first coat those seams looked pretty rough, as expected.
I moved from there to the outside corners framing the shower surround. I cut the outside corner metal strips to length and screwed them into the drywall, working from the top down. You can get rounded corner or 90° angle metal strips, I chose the former since they were better suited for this style house.
Once it was screwed on, I globbed on a whole bunch of the drywall compound with my 6″ knife. It was a challenge to smooth the mud on one side of the tape without shoving the excess mud onto the other side of the corner. I did my best and moved on to the inside corner seams around the room, folding my paper tape into a 90″ angle and working it into the seam as I had on the flat seams.
I used SO MUCH mud for the first coat. I worried I’d run out of my 4 gallon bucket of joint compound before finishing this small room. It was later November at this point and it was cold! I still had not turned on the heater in the house and was sleeping at my cousin Kristen’s after working on my house all evening, every evening. Because the house was so cold, the thick first layer of mud took several days to dry and cracked a bit in the inside corners. Since it was the first coat, it wasn’t a big deal that it had cracked, but I knew I needed to get that furnace tuned up and running asap!
I had the HVAC guys come out the day after Thanksgiving to fill up my tank with oil and give the 1920s furnace a good tune-up. Once that was cranking, the house stayed a tad bit warmer and the drywall compound dried a bit more quickly on the next coats.
I knocked off the higher bits and lines with a 6″ knife before starting the second coat of drywall mud and then used my corner, 8″, 10″ and 12″ knives to spread out the mud from the corners and seams as thin as I could. After that dried for a couple days I did my third coat, creating a heavy layer of mud, that was probably more than is recommended, but worked out just fine. Here’s that same outside corner by the shower surround after the second coat of mud. The last coat went on the smoothest and I thinned the mud slightly with some water in a second bucket to allow for a thinner coat.
Then it was time for sanding. SO MUCH SANDING. I sanded this room for weeks, ya’ll. I was sanding still in mid-December. Sanding and sanding and sanding. I used the sanding blocks and then borrowed a sanding screen from Erik which worked more quickly, but left more of a linear pattern than the sanding blocks. Drywall dust was in my pores and my skin was dry dry dry, but the room was looking more and more room-like and this corner was looking ready for primer.
The walls got really smooth and the edges of the outside corners felt really good too. The ceiling was much more difficult and I honestly, just decided after a couple hours of sanding, it was plenty good enough, because I wasn’t sanding above my head any longer. See comment above about my “eh, it’s good enough” attitude.
Eventually, after I don’t even know how many hours of sanding, the bathroom was smooth as a baby’s bottom and ready for primer and paint! At last! My showerhead had been installed and as soon as the room was primed, I could shower again. Boy was I looking forward to living in my own house again. My 10:30pm 15minute sprints back to my cousin’s to shower and sleep were getting old quickly. I needed to be staying at Berrybrier full time to get through the push! But here we were with a bathroom with ACTUAL WALLS AGAIN!
Already this room was looking one million times better than where it had started and even with the drywall dust, I was happier to walk in here now than before! Now the room was taking shape and the new layout was feeling real for the first time. Boy did it look more comfortable than sneaking around the sink and gross tub to get to the toilet!
Great progress had been made and I was so freaking excited for the next steps: paint and tile! Have you ever drywalled a space before? Was the ceiling the worst part for you too? Did you think you were going to be sanding forever? Would you ever do it again? Commiserate with me in the comments!
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!
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!