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Best Laid Plans

10th January 2007

Dave

I would start with a blank slate in the bathroom. The vanity was made out of particle board with a man made marble top. The particle board had gotten wet many times and crumbled in my hands while removing it. The sink basin and top was Very 70’s yellow with swirls of gold glitter. Both had to go. The tub and shower surround where a green one piece molded fiberglass unit. While cleaning the tub I noticed a large crack in the floor of the tub. It turned out that the tub had not been leaking but it had to be replaced regardless. Once I had the tub surround out I discovered that over half of the wall behind the surround had not been insulated. I was glad I removed it. I would end up removing the small medicine cabinet and mirror also. It would be cleaned up and donated to the Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Once the bath was gutted, I was ready to go. I started by insulating the outside wall, dropped the ceiling 18 inches and insulated that also. I installed a steel tub and insulated around it too. I finished the rough in with hardibacker around the tub and fiberglass backed sheet rock around the rest of the bath. I recylcled the oak plywood recovered from the exterior and built that vanity shell. I took special care reworking the sheetrock around the plumbing. Over the years it had gotten pretty bad.

Installing the tile turned out to be a real adventure. I found a set of tile 6 inch, 12 inch, bull nose at Lowe’ that went with the accent tiles I bought tat the Habitat Restore. It was also the least expensive matched set that I could find there. It wasn’t exactly cheap but the price was in my budget. The plan was to do the ceiling in 6 inch, the surround in 12 inch with the accent strip and finished with the bull nose. The ceiling went up just fine, but after setting the third or fourth field tiles the trouble began.

It turned out that there were very large variations in the sizes of the 12 inch tile; as much as 3/16 inch difference between the smallest and largest. I had planned on a laying the tiles in a typical grid pattern with a 1/8 inch grout line. The 3/16 inch difference killed that idea. I switched to a running bond pattern so that the difference in grout line wouldn’t be quite as noticeable. Since I had already started I kept on going. I did my best to match the sizes by rows and more or less eyeballed the grout line. After setting the entire surround I decide there were about 5 or 6 tiles that were just too big. I went back to Lowe’s and found 6 more tiles that were close to the smaller sizes; chipped out the larger tiles and replaced them with the new ones. I compensated for the irregular tiles by filling the grout into the distressed edges. It made for a much larger grout line, but it also almost completely disguised the irregularities. It may not be everybody’s choice, but it looked OK to me. I believe I had bought tiles from several different runs from the manufacturer. Several of them were obviously returns, because they had what I thought was grout haze, but turned out to be thinset. It was very difficult to get them clean. I’ll know better next time. I should have had Lowe’s pull down a new pallet rather than take what they had on the shelf. Fortunately, the floor went down without problem and I was very happy with the overall final results.

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