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Old 10-19-2010, 11:20 AM   #31
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Condo Bathroom Reno (CBU, Drywall, tiling, basic plumbing)

Nicole - glad this helped, I was hoping this would provide a good resource for people, like me, who were just getting started and wanted to see a project through completion.

Sealing the tile: I bought subway tile that had built in spacers of about 1/16 inch.. which beats setting those tiny spacers on all those tiles.. I may be wrong, but I believe a lot of subway tile comes with that. Then, grouting and a tile sealant with a couple coats is it!

Ledger board: I used a 1x2 wood board and screwed it into the backer board (CBU) 1 subway tile height up from the top of the tub (actually, t tile height plus about 1/8 of an inch - was told to leave that space there for expansion and caulking). This helps keep the tiles in a perfectly straight line (if you screw in the ledger board perfectly straight ) all the way up the wall... once the tiles all the way up are set and thin set is dry, remove the board and do the final bottom row, and tape them to the bottom of the row above while they set and you're good to go!

Shower surround: this is a question better asked to the pros... if you have wood studs, then I believe you really should use a membrane.. like a plastic "tarp" almost that you staple to the studs before putting up the CBU/cement board. There are many on this forum that use RedGuard on top of the CBU and before the thinset to water proof.. I would say investigate those further from the pros.

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Old 10-29-2010, 12:05 AM   #32
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Condo Bathroom Reno (CBU, Drywall, tiling, basic plumbing)

I am a general contractor and I do a lot of bathroom renovations. I couldn't help but notice that there seemed to be no waterproofing / crack prevention membrane on the tile backer-board before you installed the tile (according to your pics).
90% of the time I do a bathroom or tiled floor or kitchen backsplash, etc I have to educate the client as to why this is an essential step as I know I will be under cut by cowboy contractors who skip steps ... and even in a lot of new builds (especially condos) I see developers skipping this step especially with tiled floors to save a few $$.
I have found the most economical solution & easiest install for DIYers (in terms of material cost) is to use Red Guard which looks like a pink desert and goes on with a small roller. It turns to a red rubber layer when dry. If correctly applied this will stop the grout and/or tiles from cracking due to minor settlement but also critically it stops moisture from penetrating beyond to cause issues in or behind the backer-board ... very few people re-seal their tiled showers as often as they should and grout is not waterproof. Over a period of months of use even a tiny pin hole in the grout can let through enough water to cause mold to develop. Hardi backerboard is not waterproof, especially at the joins between sections.

Just a friendly recommendation not to skip this step ;-)
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Old 10-29-2010, 09:51 AM   #33
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Condo Bathroom Reno (CBU, Drywall, tiling, basic plumbing)

Bonzai - you are absolutely correct in pointing that out... I believe a couple times earlier in the thread I wrote that I realized the msitake after the fact. I was posting to this forum in semi-real time as I was undergoing... def. lesson learned!
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Old 10-29-2010, 10:12 AM   #34
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Condo Bathroom Reno (CBU, Drywall, tiling, basic plumbing)

I scanned through your posts to see if you mentioned it already and must have missed that. I've even had sales persons at a certain home improvement store try to tell me that it isn't necessary so it's hardly surprising many DIYers wouldn't know ;-).
On a similar note I had one potential client ask me to quote for a tiled exterior deck. She was apparently a structural engineer although I have my doubts! She would not accept that it was essential to fully waterproof and install a crack prevention and yet there we were standing on the existing cracked tile deck over a workshop with rotten beams and mold due to leaks. Some people never learn ;-)

Best of luck with your next project.
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Old 10-31-2010, 07:56 PM   #35
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Condo Bathroom Reno (CBU, Drywall, tiling, basic plumbing)

Originally Posted by LeviDIY View Post
In case you were wondering, I did not electrocute myself working on the kitchen (though I did come close recently: Nicked Romex in demo... splice or re-run?).

Tiling. Where to begin.... design would be first. We both decided that we wanted something clean, did not want large shower stall 12"x12" type tiles.. didn't think that looked good with a tub. We also decided we wanted something kinda neutral (again, condo.. resale appeal importance). We liked the subway tile design and it fit what we were looking for... also didn't hurt that the "snow white" ceramic subway tile at HD was like $0.19/tile.

Went to a few stores, and really debated for a while about doing an accent line or two with glass tile or maybe some black to break up the wall. After not being able to find something that worked with our general theme and other colors, including my confidence to blend it together... we just decided to run the subway/brick pattern from the edge of the tub all the way up to the ceiling.

As you probably could guess, I sat on the edge of the tub for about 45 minutes before cracking open the thinset and loading up the trowel, just thinking about what I was doing (this after reading a book and countless hours on this forum and other online sources).

Rather than take you through the minutes blow by blow, below are a few highlight pictures, then I'll just give some lessons learned at the end:

First few courses (note the lack of a ledger board... see lessons learned below):
Attachment 13063

Starting to come together, this probably took only 1/2 hour to get done.. once I got going, it really went. Problem: I ran out of thinset (grossly underestimated.. yes, I bought the premixed stuff) and had to run to the store. (Note the green plastic tub protection.. see lessons learned below):
Attachment 13064

2/3 walls mostly done (note a very slight.. 1/8" drop off from left to right on back wall.. see lessons learned below) plus the soap dish. Also, bottom left of picture, hard to see really, but there are two end caps. A side note... NOWHERE could I find 3"x6" tiles with the 3" side on one end rounded off. I was baffled. You can find it in 2x6 or most others, but not 3x6 (which is the most common subway tile size). I had to buy 2x6 end caps and run them vertically. It worked, but not the original intent, which messed up my wall plan:
Attachment 13065

Closeup of the soap dish, I'm very proud of this, and quite frankly, the noobie that I am, did not expect the thinset + grout + caulk to hold it, but it does. I have a new appreciation for any shower insert thing, I never knew how HEAVY they were and how LIGHTLY they are attached!
Attachment 13066

Final product, grouted and sealed :
Attachment 13067

Lessons learned:
- Preparation of work area: go overboard. The amount of time I spent in that tub, I really needed to protect it more. I had leftover plastic tarp (MAYBE 2 mil thick) that I used. Not good enough. Plus, I did not secure it well enough, as you can see in some pictures, it fell down in parts. Many little glops of thinset and grout and other random things got down under there. I tried to clean them up when I noticed, but caused damage to the tub. Can not say enough about this.

- Ledger board: Use one. I knew this. I read books and stuff online, they all said it. I bought some 1x2's and measured and cut them to the length of the back and side walls. After picture 2 above, I ran out of thinset, came back from the store, and noticed there was a slight slight (1/8") drop off from left to right along the back wall - the tiles on the right side sorta slide down a bit. The thinset had already set and I didn't want to rip it all off and damage the CBU. I tried to compensate on the rest of the courses up the wall, and no one notices it until I point it out specifically and they get up close to look at it, but the curse of the DIYer is in full effect on this one. When I did the side walls, I used one and they are perfectly straight.

- Thinset: I liked the pre mixed... no mess, easy to work with. A little pricey, but overall, worked for me. From what I read, stay away from mastic for wet areas, but you wouldn't know that from the people in the tile aisle at HD.

- Tiles: I bought about 15% more than my math called for, and used almost all the overage... see below on cutting...

- Cutting: I borrowed a small, cheap wet tile saw from my uncle, otherwise I would have bought it for $80. Never used one before, but took 1 cut to figure out speed and pressure, as well as its limitations (hard to do angles). I bought a 1" diameter carbide tipped circle bit for my drill which was great for my fixture openings (used the same bit to cut those into the CBU). Made a ton of a mess on my patio, and probably swallowed a few ceramic shards here and there, but very very easy.

- Measuring/Layout: this probably took THE MOST time and cause me THE MOST aggravation of the entire tiling part of the project, and of the entire bathroom reno . In theory, a subway layout is easy... count the number of courses you need up the wall, and cut tiles in half for half of those to offset and make the brick pattern. Well this works perfectly if you have walls that (in my case) were a multiple of 3 inches (given the 6" tile length). My back wall was not. THEN I had to debate how to handle the corners and the corresponding side walls... do I wrap the pattern around or start over on the side? I decided to try to wrap around... on the first side wall I did, I ended up with 1" tile at the end (before the end cap.. see 2nd picture above). This being my first tile job, I thought that was OK. It is that... OK. It doesn't look great. On the other side wall, I gave up the perfect brick pattern and offset the 2 courses not in the center, but off by a 1/4" to get a 2 inch end piece to look better. No one notices.... except me....

- CBU Screws: screw them in all the way. And the coat of thinset over them... make sure its not too thick and bumpy. Causes the tile on top to not set up perfectly... I learned the hardway after it was too late.

- Grouting: really really really easy I found. Was nervous (what else is new), but nothing. The only thing is to really wipe the haze away earlier than later. To my eye, its still got a bit of haze that I could never get off cause I was "too tired and it can wait till tomorrow."

- Sealing/Caulking: Sealing was a no brainer. The caulking was an adventure, figuring out technique took a bit and about 2 full rolls of paper towels to figure out (had to start a forum for advice: Caulking Technique)

- Final course at tub lip and ceiling: this took a while as my ceiling isn't straight nor was my tub. Cut each tile individually.

In general... the tile measuring was the worst. Did I mention that already? I'm sure there was a better way to do it, I just kept getting frustrated and my fiance (and I as well) just wanted to get going, enough sitting around thinking... plus my uncle wanted the saw back .

Up next: Plumbing and fixtures!

You are looking good buddy.

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