The Never-Ending Bathroom Remodel

I am so sick of working in our bathroom. I’ve been working in there three nights/week and the weekends for the past three or four weeks, I’ve lost count. But, rather than complain, I should be thankful that I’m able to do this work on my own. If I would have hired this out, I’m sure it would have been $5,000-$8,000 for everything. I haven’t added up what we have spent so far, but I’m certain it’s not $8,000.

I am not in the trades professionally, so I know this isn’t a professional result, but I am happy with the results considering I graduated from the school of YouTube DIY… (that should be a real thing.)

I learned a lot from these four channels:

Isaac Ostrom


Home Repair Tutor

Sal Diblasi

The last post I wrote was after I finished waterproofing, and painting the ceiling and walls. I just finished tiling the surround, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The surround took me four days to tile – because I messed up and had to redo things a few times. I also had to return a bunch of the tiles because they were broken or scratched. Out of the sixty that I bought, I had to return 20 of them. When I returned them, I went through 40 tiles in the store until I found 20 that were not damaged. I’m pretty sure Home Depot hates me.

Before I did anything I marked lines on the wall in chalk just to make sure my grout lines weren’t getting too far off. I didn’t commit to these chalk lines, I used the tile itself to measure everything, but I used the chalk lines as a gut-check as I went.

I then placed one full tile in the center of the rear wall. I used a premixed thin-set (NOT mastic) and placed a bed of thin-set flat on the wall. Then used a half-inch square notched trowel to cut vertical trowel lines. I back-buttered the tile (applied thin-set on the back of the tile itself) and smoooooooshed it onto the wall, wiggling it a bit as I pushed to help collapse the trowel lines and ensure good adhesion. (You want to keep your trowel lines in one direction so air can escape as you push the tile on the wall. And you have to back-butter large format tile to ensure 90-100% coverage and adhesion. Thanks YouTube!)

With that tile in place, I held the next tile on the left, pushed right into the corner. I marked where that tile met the one that was installed with a marker, and used a carpenter’s square to draw that line at a 90 degree angle. At the wet saw, I cut the line away, keeping the blade right on it so the line was removed with the kerf.

When I got to the bathroom, I tried the fit, flipped it upside down so the cut edge was in the corner, and put it up on the wall. That whole process took about 10-12 minutes per tile. Sometimes longer if I had to recut.

This was a slow process, but it worked well, and I’m happy with the results.

Oh, and I used a leveling system that I found online. I don’t think I like the system I used because many of the leveling clips broke as they were installed, forcing me to reuse some as spacers, to remove the tile on occasion, and replace the leveling clip, etc. The clips were also rather expensive at $50 for $150 clips – and this was not enough for the surround. If I had to do it again, I would use the type that come with a wedge.

Anyway – it took FOREVER, but here’s the result (pre-grout)…

The shelf doesn’t exactly match the white of the tile… but I really wanted some shelves. Also, why didn’t I cover the whole tub? I just had to rip out the paper, and wash the tub thoroughly when I was done that day to make sure no thin set cured on the tub.
Cutting around the pipes and mixer valve took a long time. I just used the wet saw for this. And, I added a bead of caulk around the holes to make sure any water that got behind the tile wouldn’t wick through the hole to the back of the cement board which is not waterproof.
I had to clean the tub and tiles at the end of each day. (This is after about 4 hours on Friday evening, and 8 hours on Saturday.)
I covered the tub better this time. This is the end of day 3, about 20 hours in.
And here it is when I finished last night after work. All told, it took me about 24 hours.

As you can see, I did not tile the walls all the way to the floor. I’ll be adding that after the floor goes in, so I have a tile there supporting the bottom tiles just to ensure they don’t slip.

Next – the floor… god I hope this is faster than the walls…


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