Our blank slate of a bathroom gave Brian and me some time to finalize some decisions before diving into installation. We selected our shower tiles, determined the half wall height, and planned for additional drywall removal.
Once the plumber re-worked our lines, we replaced the rotten subfloor planks and headed to our local home improvement stores for more material:
- HardieBacker Cement Backerboard
- Oriented Strand Board (OSB) Subfloor
- Jeffrey Court Glossy Ceramic Wall Tile (Shower Walls)
- Daltile Baker Wood Walnut Glazed Porcelain Wall Tile (Shower Niche)
- MSI Metro Gris Hexagon Porcelain Mosaic Tile (Shower Floor)
At this moment, we had so much momentum to keep going. Honestly, our nearly prolonged demolition period (due to the myriad of floor layers we encountered) almost quieted our fire. Luckily, with dad’s help, we were able to CRUSH demolition within 2 days rather than the week I had adjusted for in our timeline. Plumbing was complete and we were ready for the next phase!
Brian and I agreed that we needed to modernize our foundation; while we did indeed have a subfloor, we opted to install OSB over the plank subflooring to create additional stability and height.
Since we removed the original floor, we found that the new flooring needed to be built up to match the height of the bedroom floor for an even transition. We installed 3-panels of 23/32-in. OSB with cutouts to accommodate plumbing and a stud secured to a floor joist. Resourceful and effective, we utilized a wooden block and my trusty car jack to create a seamless and tight fit.
The single stud fastened to the joist made for a strong, reinforced starting point for our half wall. Brian and I tackled framing out the rest of the half wall next. The original bathroom layout did not allow for much natural light since the window was partially blocked by the bedroom closet wall. We decided to build a half wall with a glass enclosure for the shower to maximize daylight!
Walls & Ceiling
A huge thank you and round of applause goes to Dad for figuring out our wonky electric! The original bathroom had a single light switch at the entrance and a separate fan switch in front of the toilet. We wanted to install a triple-switch gang box to control the light, mirror light, and fan.
To efficiently run the electrical wiring, we removed drywall from the ceiling and walls for more workable space. It was this move that revealed we had ZERO insulation throughout all of our walls (including our exterior walls)! Now, at the time, it was July in the Southeast. Our ceiling was open to the attic and we removed part of the drywall along the exterior of the house…Oof – our room was a sauna for a while there!
Dad ran the new wiring as we looked on, trying to learn as much as we could!
With framing and wiring complete, it was time to install new drywall. We ended up removing 4-ft of existing drywall all-around for a cleaner install. Having never installed this much drywall before, Brian and I were thankful to have dad’s brain and brawn! We picked up a few tips and had the opportunity to use a few “new-to-us” tools, including a drywall screw gun.
Cement Board Installation
Though drywall can be installed in the shower with the Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-KIT, Brian and I wanted to go the extra mile and install cement board instead. Installing cement board was fortunately familiar to us as we had just completed hanging drywall, though it was heavy, cumbersome, and super dusty when cutting.
Of course, it was a little trickier for us to create the cutouts for the pipes since the cement board was a lot tougher than the drywall. One rookie mistake we made was that we did not cut the hole around the shower valve large enough for the Schluter Mixing Valve Seal…sooooo….we very carefully widened the hole after it was fastened to the studs. I have to admit that was pretty nerve-wracking (if not a little silly) since the water lines were just behind the wall.
We had an easier time accommodating the shower niche! Brian and I ultimately decided to place our shower niche higher than most at 5-ft up from the shower floor. It allowed for us to install a recessed TV mount on the opposite side of the wall with the upside of staying clean longer!
Brian spent a good week taping, mudding, sanding…and then mudding and sanding some more. We painted the bathroom a nice bright white, which I wholeheartedly welcomed as I despised the depressing gray. The cement board was taped and thinsetted. Pretty soon, we were ready for the next step!
The Schluter Experiment
Okay, so I will admit that even though we did a ton of reading, I was still not 100% convinced that Schluter was the way to go. Really, I don’t think either one of us was convinced either way. Brian and I were doing all of this for the first time! So, we just took a chance. I may be calling this section The Schluter Experiment, though truthfully this entire experience is really “The Bathroom Experiment”!
After watching the official Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-KIT video, reading and re-reading instructions, and watching a handful of third-party YouTube tutorials, we began our application. It wasn’t too difficult at first, just very messy…The installation of the Schluter Kerdi Waterproofing Membrane seemed to be a much “gloopier” version of wallpapering. We followed the directions, had a few rounds of trial and error, and finished up the membrane installation with the required 2-in. overlap at the joints.
It was at this point, Brian and I both looked at each other and questioned if using Schluter was the right call. How could wallpaper be a great base for tiling?? We jumped on our computers and researched for a few hours, reading through DIY experiences, professional outcomes, and more. Finally, we turned to one another and said, “Well, it’s done, it seems like it works for a lot of people, and we have the warranty…let’s keep going!”
…And that we did! We took on the next steps:
- Painstakingly felt our way through the drain installation (We watched this video + this video a bazillion times)
- Guesstimated our shower tray by cutting-to-size little by little (As Dad later suggested – we should have used a piece of cardboard to create an outline to place on top of the tray to cut to size)
- Cut the shower curb to length and sealed the joints with Schluter’s waterproofing Kerdi Band
Brian and I took our waterproofing outside of the shower; we decided to install Schluter®-DITRA-XL as a layer between the OSB and tile. With the OSB installed, we still faced a big height difference between the bedroom and bathroom. To ensure a more smooth transition, we needed to account for the missing height. It worked out that the Schluter®-DITRA-XL was the right height and had the benefit of being a waterproof uncoupling membrane. This layer not only protects the substrate beneath, but also protects against the cracking of tile and grout from normal expansion and contraction of the home.
We purchased the Schluter®-DITRA-XL from Tile This. Tile This allowed us to select different sizes, whereas all other retailers required a 175 square foot minimum.
We prepared, studied, and purchased the necessary tools for the long-awaited Tiling Stage (including the lifesaving Rigid 7-in. Wet Tile Saw). Despite the fact that Brian and I thought this adventure would go smoothly, we found ourselves pulling a few all-nighters, thinset-deep in frustration.
It took us just over 1 month to complete all of the tiling in the bathroom. To be fair, our many stop-and-go moments were due to work schedules and the annoying condition known as sleep.
The very first evening we took a swing at tiling ended up being our very first all-nighter in this project. We thought we could dry fit starting from the outside-in and only did so partially rather than entirely. Oops. How embarrassing. After we thinsetted our first three rows of tile, we found that the tiles were not lining up correctly. We spent the entire night salvaging these tiles!
Dad came in later that day to help us with layout and get us started on the right track. Thank goodness, because we were hovering just above brain dead by that time. It was nearly the same situation with our shower tile…In fact, to this day, I have not found a decent tutorial on how to lay large-scale subway tile vertically.
Brian and I learned as we went. Grateful that Dad was there to help us get started, we tackled the remaining floor, shower, and curb tile ourselves.
- Leveled tile with a 1/8-in. leveling system
- Cut the hexagon tile into bars for the shower niche sides and the outside and top of shower curb
- Utilized math skills to account for layout, angles, and slopes
- Decided to run shower tile vertically for a different look than the standard horizontal design
- Shower tile set horizontally along inside of shower curb for a seamless in-shower look and contrast curb design
- Carefully cut tile to accommodate plumbing and the shower niche
- Removed and re-applied tile as much as it took for us to be happy with our work
Through talking to others who have laid tile, we found that we chose a couple of difficult sizes for our first time…Brian and I can laugh about it now, but it was a pretty tough month of thinset and tile overload. We are thrilled to be finished with cutting tile (at least until our next project!) and are really proud of ourselves for learning.
Sanded, stained, and quadruple-polyurethaned, our beautifully-converted Broyhill was ready to make its first official appearance in our bathroom. Don’t let its skeleton scare you off:
Brian and I begrudgingly decided to cut off the legs; unfortunately, the piece looked far too much like a dresser with them on. We struggled with this decision because we truly wanted to maintain its original integrity as much as we could. Ultimately, we felt okay turning something old into something new. It was the best and most seamless option to raise the vanity to a comfortable height at 34ins.
Dad helped us with anchoring this labor of love to the wall. Reinforced with additional wood and metal straps, we fastened the vanity into the studs to ensure it was firmly in position.
Post-tile installation, Brian and I looked at our bathroom through tired and appreciative eyes. We almost couldn’t believe it was all coming together. For a project that we naively thought we could tackle in 6 weeks (HA!), we had just spent over 4 weeks TILING alone. Looking back on it now, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We pushed ourselves, pushed each other, and learned so much.
After installing our toilet and our shell of a vanity, our master bathroom was actually taking shape! Check in with us next as we reveal our finished master bath rebuild!