Continued from Virtual DIY Bathroom – Restoration (Setting Tiles)
After stretching out this series of blog posts, seemingly as long as it took for his actual work, we are now pleased to present the final installment of my brother’s DIY bathroom project. Last time, my brother had finally slayed his demon of procrastination and conquered his paralyzing fear of tilework. He had actually attached tiles to the walls! In this concluding episode, you will read about the last stages of the project and see all the glory of his efforts. But not before a few more twists and turns on this year-long rollercoaster of a project. Here is his wrap-up.
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The tiles had now been cut and secured to the wall with thinset, but the work was not yet finished. Several days after I reached this point, my brother flew off to visit his daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids on the west coast, where he had previously worked on tiling in their kitchen and wrote a blog post to describe it. Throughout his visit, our virtual DIY collaboration continued.
Once the thinset had dried, the next step was grout, which is used to fill the spaces that were intentionally (and more or less evenly) left between individual tiles. I took down the newly-hung mirror and put it in a safe place to avoid disaster in the event I bumped it as I tried to make further progress on the tiling. Then, using painters’ tape and a plastic sheet, I covered the faucet, countertop, walls – even the toilet – to keep the grout off them.
In late April 2021, it was finally Grout Day! It seemed appropriate that I was performing this step while my brother was with his daughter, since it was that blog post about their tilework that gave me the knowledge and confidence to finally tackle the job. I wrote to my brother:
|A few quick questions about grout.|
|1. Do you add water to the dry grout? Or do you add grout to the bucket containing the right amount of water? I have seen it instructed both ways.|
|2. Do you use a power drill mixer? Or do you mix manually? If manually, what tool do you use?|
|Morning Bro. Honestly I don’t remember. I guess if you estimate how much you’ll need by the amount of water, then you can add grout to get to the right consistency. Since I always did big jobs, I used a paint mixer attached to my drill.|
Upon considering this response, and doing a bit more research, I replied:
|After watching numerous videos and reading all instructions, I have prepared 7 steps for mixing the grout and 11 steps for the application. Good grief!|
|Great you’re in the home stretch! I didn’t recall there were that many steps.|
It was only after I finished the grout work and did a little more digging into product reviews and instructions that I discovered two things about the specific type of grout I had purchased: 1. It is a great product. 2. It is possibly the most difficult grout to use. (I eventually found another product reviewer who disputed the 2nd point.) What makes the grout challenging, particularly for DIY-ers, is that it is specially formulated to set rapidly and requires precise preparation and timing to make it work correctly. Regardless, it turns out I got lucky with the end result, perhaps because of my thorough research into how to mix and apply this specific grout. Or perhaps it was due to my training as a chemist, which requires following instructions carefully. Shortly after I completed the grouting, I sent this picture to my brother.
After the grout, the final step in the tiling project was to apply silicone caulk where the tile edges join the vanity top, the walls, and at the corner, in order to seal and water-proof those areas. But before caulking, I waited a few days for the grout to dry, then texted my brother:
|Took the tape down. This is what it looks like now – after the grout, before the caulk. Turns out, protecting the walls and countertop by putting tape under the grout was helpful because the tape just peeled right up, along with excess grout.|
|Also, I realized the special alabaster colored grout does not dry to white. Had planned to caulk with white but now think that would look bad. So I special ordered alabaster caulk to make the job look more complete and planned. Should arrive in a couple of days…|
|And I thought alabaster was white.|
|Me too!! But look at this information from the caulk manufacturer. Top left corner is alabaster. Right next to it is white. Argh!|
A few days later…
|Don’t know why, but I really struggle with caulk. Was “sore afraid” of tackling that last task on the tilework. Received the special-order alabaster caulk. Also special ordered a top-rated caulk gun. (I should have special ordered a master caulker to do the work instead of me!). Oh well. Drumroll…(not great but not too bad.)|
|I think that looks great and the colors match perfectly! The caulking will give you the confidence to know that it is all water-tight, which was one of your main concerns.|
|Yes…and finally, the finishing touches. I believe we now have our bathroom back.|
|That’s great! Know you’re glad.|
The finishing touches included putting up the toilet paper holder…
…installing the towel rack, and re-hanging the mirror.
We were finally finished with the bathroom renovation!
There is a subtle testimony to the passage of time captured in the photo above. If you compare the framed Japanese print reflected in the mirror to that when the mirror was first hung, you will note the changeover from fall-like leaves of red and gold to spring-like wisteria in purple and green. My wife had transitioned the print in line with the changing seasons.
It had taken me two months to complete the tilework once I actually got started. And this was six months since I had prematurely declared, “And now, a functioning bathroom again!” In total (including the eight-month COVID delay), it had taken one year and two months to complete the powder room renovation, going all the way back to our first meeting with the carpenter. And altogether, it turned out ok. Maybe a bit better than ok. But surely not a professional job. (At least, not my part of the project.)
Still, you might ask, “Was it worth it?” Absolutely. And you might wonder, “What’s next on the to-do list?” Well, there are lots of renovation projects that my wife and I could take up to improve our house. We are already talking about updating the upstairs bathrooms. They really need it. But I think we may wait a while so we can first enjoy the fruit of our labor with this powder room upgrade before we start again on the grueling – but satisfying – adventure in home remodeling.
For now, I have to go. We ordered a new wall oven for the kitchen and the installers just yelled upstairs to let me know that the cabinet opening is too small. The oven won’t fit! They need me to make some modifications to the cabinet with a hammer and chisel. Good grief. I already have my cell phone out to send the following text to my brother:
|Do you have time for a quick call?|
Maybe my wife and I will just let the next homeowners make their own updates. And we will wish them the best of luck!