When I came home this week I was greeted by a lovely site at the end of the hall:
The Kohler Bancroft 5′ tub that had been occupying our garage for the last 5 months was not only in the bathroom it was mudded in place! Flannel Man got up early and installed it with the help of Papa Flannel and our plumber. Originally we were going to go without calling the plumber but after looking at how complex mudding the tub in place and getting it level while installing the drain line at the same time would be we just decided to hire the pros to help for an hour or two. Having a leak in the drain line would be very difficult to access later compared to the other finish plumbing. The plywood subfloor around the previous tubs was rotten after years of water exposure partially from what was a leak in the tub drain so we wanted to avoid that issue this time and know that it’s done right.
Kohler’s fiberglass tubs are a nice solid construction. The walls and base are very thick and there were four small blocks under the tub for support but we wanted to support the base in a thick layer of mud (aka. cement) instead. A mud base is needed for drop-in or undermount tubs so that the lip of the tub doesn’t have to support all of the weight of people + water inside. With our style a mud base isn’t necessary but it does help keep the tub from flexing too much. It is, however, a big pain @ss to do so that is why many people opt not to. Never one to back down from a challenge we took it on anyways with the help of our plumber.
First a big batch of mortar was mixed up and poured onto the subfloor. Then they placed the tub into position the best they could and had Flannel Man stand in the tub to settle it into place. Some whole body rocking was needed to move it around. Then they checked for level in both directions. Finding that it needed more mortar in some areas they had to lift the tub back up, add more mortar, and rock it back down into place. This was repeated a couple times before they decided the mortar was mixed too dry. So they scooped it back into the bucket and mixed in more water. Then the whole process was repeated another half dozen times until everything was a level as possible. Next some stainless steel screws were used to fasten the tub to the walls and a brace was added to keep the opposite unfastened corner of the tub down while the mortar dried.
Getting the tub that level is often skipped by plumbers because it’s hard to do with one person and take time but doing so will make shower wall tiling much easier and help keep water from collecting in low areas around the lip of the tub.
They did a great job! The only thing I wish that would have been done differently is to staple down some plastic sheeting onto the plywood floor. The mortar would have taken longer to dry but it would keep the plywood from getting damp. It was part of the original plan but that step was forgotten. I’ve also read some people use a sheet of plastic over the top of the mortar also so the tub can more easily be removed later on if need be. But our plumber informed us that removing a tiled in tub with a mortar base would be hard with or without that plastic and trying to get and keep that plastic under the tub every time it’s being lifted and dropped in would have been very difficult. I can see how it would be more useful for a drop in Roman /garden tub though.
Before the tub went in place the niche on the existing wall had to be framed out. It could have been done after the fact but putting it in before was much easier. We decided on having two niches because we like the look of the recessed storage even though it makes our tiling job much harder. Two niches were needed because the back wall is an exterior wall. Putting a 4″ deep niche there would eliminate the insulation in that area (never a good idea!) and make it a cold spot in the shower. The only other option would have been to build out the wall to be twice as thick but then we would loose floor space and have to re-route a significant amount of plumbing and ductwork. Keeping it in that location meant we simply swapped the shower & tub spout from the right side to the left side. So that left us with needing to fit our storage niches on the smaller side walls. (Don’t worry the visqueen was later cut away.)
We could fit a tall skinny niche on the left wall with all of the plumbing fixtures but the bottom of the niche had to fit above the control valve. A perfect height for when you are showering but impossible to reach if you’re taking a bath.
So the second niche we made low for tub access. I wanted it to be nice and wide because you can never have too much storage in the shower. Drawing it out in CAD I didn’t like my original location because visually it broke up the line the wainscoting was making around the room. I know I’m picky. The wainscoting doesn’t actually run through the shower (we considered have a trim piece follow the line around the shower but decided that was unnecessarily complicated and there was no matching trim for our tile) but putting the niche lower looked so much better in the grand scheme of things.
Either way it’s not the best place to keep water spray out of the niche. Because we’re not using a typical showerhead the spray is more straight down like a rain shower so that helps but we’re still going to take some extra measures to make it waterproof. (more on that later…) For now in the construction of the niche we made the bottom plate sloped to allow water to drain back into the tub.
Then we screwed the drywall on the back side of the niche through the framing. The back side is inside a bedroom closet.
Next we insulated the wall between the bedroom and the bathroom. Even with the closet to the bedroom being on the other side there is a lot of noise that travels into the spare bedroom while the bathroom is being used. By moving the plumbing out of that wall and doing a little soundproofing we’re hoping to make the spare bedroom significantly quieter. There is more Green Glue in our future…
Meanwhile, we were also working to clear out the mess we had going on in the garage. We ended up giving away everything for free on Craigslist and had lots of interest. But when it came down to it no one came to pick up the doors or the toilets. Bummer. I was hoping to find the avocado and harvest gold toilets a nice home in a cabin up north or something. Those things were impossible to clog. You could dump a bag of dog food down there and it would swept away with no effort! I guess no one wants toilets that use 7 gallons a flush anymore. So we had to break them up to trash them. The hollow doors got cut up and used for firewood.
Since the electrical work was officially done I rounded up everything to return, spread it all out on the kitchen floor, and went through every Menard’s receipt I had for the last 3 months. Their new policy is that you don’t get full return price unless you have the receipt. They do provide a receipt printer next to the return counter to look up your receipt by credit card or check number but we go there so often it would have taken me forever to find everything. Luckily, I’ve been keeping every remodeling receipt since we bought the house and organize it by month in our filing cabinet.
Sidenote: At least Menard’s has a longer description of the item on their receipts so I could figure out what everything was. Home Depot uses mostly numbers which don’t seem to match the bar code on the item which only leaves space for a few letters. I always have to walk in there with a dozen different receipts when I need to return something because I can’t figure out what is what…oh and Menard’s has a minimum of 2 people working the return counter at all time unlike Home Depot’s dinky one person computer station that barely has a counter to set your stuff on. I still ❤ you Menard's!
Each receipt and the corresponding items on that receipt got their own bag. Receipts with more than one bag full of returns were tied together. I had 21 different transactions to return from! The return lady just about kissed me for being so organized and coming in late in the evening when there was no line. In the end I got nearly $200 in electrical returns! That is pretty hard to do with $.59 electrical boxes! Well there was one $60 roll of wire and a couple $15 GFCIs in there but the majority of my returns were $2 or less.