Archive for March, 2012

Vanity Mishap

So remember how we had a custom vanity and storage cabinet made for our main bathroom? And remember how we were going to have furniture like feet? Well apparently the cabinet maker didn’t. I had clearly explained it and drew up multiple drawings that were dimensioned out. Anal? Yes. Useful? I thought so but he only took the drawing of the front and not the side.

So when we finally got around to trying to install the cabinets and we realized the base was built with a standard toe kick that was recessed 4″ behind the face of the cabinet we were frustrated. You couldn’t see the feet all all under the cabinets nor the actual toe kick behind it. We had to delay installing the vanity until the following weekend but unfortunately we weren’t able to get what I originally wanted because the face of the cabinet was built to overhang the box like a standard cabinet. So the best compromise we could come up with is having the feet just behind the overhang of the face. Not exactly what I wanted but it did end up looking intentional and you can see the feet.

 

Installing a toe kick + furniture feet is an idea I came up with to help keep the area under the cabinets clean. I loved the look of furniture feet but I didn’t want to have to do exploratory digging to get dust bunnies out from under the back. A full plate toe kick set 4″ behind the feet took care of the issue and was barely able to be seen in the farthest away point of the bathroom. But to make it even more invisible we painted it black to look more like a shadow.

Installed it doesn’t look half bad. Glad that fix turned out so well!

We did have a slight issue with the side panel being too tight. I guess he didn’t design the back of the cabinet to be attached exactly flush to the wall. Flannel Man later pried the panel back out and trimmed it down so it can expand and contract like it was meant to.

 

Flannel Man and Papa Flannel got a tight fit around the pipes in the base of the cabinet (which is another thing that is nicely hidden by the toe kick). They had to turn the water off and drain the lines so they could turn the handles to be in line with the pipes.

I knew the sconce would be close but it looks closer than I had planned. The pivot mirror I got pushed the sconces out farther than I would have liked. The cabinet fits so I guess that is all that matters.

The organized array of electrical boxes is starting to look good with the switch, timer, in-floor heat thermostat, and GFCI outlet installed.

We’re a little worried about the gap the panel along the cabinet. Hopefully the granite will line up and cover that. These floating side panels ended up causing a lot of issues.

 

Overall we love the cabinets though! (Ignore the sawdust and tools or the fact that the doors and drawers are still downstairs I was too excited taking pictures.)

Look we have a vanity and a storage cabinet!

Mudding, Priming, & Painting

We finally got around to mudding the drywall. It’s only been 3 months since we hung the drywall. We started with smaller taping knives and worked our way up to wider ones with each layer of mud.

The first coat of the long living room wall. A built-in will be going in the opening on the right.

The master bedroom’s first coat.

Second layer.

On the last layer we tried wet sanding with a damp sponge. We had wring out the sponge a lot and be careful to be very gentle so as to not take off too much mud. It worked pretty well though. We did follow up with a light dry sand afterwords.

 

Onto the main bathroom where we’re focusing all of our efforts right now. We just finished the laying down the tile floor and grouting it with epoxy grout.

Toilet nook:

And the ceiling that we weren’t planning to have to drywall until the electrician fell through it…twice.

 

Next up was priming and we added the sand texture into the primer. That worked OK but I think we need to find a way to apply the texture more evenly than with a roller because we had a lot of areas that needed more texture to make it look even.

The future access panel for the shower shut off valves next to the toilet.

 

Then I asked Flannel Man to skip ahead and install the light fixtures temporarily so I could pick the paint color for the upper half of the walls. The construction light we were using up to this point was just too yellow to pick out paint.

We had a minor issue in that the lights couldn’t sit flush with the wall. The center bolt that holds them on was meant to fit into a standard depth electrical box not the shallow pan boxes we had to use because of studs being in the way. Flannel Man was later able to cut down the bolts without messing up the threads.

 

The bottom half of the room was going to be painted white to look like wainscoting but the top half I wanted some type of light blue or green color. I had a whole pile of paint chips from various stores.

I considered the tile neutral so I thought any color would look good but holding the swatches up to the tile I found the tile had a very blue undertone to it. So the greens and green grays seemed off to me.

 

I narrowed it down to a few favorites and taped them on the wall. At this point I realized that the G24 base light that came with the bath exhaust fan was a soft white so it gave off a slightly yellow glow. But the florescent bulbs I picked for the sconces were a bright white. We liked the bright white better so all of the white in the room didn’t look dirty or yellowed. Eventually we’ll replace the bath light with a similar temperature light but for now we looked at both for picking out the paint colors. Soft white light with pure white Azek moulding:

Left to right: SW 2640 Skylark, SW 6218 Tradewind, Behr UL220-12 Urban Mist, Behr 720E-2 Light French Gray, Behr 720E-3 Rocky Mountain Sky, the sliver on the end was just from Tradewind’s long card.

 

SW Skylark is actually an exterior color but it color matches BM’s Glacier Lake which I saw in an inspiration picture I liked so I was considering having it mixed in an interior formula.

Bright white light with American Olean Catarina Coliseum White tile:

My two favorite were the two on the left. In the end I felt Skylark might be too pale and not contrast enough with the white wainscoting but I liked the mix of green, blue, and green that still managed to work with the tile. I went with the gray/blue Tradewind which I hoped would give the room a nice pop of color. Plus it’s one of interior designer Phoebe Howard’s favorite blue colors along with the one shade lighter SW Top Sail…so you can’t go wrong with that!

 

At this point Flannel Man started with the wainscoting paint. I had tried to get it color matched with a piece of the vinyl trim we were using for the wainscoting. But the color reader was acting up that day so the Sherwin Williams guy attempted to come up with the color mixture by eye. Four tries at tinting, shaking, and drying a drop of paint on the sample and he thought he had something. At that point I just wanted to get the heck out of there after waiting around for almost an hour! So I told FM we’d try the color and if it wasn’t right we could have it re-tinted. Well FM must have not been paying attention because I talked to him the next day and he had painted all of the ceiling and the wainscoting before realizing the color was PINK!

Taking a closer look at the trim we had I realized the straight pieces of vinyl we had bought were a different color than the Azek moulding order that came in after we had bought them. Originally, we were going to get the matching straight Azek but it was textured on one side, had a rougher finish, and didn’t have rounded corners. Plus the Azek was 3 times as much as the stuff we found at Menard’s. The straight pieces didn’t match the pink color of the wall or ceiling at all but it was darker than the Azek. So I guess we would be painting the trim after all (we were hoping we could get away with not).

 

I took the pink paint back and both of the samples and the Sherwin Williams lady was very sympathetic. She found that the straight bright white base they use matched the Azek exactly so matching it between types of paint (for the doors) became very easy. Too bad they don’t give you a discount for not needing any tinting! With a two new cans of Duration; one in the bright white base and one in Tradewind the room was looking much better.

Sophie is tired of her humans spending so much time in this room.

Spring is coming?

We’ve had a very mild winter here in southern Wisconsin with only a handful of big snowstorms all season. So it was a little surprising to wake up to a big wet March snowfall the other day. The snow clung to every little branch and made our yard look like a winter wonderland.

The driveway.

The view of the pond from the middle of the driveway.

The backyard.

Do you see what I see?

That is right just after the snow storm passed we saw our first geese on the pond.

They look bewildered like hey where is the open water?! This group was surely just passing through but that means in no time we’ll be seeing our first pair of mating geese and hearing them defend the both ponds as theirs. The first sign of waterfowl on the ponds each spring is always exciting!

 

The conifers we planted out front have provided great winter interest. They look especially nice with a thin layer of snow accentuating their branches.

With the warm temperatures the snow is melting fast. I love sunny days when there is snow on the ground!

 

This winter we’ve had an extra special treat with two male pheasants calling our yard home. This is only the second time this had happened. Two years ago we had a male hang out in our yard over the winter.

We would catch him sunning himself on our front steps every morning but unfortunately he didn’t last long. Our dog found a crime scene of blood and feathers in the snow a few weeks later. : ( But this year we bought some food for the pheasants and have been feeding them where they were scratching the ground for food. They are skittish creatures and nearly every day Flannel Man has scared them out of the brush when he walks the dog on the pond and I will sometimes see them as I’m leaving the driveway in the morning. I managed to get a few pictures of them through the trees as they crossed the lower part of our driveway one weekend.

(Cropped to give you a better view of the details. Not very good photography but they are the only shots I’ve ever gotten of pheasants on our property so I wanted to share.)


They are so funny to watch when they run. Their head bobs back and forth every time they take a step.

 

What signs of spring have you seen lately?

DIY Epoxy Grout: It’s Really Not That Hard

I wanted to title this post “Epoxy Grout: The Best Grout Ever Invented!” but I seeing as we just installed it I don’t have any daily bathroom observations of it yet. I have a feeling though I might have a post tiled that in the future because let me tell you this stuff is kind of amazing.

I know many of you are wondering what epoxy grout even is. It’s a two part resign based product just like regular epoxy but it has sand and coloring mixed in. It is often used in high traffic areas of commercial buildings or areas where chemicals are used. Unlike standard cementitious based grout it is waterproof, stainproof, and never needs to be sealed. Yes you heard that right never needs to be sealed! Everyone I know seals their grout when it’s first installed and remember to reseal it for about a year after that. Then “re-sealing the grout” falls off the radar and their grout slowly gets more and more stained. There are thousands of products out there that claim to make your grout look like new but if you could avoid the whole issue would you? This is especially easy to see in light colored grout.

We wanted to use a light gray grout color to match the gray veining in the tile but I didn’t want to be constantly cleaning and re-sealing the grout. The main bathroom is the most used bathroom in the house so it needed to take a beating and still look good.

The downsides of epoxy grout is that it costs a lot more than traditional grout and that it’s harder to install. It’s also not the best to use natural stone like marble, travertine, or slate because they are porous and cleaning the grout out before it dries could be a challenge. It can be done though if you seal the tiles before grouting and are very meticulous to clean off each tile. With a natural stone you should be sealing the tile every 6 months to a year anyway so you might as well save yourself some money and use a cemetitious grout. For these reasons many pro tilers don’t like to use epoxy grout others think it’s great and consider it “bulletproof.” Some think it’s a little extreme for residential applications and they are probably right but you can’t deny the positive aspects of using it. Our pro tiler friend immediately tried to talk us out of using it. It was too late to change our minds though we had already bought it and I had extensively researched it before deciding to use it. He wasn’t going to be the one to have to seal it for the next 50 years or live with stained grout or even be the one installing it. We felt confident in our decision and stuck to our guns. Knowing this is our “forever” home made that decision a lot easier. A little extra upfront cost would save us a lot of maintenance and hassle in the long run. If you know me I over engineer everything and we don’t ever plan to redo this bathroom again so the tile and grout are here to stay.

After extensively researching how to install it and preparing for the worst we were pleasantly surprised to find it really wasn’t that hard after all! I swear. This is our first tiling job ever so you don’t get any more green than us and we didn’t have any issues with it. We did however mix it up in small batches and carve out a large chunk of time to install and clean it off the tiles before the grout dried. I can see why pros don’t like to use it because it takes more time to install and they can’t just put it in and clean it off right away. Leaving the job site to come back the next day to clean off the last bits of grout off the tile isn’t an option either. There are ways to clean dried epoxy grout off the tiles but you really want to avoid them if possible by meticulously cleaning off the tile before the grout dries. If anything epoxy grout is better suited to DIY because you’ll be home and able to spend as much time as needed to clean it all off.

We went with Laticrete’s SpectraLOCK Pro Premium epoxy grout in Silver Shadow. From what I’ve read the CEG Lite epoxy grout found at Home Depot doesn’t preform near as well. Laticrete’s product has been around for longer, better customer service, have a lifetime warranty, and are highly recommended by the professionals. So we drove over 2 hours away to pick up the grout in mini units from Lowe’s (they only sell mini units). At the time I couldn’t find anyone else who would sell to a non-contractor in our area but since buying this a new tile store has opened up and they are willing to work with us. Note Laticrete’s “Where to Buy” function on their website only gives you a list of distributors which is less than helpful. Maybe someday they will expand that.

For added assurance that all of these little batches would match in color we tried to get all of the Part C cartons from the same batch (pink underline). But they didn’t have enough from any one batch so we had to get one from a different batch and from what I’ve read their color matching between batches is near perfect.

Flannel Man had done all of the tile cutting so I said I would do the epoxy grout but he ended up helping anyway.

 

 

Step-by-Step Epoxy Grout Installation

1) Have everything ready. Clean thinset out between the tile joints. Find all of your grout floats (you’ll want to use the hard rubber ones that say they are for epoxy grout). At minimum you’ll want one large float and one margin float (aka. the smaller ones). Have sponges and buckets of water handy along with paper towel for any spills.

 

2) Mix parts A & B like the instructions say making sure to get out every last drip out of the bags.

Then mix in the sand/coloring mixture. Mix this in slowly and save 10% of it until you see what the texture is going to be like. Add more as desired.

With cementitious grout you use sanded grout for wider grout joints and unsanded for thinner grout joints. The sand used in Laticrete’s epoxy grout is very fine and can be used in any grout line but for thin grout lines they say you can leave up to 10% of the sand/color mixture out. We found that we preferred the slightly smoother finish it had when we left 10% out and used that even with our 1/8″ grout joints.

 

3) Now spread the grout out right away. You have a total of 80 minutes before the grout dries starting from when you mix it. Half way through it will be very stiff to work with though. With bigger full or commercial units you can either separate the parts individually before mixing or mix the full unit and put half of it in the freezer for an extended working time. For a first time user buying individually divided Mini units sounded like the safest option.

Because we were using large format tile we tried using a grout bag to keep clean up only to the edges of the tile. There was no need to drag the grout across an 18×18″ tile. It worked OK but it was an extra step and the epoxy grout is hard to squeeze out of the end. Plus we went though a lot of bags with all of the separate batches.

Spread the grout diagonally across the grout joints like you would do with any grout only make sure to use the hard rubber grout floats made for epoxy grout.

The grout is thick and takes a bit of power to force into all of the small cracks. You want to make sure everything is sufficiently packed full and don’t worry about a little of it being on the tile. You want all of the grout joints to be nice and full if not overflowing so as you clean the sponges don’t take too much off of the joint. Stop grouting before you use the whole batch. Use the last extra bit to go around and check that there are no low spots before or after cleaning. We were too careful about making everything look perfect in our first batch and had to go through and to some of the grout joints after our first cleaning.

 

4) The first cleaning should be done within 1 hour of mixing the grout. Use a vinegar/water mixture of 1/2 cup of vinegar in 2 gallons of water. Fill low spots as needed.

 

5) One hour after the first cleaning do your final inspection and wash. Mix up another vinegar/water mixture and a new sponge. We used a sponge with a terry cloth on one side. It gave everything a nice clean finish.

 

6) Repeat steps 2-5 as needed. After the final inspection we felt confident with the process and mixed up two mini batches at once to finish off the room. I carefully applied it before the first batch was completely dry. The thought was that they would blend more seamlessly that way. It worked OK but I’m not sure you would ever be able to make out a small seam if there was one since the end of the batch wouldn’t be perfectly straight or flat.

For this batch I kept everything a little messier and it worked out better.

 

The next day everything was dry and ready to go.

Overall I loved the look but the slightly warm undertone of the Silver Shadow do bug me a little next to the very cool toned tile. I am very picky about my colors though. I was trying to match the gray veining of the tile and this was the closest color Lowe’s had. I had read that all white epoxy grouts tend to dry with a yellow tone because of the amber matrix.


You can see a few flecks of sand to give you an idea of the fine texture.

 

This bathroom has come so far from the 70’s harvest gold disaster it once was!

The room looks huge with the wide angle and without the cabinets in it yet. It was a lot of extra work, time, and materials to tile under the vanity but someday if we ever want to change it out we’ll be happy we did it.

Pretty white tile!

We grouted all the way around the sink supply and drain lines.

Same with the toilet ring and supply line.

 

But wait! It was at this point we realized something didn’t look quite right. Can you see it?

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Yes we messed up our quarter turn tile pattern on one tile. Of course it has to be right out in the open area that won’t be covered up by cabinets or hidden in the linen closet. Dang it! *smacks head into wall* Too late to change it now so let’s hope people won’t notice it.

 

All Sophie wants to know is “Are you done in here yet?!”

No, sorry we’re not done yet but we’ve picked up the pace and are making good progress. Stay tuned for some big changes happening soon!


This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
DIY Savings