Recent Projects - Nepean Bathroom Renovation

Nepean Bathroom Renovation

So here’s our next bathroom renovation project which is a complete gut and remodel of this bathroom. I’m excited about this project as it is a past customer in Nepean that trusts us and is very receptive to our ideas and recommendations. A trust relationship between a contractor and a homeowner is something I strive to establish and maintain. It’s a relationship that is cherished as it takes a long time to build and must not be taken for granted as it can be very easy to lose.

This bathroom has served its purpose for many years but it’s outdated and needs a facelift. Vanity, countertop, and toilet are going. Linoleum floors will be replaced with ceramic.

Ceramic tile here is outdated and will be going but our hats are off to whoever set the tiles as they did a good job to take the time to plan the installation. However, the tiles were set on drywall with no waterproof membrane. While a waterproof membrane was relatively new when this shower was built, cement backer board was around but that’s not the practice for some new home builders when trying to maximize profits. The mold started showing in the grout lines in this bathroom after about 8 years. Water was able to penetrate the grout which kept the drywall moist, preventing the grout from drying, and allowed mold to flourish. If you are planning to do your own bathroom renovation, keep reading as we’ll show you how to keep your bathroom mold free.

Cutting the drywall where the ceramic terminates on the wall before you start removing the wall is a good way to ensure you only have to replace the drywall within a tub enclosure. If the tiles were set properly, there is no way to save whatever wallboard was installed under the tiles. It must be removed, especially if you are replacing the tub. Before you remove the tile and drywall, you have to take off the cover to the shower valve, tub spout and showerhead. The shower valve cover usually is attached to the wall covering with two screws. The water supply lever/handle should have a small cover in the center of the handle that pops off, concealing a screw for removal.

After removing the brackets securing the tub to the wall......or the screws directly through the tub, care should be taken to remove the drain and overflow prior to taking out the tub. While special tools can be purchased to remove the drain assembly, the handles from a pair of needle nose pliers will suffice for this purpose. Just slip these into the holes in the drain and turn counter clockwise to loosen. After you have removed the drain and overflow, take care to ensure they are dislodged from the tub before trying to take out the tub. Silicone may have been used to ensure a watertight bond. Pushing with your fingers or a screwdriver will ensure there is no bond between the two prior to taking out the tub.

In this bathroom renovation, our plumber will be changing the shower valve. We have to raise the tub spout a few inches to accommodate a higher tub. The tub spout should be approximately 4 inches above the height of the tub. If you have to replace your shower valve and are tackling your bathroom renovation yourself, a recommendation would be to hire a plumber for this part. Get him/her to hook up your drainage as well. Hiring a plumber is a small price to pay and money well spent to ensure peace of mind and no catastrophic events. While a minor leak might be evidenced by a discoloration in a ceiling below and be relatively easy to remedy, the last thing you want is to have to replace a ceiling or start chipping out ceramic tile to replace an improperly installed shower valve.

Here we have attached a 2x4 to the back wall to support the tub. A lot of tubs do not have the clearance for a 2X4 support but the manufacture makes a recommendation for what should be installed for support. Did we mention read your installation instructions from start to finish prior to starting the install. Yes, we follow the manufactures instructions to the letter to ensure there are no issues if a warranty claim is required when we do any renovation.

Here we’ve installed our drain and overflow for the new tub. The bathroom tub manufacture instructions explain the dimensions to the center of the drain as well as the overflow. You can see about a 2’x2’ drywall repair behind our plumbing which was a previous water leak problem according to the home owner. Within this drywall repair, we have cut a small hole which will serve a couple purposes. We will know for certain that our plumbing does not leak when we conduct a water test and we will have access to the pump if there is a problem. This pump requires a sufficient amount of air intake so we will cover this access panel with a cold air return cover to serve both purposes. Even if you are installing a bathtub with no pump when renovating a bathroom, a hole behind the plumbing should be cut to be able to ensure there are no water leaks. A small drywall repair after your bathroom is renovated is a lot more prudent than a large one!

Here’s a look at the access/ventilation hole from the back bedroom for this bathroom renovation.

Once our plumbing was done, we framed this shower niche. In our case, this was not a load bearing wall so we were able to cut a stud to center our niche on the back shower wall. If you are unsure as to whether your wall is load bearing, a building engineer should be consulted prior to cutting any studs.

We recommended a plumber but if you didn’t heed our advice and you are going to attempt to do plumbing yourself, make sure your fittings are clean. It is so much easier to get this right the first time. Notice the gloves! You want to ensure there is no oil from your hands transferred to the areas you will be soldering.

The purpose of sanding is to remove the copper oxide that forms on copper when it is exposed to air. That oxide film forms slowly at room temperatures, but almost instantaneously at soldering temperatures.

is an orangey/gold colour, but Copper oxide is brown in colour, and it's the formation of a copper oxide film over the copper that causes new pennies to turn brown in time. It’s the same for copper piping and everything else made of copper.

Liquid metals, like molten solder, have a very high affinity for bare copper metal, but little to no affinity for copper oxide. In order to get the solder to stick properly to the copper of the pipe and socket, it is necessary to remove all the copper oxide from both and to prevent it from forming during the soldering process. Only then will there be enough capillary pressure to draw the heavy liquid solder into the joint to fill it completely. Any copper oxide film on the pipe or socket will prevent the molten solder from sticking to the copper oxide which often results in a leaking soldered joint.

While it is difficult to see, there is a little soldering flux spread evenly around this pipe. Flux serves several purposes: 1) it prevents an oxide layer from forming on the bare copper; 2) it cleans the bare copper of any remaining oxide on it; 3) it promotes good flow of the solder by keeping the copper metal bare until it is displaced by the solder.

New spout soldered for this bathroom renovation. If you are doing your own plumbing for a bathroom renovation, make sure you protect your drainage and the new tub prior to soldering.

After you have your drainage in place, it’s time to level the tub. Once again, it’s time to consult the manufacture instructions to understand where you are allowed to shim the tub to ensure it is level. You want to ensure your tub is perfectly level and taking the time to do this eliminates problems with your renovation.

In this bathroom renovation we were installing a Thalassa 50 Air Jet Bathtub. The tub has three supporting ribs the length of the tub and the manufactures instructions indicated we were allowed to shim the tub along the ribs to ensure it was level. The manufacture recommended silicone to secure the shims to the subfloor but our choice is PL construction adhesive. The adhesive is used to glue the shim to the subfloor and not the tub!

With our new bathtub secured in place, it was time to screw in our drain assembly. The plastic protecting the tub should be peeled back slightly to accommodate this process. Do not remove this plastic completely until you have completed your bathroom renovation. A bead of silicone is placed on the acrylic under the drain assembly.

With the drain and overflow secured, it’s time for the water test. You want to fill the tub and test the overflow as well when you install a bathtub. Here’s where that access hole pays dividends as you want to know if your tub is leaking.

This will likely be the most intimidating aspect of installing this tub if you are to do it yourself. The controls that come with the air jet tub have no hole for mounting. You’ve spent 2 grand on a tub and now you have to cut a hole in it to mount the controls. I’m not sure why this isn’t pre-installed but suspect it is for versatility depending on your install. The manufacture recommends cutting this hole in the bathtub with a jig saw with the fine tooth blade but you risk scratching the tub with this method. A dremel is highly recommended for this purpose. It is not foolproof and the blade can wonder on you but if you use the template provided, keep two hands on the tool and take your time, you should be fine.

In preparation for wall board, mortar and tile, you should put a drop cloth in the bottom of the tub. We like to also cut a piece of cardboard out of the box the tub came in to line the bottom of the tub. The last thing you to have happen is to drop something sharp and chip your tub when renovating your bathroom.

There is a skirt that was optional with this tub but the salesperson said it will rattle with the air intake that is necessary for the jets. With that in mind, we recommended to the homeowner that we should design a skirt for the front of the new bathtub. The front underside of the tub would only accommodate 2 ¼” framing and we placed it on 12” centers and it will not move.

Half inch ply was screwed to our framing and I can assure you this skirt will not rattle!

We insulated the back wall to reduce the noise in the back bedroom from the air jet pump.

After we levelled the bathtub, insulated, and conducted our water test, it was time to install our “water resistant” drywall. Keep in mind water resistant drywall is not waterproof and tiles should not be installed over this if you want a “waterproof” and mold resistant shower for many years to come!

The orange membrane you see above the tub is a product called Kerdi by Schluter Systems. This product can be applied over regular drywall in a shower enclosure as it is waterproof. However, for the small difference in cost, we prefer to use water resistant drywall. Schluter products are superior in our opinion as they are a means to ensure that a shower is completely waterproof. If installed correctly, there is absolutely no way the shower can leak! This product is applied with unmodified thinset mortar using a V notch trowel. Schluter also sells a special trowel for this purpose. You need to be careful to use the right type of mortar and for a simple rule, unmodified thinset is used everywhere except on a surface contacting plywood. For plywood, you need a modified thinset.

You can see the Kerdi (orange membrane) overlaps the lip of the tub. A product called Kerdi-Fix which is a silicone is used to seal the Kerdi to the tub and ensures there is no chance water can get behind the wall. Moisture is unable to penetrate beyond the tile and grout. When moisture is unable to saturate the wallboard, the shower dries out very quickly which ensures mold cannot grow as it needs continuous moisture to flourish. There is no question in our mind that Schluter makes the most innovative products for achieving a waterproof shower.

The intersecting line drawn on the kerdi membrane is the apex of where we will start tiling. When installing ceramic tile in an enclosed shower, you have two options to ensure the aesthetic appeal of your tile job. You can start with one tile directly in the center of your back wall but you need to ensure you will not have a small strip of tile in each corner of your new shower. This was the situation in this bathroom renovation so we opted for option 2 which was to install a tile on each side of the dissecting center line on the back wall.

Kerdi-seals are installed around the shower valve and tub spout. The rubber you see around the valve is tapered which ensures whatever type of backing panel that is used is protected from moisture.

Another great aspect of the Kerdi-waterproof membrane when renovating a bathroom is you can start tiling immediately after it is installed. You will want to use spacers, especially when installing larger tile on Kerdi as the tiles will sag until the mortar sets up. We also used shims in some places for the subway tiles to ensure our border and small tiles ran true. When installing an accent border such as this, the small tiles are set by using a grout float to push them into the mortar and ensure a uniform depth. This can be a little tricky as the thickness of the accent border is often a different thickness than the wall tile.

The weight of large tile when set on top of a border like this can compress your border so it’s a good idea to set your border and then wait until the next day to continue tiling.

As we were waiting for the thinset to set up on our border, we made our mosaic tile for the back of our shower niche. Mosaic tile was not available in this tile so we made our own. You could cut a number of two inch tiles and then try and set them perfectly but we prefer a different approach to ensure all tiles are uniform. We installed two blades in our wet saw and then set the depth of cut to just cut a notch in the tile and not cut right through. Two blades gave us the 1/8” spacing we were seeking and grout will adhere within this grove. After the ceramic tile is installed and grouted, the only difference between this and mosaic tile is our tiles are perfectly uniform as there are no imperfections because it is not glued to any type of backer.

Here is a look at our completed 18 inch ceramic tile in mosaic.

When this ceramic tile is installed and grouted, you would never know this was not mosaic tile!

The back of the shower niche is installed prior to grouting. Whenever we install a shower niche, we recommend a picture frame cut out of the ceramic tile be installed around it for aesthetic appeal. The satin nickel trim you see around the niche is another product from Schluter called Rondac. It is a good way to cover the unfinished and cut edges of ceramic tiles.

For the floor in this bathroom we have installed Ditra, also from Schluter. With the lightweight construction methods employed today, ceramic tile cannot be installed directly on top of a subfloor. In order to protect the integrity of a ceramic tile floor, an underlayment is necessary and Schluter-Ditra is our choice as it performs multiple functions.

Schluter-DITRA is a polyethylene membrane with a grid structure of square cavities, each cut back in a dovetail configuration with an anchoring fleece laminated to its underside. Schluter-DITRA is bonded to the plywood using a modified thin-set mortar. As this membrane is on top of the plywood, a modified thinset is used to bond this to the plywood. Remember this if nothing else when installing tile for your bathroom renovation; unmodified thinset is used everywhere except when in contact with plywood which requires a modified thinset!

When using DITRA, ceramic tiles are installed using unmodified mortar in such a way that it becomes mechanically anchored in the square, cutback cavities of the Schluter-DITRA matting.

I believe we mentioned we were a fan of Schluter products and DITRA is a great option for ceramic tile installation. Schluter-DITRA serves as an uncoupling layer, waterproofing membrane, and vapour management layer that accommodates moisture from beneath the tile covering. DITRA performs all these functions while still providing adequate support/load distribution which ensures that tiles will not crack and grout does not fail. Just do a Google search on images for “cracked tile” to see a lot of poor tile jobs that were not structurally supported properly prior to installation. As we have to warranty our work, we wouldn’t use any other method and neither should you if you want ceramic tile install to last.

Our ceramic floor tile was planned out once again by starting in the center of the floor and working out. For larger ceramic tile in any tile installation, whether you are tiling a bathroom, the kitchen, or a front entrance, you’ll want to use a medium bed mortar which holds a notch better than regular mortar and minimizes lippage from one tile to the next. For our skirt, we used the same technique as we did for the back of our shower niche. We cut groves to form six inch squares in our 18” tile.

Our entire ceramic tile install is complete in this bathroom and it is time for grouting. We use Grout XT or add a Grout Boost to our grout if grout XT is not available in the customer’s colour choice when grouting. Grout XT is mold, mildew, and stain resistant and the best part is that it is maintenance free and does not have to be sealed. While this product is more expensive than regular grout, it minimizes maintenance as it doesn’t have to be sealed and will look great for years to come. Keep in mind that once you finish setting your tiles, you’ll want to wait until the next day for the mortar to set before starting to grout.

Grout Boost is a liquid additive used in place of water that can be used with any manufacturer's grout to add stain resistance. It essentially makes regular cement based grout perform as a sealed grout. No sealing is required. Grout Boost should not be used with any grout that already claims to offer stain resistance.

A bathroom renovation really starts to come together after grouting. If you are not use to grouting, you should mix a small amount of grout and do a small area at a time. With regards to grout color, we recommended selecting a color that is similar to your tile color. The reason for this is the larger the color contrast between your ceramic tile and grout, the greater the grid lines stick out. Your eye should be drawn to the beauty of the tile and any accent border and not the grid lines.

Prior to grouting, you should remove any mortar that is protruding higher than the tile from the joints or on the surface of the tile.

When mixing grout, be careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the amount of water/grout boost that is recommended. If this is done incorrectly, the grout may not set properly.

If the space between your tiles is greater than 1/8", you should use sanded grout. The sand in the mortar gives the grout more strength and allows it to hold together better in the larger gaps. For spaces between tiles that are 1/8" or smaller, an un-sanded grout should be used. Sanded grout should never be used on a marble tile installation as it will scratch the tiles. For this reason, if you are installing marble tile, gaps between tiles should be less than 1/8”.

After mixing the grout according to the manufacturer's recommendations, we begin applying it. A grout float is used to spread the mixture evenly over the surface that needs to be filled. After using the float to press grout into the joints, it can be held on an angle and pulled diagonally across the tile to pick up excess grout and ensure the grout depth is uniform with the surface of the tile.

A damp sponge should be used to clean the tile after grouting. This is also done on a diagonal or across the grout lines to ensure you do not rake the grout out of the joints. You will get a feel for how fast your grout sets up by tackling a small area at a time so you’ll know how large an area you can apply grout to before starting to clean the tile with the sponge. After an initial cleaning with a sponge, we go over the tile again ensuring our sponge is clean with each and every wipe. After about an hour (product manufacture will specify this time on the label), you will see a haze has set up on the tile which should be removed with a dry cloth. Do not let this grout haze stay on the tile for any longer than the manufacture recommends as it is extremely difficult to remove if it sets up on your ceramic tile.

A last step prior to using the tub is to apply silicone to the bottom of the tile where it meets the tub. If you are not use to caulking, silicone can be quite messy. Using painters tape on both sides of the joint ensures a uniform joint. Once the tape is applied, you caulk the joint and then run your finger along the caulk to ensure it is spread evenly. Next, you want to remove your tape and run you finger along the joint a second time and you should have a caulked joint that is very neat in appearance.

Vanity and toilet are installed. Keep in mind you’ll have to install a flange riser kit under the toilet to accommodate the new height of the floor if you have removed linoleum and installed ceramic tile in your bathroom renovation.

We also installed a humidistat ceiling fan in this bathroom which detects humidity and will continue to run until the humidity from the bathroom is removed. With our busy lifestyles, it is a great option as we do not have the time to leave the fan on until all the moisture is removed after a shower. This is a practical solution to combat mold.

When we renovate a bathroom, we recommend several options to ensure mold does not become a problem but we also remind customers that they have to do their part. Using Kerdi underneath the ceramic tile install, an additive in the grout, and a humidistat fan ensures moisture does not remain and give mold a chance to thrive but shower tile should also be wiped down after use. A small squeegee left in the bathroom is a good option and should be used for this purpose after a shower.

And our bathroom renovation in Nepean is complete!

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