Category Archives: Bathrooms

Another Tilestone Met

While the master bath was being re-tiled, work on the guest bath was halted. Now that the master bath is back in shape, the guys resumed work, ultimately meeting the completion milestone, albeit a bit late. Over the last couple of weeks, not only was the tiling complete, but fixtures began to appear:

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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in Bathrooms


Tile and Error

While we were away, the first floor was proceeding swimmingly, but we did receive a disconcerting call regarding the master bath, which had been completely tiled before we left. The tiles were, uh, falling off. Because the Crema Ella marble was honed on both sides (rather than honed on one side and rough on the other), the thin-coat mortar didn’t fully adhere.

So, Mario and the tile crew had to pull 100% of the tile off the wall, cut more due to damage, and reinstall the entire space using an epoxy adhesive.

Reinstallation nears completion:

The joints on the north wall were grouted first to allow the vanity to be installed.

Grouting was then completed in the rest of the bathroom. Next step: shower doors, glass shelf for niche, and angle and bench installation.

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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Bathrooms


Appliances Arrive and the Cavalcade of Cabinetry Continues

While we were away in OBX, kitchen cabinet installation continued, appliances were delivered, and the bathroom vanities and closet built-in cabinetry arrived. Our architect kept us updated with a few photos along the way.

Guest bath vanity:

Guest bedroom built-ins (from the same cabinet maker who created the bathroom vanities):

The master bath vanity hangs out in the guest room while awaiting installation:

Vestibule built-ins under going installation – the space in the middle will house the fireplace:

Kitchen cabinets and appliances begin to take their respective places:

Initial installation of wet bar and pantry cabinetry:

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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Bathrooms, Kitchen


Random Updates

During the past week, the finished floors were covered and protected, and progress continued on trim work, bathrooms, and paint selection. Most significantly, the kitchen cabinets finally arrived, putting the project back on track for substantial completion in August (although installation of some electrical fixtures will lag beyond that, due to decision fatigue on our part . . .).

With respect to trim, finishing the new landing area and tying this into the millwork from the original house was one of the first things that was tackled after the floors were done:

Finalizing our paint selection also was on tap. Samples of the various shades of taupe (or putty, or ecru, or latte, or tan . . .) that we requested arrived from the painter for our consideration, in consultation with Natalie.

We selected our wall paint and trim paint, which finalized the materials for the house: floors, cabinets, paint, and first-floor countertops:

In the meantime, tiling continued in the guest bath. The darker color upon installation got us spun up initially, until we understood that this was simply the effect of the residual moisture from the mortar bleeding through. It should lighten up when the tile dries . . .

Tiling was completed in the master bath, which now awaits grouting:

This is the north wall of the master bath, where the vanity and mirror will go. The dangling wire on the left will be connected to an outlet inside one of the vanity drawers.

And, at long last, the cabinetry for the kitchen, wet bar, pantry, and knee wall arrived at Wolfe Street:

Our kitchen designer, Tricia, worked with the guys from the truck and Freddy to inventory each arrival.

We received everything but the kitchen sink (cabinet), which now has to be tracked down . . .


Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Bathrooms, Kitchen, Trim, Casing, and Doors


Tile On

After designing our new house for more than a year, we thought that we had nailed down every aspect of the renovation. Frankly, we anticipated that the renovation project would be a turn-key affair, requiring little intervention on our part. We figured that the months that we’d be out of the house would be a good time to get out of the country and travel, since we’d otherwise be holed-up in a little condo at the north end of town.

None of this has remotely reflected reality; frankly, we’re currently suffering from chronic decision fatigue as a result of the ongoing nuances that have to be resolved every day or two. Specific placement of electrical outlets; how the window casings will interface with the crown molding; location of the doorbell chime; size and routing of the downspout, now that the vent for the range hood has consumed more real estate on the back of the house than anticipated. It never ends.

A great example of this is the bathroom tile. During our design of the bathrooms, long before we had a contract with a GC or excavated the first shovelful of dirt, we had specified the tile we would use and established a design pattern for the tile layout in each bathroom. What more could we possibly need to do? As noted in the initial post on bathroom tile, plenty, just to begin installation. We worked through multiple design updates based on the actual room measurements after drywall was installed, then scrutinized grout color. However, we still weren’t done, at least not in the guest bath. We had to address joint size and precision.

The wall tile in both bathrooms needs to be cut down from 16″ x 16″ to 8″ x 16″ for the the pattern we’ve specified. No problem in the master bath. But in the guest bath, all four sides of the the tile has a microbevel edge. It’s barely noticeable, but will, in fact, have an effect on the final product, since cutting the tile in half produces an 8″ x 16″ tile with three beveled edges and one strait edge. The solution we’ve arrived at is to manually bevel the new edge, then grout to the top of the bevels between tile. Since we want to to keep the joints tight (1/16″ wide), this actually means that the tiles themselves will be 1/32″ apart, so the distance between the two bevels will be 1/16″.

The GC wanted to make sure that we actually reviewed what the finished product would look like, and so prepared a mockup on a wall in the guest room:

In response to a suggestion that a larger joint size potentially should be considered, another mockup appeared, this time in the back of the closet:

Dueling joint mockups!

Here’s a closeup of the 1/16″ joint size. The whole point of this approach is to de-emphasize the interstitial spaces between tiles and highlight the stone itself. This goal is definitely accomplished with the initial mockup:

In contrast, the mockup of 1/16″ joints (which translates to 1/8″ grout lines between the beveled edges at the surface) resulted in grout lines that were too large. You can’t really discern this from the pre-grout mockup, since you notice only the the distance between the tiles below the beveled edges at the surface.

However, after the tile has been grouted, the thicker lines are much more noticeable.

We ended up approving the 1/16″ visible joint (for a 1/32″ joint between the tiles themselves). The risk is heightened visibility of any irregularities due to the manual cutting and beveling, but the mockup demonstrated the skills of Mario, the tile craftsman, so we’re hopeful for a result that meets our expectations.

Meanwhile, in the master bath, tile begins to be laid on the shower and bathroom floors. In the bathroom proper, the tile guys also have applied the electrical floor heating element.

The tiles begin to spread eastward. In the shower, placeholder buffers define the long Kerdi drain, which will be tiled in the middle.

Here’s a closeup, and another episode of anxiety-inducing stress. The plumber assumed that cement backer board would be applied to the west wall (the stark crimson/magenta wall that Mason has correctly identified is actually readily discernible, contrary to my assertions . . .). However, no backer board is needed, and we’re happy with a little extra space in the shower. As a result, though, the shower fixtures are not centered. We almost lost it.

However, as noted in the photo below, this is one of those rare instances where the mistake actually results in a better outcome than if the design was correct. Namely, there’s exactly 16″ from the edge of the shower to the center of the drain and fixtures. So, we need precisely one tile from the beginning of the downward slope at the shower entrance to the center point; the additional space is addressed on the west side by a narrow strip of tile, but not a little sliver. If the plumbing rough-ins had been installed in the center, we would have had a sliver at the shower entrance and at the west wall, which would have sucked, from a aesthetic standpoint.

The floor tile continues to migrate across the master bath:

Tile has now been installed along the length of the drain, effectively camouflaging the unit (the black spacers are just there temporarily).

In the guest bath, floor tiling also moves forward. The electric mat also has been installed.

Flooring essentially is complete in the photo below (the tile was selected to appear as an inverse of the white wall tile with grey veining). The joints, which are 1/32″ were spaced using the large ends of razor blades (you can see one laying on one of the tiles and another nearby in a joint between tiles . . .).


Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Bathrooms


Tile Driver

While the drywall elsewhere in the house was being primed and refined, preparations were underway in the two upstairs bathrooms for tiling that would commence the last week in May.

The master bath and guest bath both would use natural stone, and the original plan was to do the same oversize (8″ x 16″) brick pattern in both. The only difference would be the stone itself. The original tile design for the two bathrooms is shown below.

As we got closer to T-Day, and actual ceiling heights were established after drywall was installed, we revisited this design with our new architect. The refined version established a the following pattern, from floor to ceiling:

  • 4″ base course
  • Four full, 8″ courses
  • 4″ belt course
  • Four full, 8″ courses
  • 4″ belt course
  • Two full, 8″ courses

In the words of the architect, “This makes the layout look balanced and purposeful – since it aligns with other elements in the room and follows the tripartite rule – establishing a base, middle & top.” Hey, we’re all about purposefulness, and anything that adheres to established architectural rules instead of creating anew jibes with our pronounced anal retentive natures, so this was our new tile plan, which is shown below

The updated master bathroom tile design is below:

The guest bathroom tile design features a dark stone floor (with 4″ base up the wall) and lighter wall tile:

Back in the master bath, backerboard has gone in as a tile substrate. The long drain system and Kerdi waterproofing system boxes are to the right, ready for deployment.

Backerboard has been installed on the shower walls, below. Note the step down from the bathroom floor to the shower floor. This was the result of the use of 2×8 framing under the showers, versus the 2×10 joists everywhere else. This supports the curbless shower approach – the drain will be at the bottom, but the tile will slope upward from the middle to the step on the left and to the same level on the right, against the wall.

Here, the Kerdi system and long, rectangular drain have been installed in the master bath:

The same has been done in the guest bath, but at this point, work has progressed further, and one of the several layers of waterproofing has been applied. It’s a very subtle color; you can hardly make it out.

In the meantime, crates of tile have arrived, and are now stowed in the basement:

Here’s the tile for the master bath – Crema Ella. Lis wanted a spa feel, with tan stone. We considered travertine (a limestone), but learned that the porous nature required a lot of upkeep and would also show where epoxy or other filler had been added to fill the holes that naturally occur. The Crema Ella is a marble with a really homogenous appearance and very little veining. We totally dig it.

We’ve got a crapload of Crema Ella, eh?

Upstairs in the master bath (all lit by the skylight, which is exceeding our expectations), we met with Natalie, our architect, Mario the CG’s tiler, and Dave to review joint size and grout color. You can see the little grout samples placed along the side of the tiles, as well as the Crayola-style box of them over to the left.

The Crema Ella is at bottom right. The other two are the floor and wall tile for the guest bath, which will have a turn-of-the-century feel to it, including the fixtures (I think we’re going to market it later as part of the Wolfe Streete Sanitarium of Olde Towne). The dark marble is Blu Masaccio and the white marble is pretty standard Goia Venatino. Part of the grout discussion was whether we wanted to highlight the pattern in the guest room (using dark gray grout) or highlight the stone (using a very light gray grout).

During the discussions, and based on the decision to do very tight joints in the master bath, the tile design was changed again, essentially to the original design of even courses throughout. The final(?) plan appears below:

In the guest bath, we talked over some additional ways to bring visual interest to the space, and have decided to do several courses up to the vanity height with the 16″ x16″ stone, then a 4″ belt course, then the 8″ x16″ brick pattern, as shown below.

Stay tuned – it’s all conceptual at this point. The GC now needs to execute on the final design.


Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Bathrooms