Monday, January 30, 2012

Bathroom Tile

It's finally time for tile! We hauled my tile saw downstairs on Saturday. The basement is unfinished so a little water shouldn't hurt anything.
I am paranoid about having my tile properly mixed. Nothing ruins a nice tile job like a distinct color change between boxes of tile. So all six boxes of tile were unpacked and "shuffled" so each stack contained pieces from every box.
Because I was trying to do all my tile work in one day I started with the walls, beginning with the second row and working my way up. For the shower walls we used a 6" ceramic tile that we found on clearance for $.11 each. It's not what I had planned on but for $.44 per sq. ft I can live with it.
This was as far as I got on Saturday night. Clearly I was optimistic to think I could tile the entire shower stall in one day. This is after five hours of shuffling, laying tile and making all the cuts myself. I called it a night at ten thirty.
On Sunday both Luke and I were sick with colds but I was still healthy enough to work on the shower.
The floor tile is just laid in place so I could make measurements and cuts. I plan to install it tonight as well as the bottom row of wall tile.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bathroom Progress Continued

When we left off with the basement bathroom we had hung cement board in the shower and sheetrock on the walls. We've been working on the bathroom for a few hours every night finishing the sheetrock. I'll spare you pictures of the mud and tape process and skip straight to (almost) finished walls.

In a perfect world I would have painted the walls and ceilings last night. But in the real world I have to deal with mistakes. Some are mine, some I inherited from the previous owners and all have to be dealt with. In this case the mistake was mine. After getting primer on the walls I was not satisfied with one seam and some of my feathering. In the past we have gone ahead and textured the walls as is. And even though we are likely the only two people who ever noticed the imperfections they bugged both of us. So we're not making that mistake again. We abandoned painting plans and put another coat of mud on the offending areas. So this morning instead of starting to tile the shower we sanded, and textured and painted. It's frustrating, but a delay now is better than kicking myself every time I walk into the room.

The paint color is lighter than I had envisioned but at least I don't have to worry about the bathroom being too dark.

Luke tends to splash a lot on the shower and was concerned that our low ceiling would constantly be getting wet (at least until we build another upstairs bathroom). I painted the ceiling with an exterior white to give it as much protection as possible.

With the walls finished we'll be tiling (finally) and the bathroom will really start to take shape.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bathroom Progress

We've been spending our evenings working on the bathroom, slowing chipping away at the to-do list. First up we had to finish pouring the shower pan. Unfortunately there was only room for one person to work on the shower pan so Luke did all the forming and I just mixed mortar. He did a great job though!
After installing a dryer vent and insulating the rim joists we could finally put up the ceiling sheetrock. Sheetrock is not that exciting but we couldn't install our can lights without it. And being able to see what I am doing is wonderful.
We also finished putting up the hardibacker in the shower and sheetrocked the walls. I still have to tape and mortar the shower seams.
I'll be finishing the sheetrock during the week and hopefully laying tile next weekend.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shower Pan

The first step toward finishing our basement bathroom is to pour the shower pan. The existing pan has a few issues. The cleanout is taller than the pan, the slope is incorrect and because the shower size has changed the pan is too small.
Our first step was to install the new shower curb. We used heavy duty concrete anchors and screwed it into the adjacent studs so it's rock solid. Luke mixed up some mortar to fill in the sides of the pan.
After allowing the first pour to cure we framed in the south and west shower walls. The blocking is to support the shower pan liner
With the walls in place we could roll out the heavy shower membrane and nail it at the top to keep it in place. 40 mil PVC is not easy to fold and staple but no water should even get through it.
We insulated the walls and put up vapor barrier. The 6 mil black plastic was leftover from insulating the crawlspaces which saved a few dollars but made the room even darker.
We hung half of the durock before knocking off for the night. All the lower pieces are on so we can pour the second layer of the shower pan tomorrow.
All this prep work can be tedious but we're getting closer to getting tile in and seeing some real progress.

Monday, January 09, 2012

We Finally Start A Fun Project

After spending the last five months working on plumbing, heat, electrical and insulation I am thrilled to be starting on our basement bathroom. It's not that there's anything wrong with our main bathroom...
Okay, there are many of things wrong with our main bathroom but we've been living with them for the past five months and can survive a while longer. But we can't finish the basement until we replace the drain lines. And we can't cut out the drain lines until we have another working bathroom. Up until now we have made very little bathroom progress. We started with this disgusting old bathroom in the basement
Demoed it
And framed in a new bathroom and laundry room.
We replaced the ancient tip-out window with a glass block window. Since the window looks onto the patio we thought at little privacy might be appreciated.Although the new bathroom is larger than the old one, it's still small, roughly 4'x9'. That's a tight space to fit a sink, toilet and shower into.The shower will be narrower than the rest of the bathroom to accommodate drain pipes and the vent for the dryer. The new shower is in a slightly different location than the old one which means the shower pan does not fit the space any longer.The first big step will be pouring the new shower pan. Then we can finish framing and get the new plumbing lines run. We both have a three day weekend coming up. I'll be posting as we make progress.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Despite our new heat system our gas bills continue to climb. Montana is not known for its mild winters and the worst is yet to come. We've already put plastic over the windows and used great stuff on every gap and crack we can find, but the real problem is our lack of insulation. The insulation in the walls and attic is thin, only R7. The energy company recommends attic insulation of R49 for this part of the country. So yeah, we're losing a lot of heat up there.
Our energy bill is already up $100 over last month so we know it's going to be an expensive winter unless we do something, and soon. After doing some research we drove to Helena and bought ninety rolls of insulation. Total cost $920.

Our existing insulation did not come close to the recommended 16" deep
We used rolls of R13 to fill the bays then rolled R30 in the opposite direction
Insulating our attic was nothing like they show on This Old House. There were no smiling faces as someone cheerfully rolled out insulation in a spacious, well lit attic. We spent most of the time on our bellies stretching as far as we could into the eves of the house. Conversation is kept to a minimum because it's hard to understand each other with respirators on. The weather may be unseasonably warm for Butte, but that means it's fifteen degrees. Only a fool would be in our attic all day without base layer. No wonder we don't have our own tv show.

The attic now has a total R value of 50 which should greatly reduce our heating expenses. But the best part is that Northwestern Energy is offering a substantial rebate on upgrading our insulation. After their rebate and a tax rebate our out of pocked expense is only $330. The insulation should pay for itself in the first year.
Our energy audit also indicated that we were losing almost as much heat through the crawlspaces as we were through the attic. The energy company recommended R19 for the crawlspace walls and rim joists but since R30 was the same price per square foot we decided to go with the thicker insulation.
The west crawlspace is under the two bedrooms added on in the 70's. It's only 14" tall so it's a challenge to work in.
The height actually worked to our advantage because we did not have to run the insulation vertically. It fit perfectly when run horizontally. Per manufacturer' instructions we insulated not only the wall but also the floor 24" away from the wall so cold air can't seep under the wall insulation.

The larger crawlspace was easier to access but required a lot more cutting and furring strips to hold everything in place.
All this work has greatly decreased the draftiness of this leaky old house and I'm sure it will make our heat bill much more affordable. But it has also has convinced us to replace the wall insulation. We'll be tearing the sheetrock off the exterior walls, replacing the insulation and putting up vapor barrier.

But we will worry about that later. We'll be starting a fun project next.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Attic Work

I haven't been posting much lately. But I've been so tired and dirty from working in the attic that I just have not felt like it. We are preparing to insulate but before we could start laying insulation we had to do a lot of prep work. First was ripping out the old wiring running all through the attic. We'll be hauling this and a bunch of copper piping to the recycling center. Then we had to fix the many holes in the ceiling. Our kitchen has a nine foot closet on one side. On far left is the old breaker panel tucked into a linen closet, the middle holds our attic access and a hole for an old chimney, and on the far right was a boxed in vent stack for the old boiler.
The ceiling joists had been cut over the closet and the joists were supported by the closet wall. But we intend to rip out the closet when we remodel the kitchen this summer so all the joists had to be sistered
And we cut a hole in the front hallway for a new attic access
We ripped the trim off the kitchen closet doorway to make a new frame to support the access door
The new access sticks out like a sore thumb.
Both the hallway and ceiling are painted pink. Once the ceiling is white it will blend in a little more. We spent most of a day making these changes but they will save us time when we get to the kitchen remodel. And thanks to our three day weekend we still had time to insulate the attic.