I’ve enjoyed watching DIY shows when they were known as ‘home improvement’ shows. Growing up I never missed my favorite Saturday show, New Yankee Workshop with Norm Abrams. Norm was my woodworking hero. He could take an old, grungy pallet, run it through a planer, and make something amazing. I still watch Norm and the gang on This Old House as they tear out walls and plumbing and make everything beautiful and useful. Now there’s a whole channel dedicated to those who dream about or choose to demo walls and renovate rooms – fittingly named the DIY channel.
Watching shows like Property Brothers tends to take the mystery out of taking things apart and putting them back together. Redoing a shower should be a piece of cake, right? You’ve got a layer of tile, which is adhered to a wall. Walls are just Sheetrock nailed to studs. A few layers between you and bare studs. Possibilities become potentials. Potential transforms into reality.
We bought our house June 26, 2015. We knew the inspection showed loose tiles in the master bathroom. No biggie. We really didn’t care for the outdated pink tiles on the counter, shower walls and ceiling. Yes, we have tiled ceilings in both showers. When we bought new windows in November 2015, we knew the timing was right to start the tile job. Tearing into the tile we discovered quite a mess. Rotted wood from water damage around the window over the tub needed to be replaced along with the first three feet of tile. At first, we figured just take out what we needed, but soon it became apparent we needed to take it all out.
By this time, we’d spent several months tearing out tile and cleaning up the mess. I should add, there’s something very satisfying about taking a hammer and destroying ceramic tile. Breaking glass-like substances is not only relaxing, but watching big chunks of tile and grout fall from the wall is satisfying. Once we got down to the studs we discovered part of that wall was insulated with bunches of plastic Wal-Mart bags (yes, the same ones now banned in California). We wondered why someone would use those to insulate exterior walls, and wondered if we’d find any more hidden treasures or secrets. Fortunately, we didn’t.
Because my husband and I worked on this sporadically, it started taking some time to demo and haul away the trash. By summer of 2016, we finally picked out the tile – that’s after posting pictures of our grey and chocolate choices. Interestingly enough, 99% of the time women picked the grey and men picked the chocolate color. In the end, we went with Fantastic Chocolate – if nothing else, the name was amazing!
Finally ready to transform bare studs into our dream bathroom we purchased 20×20 tiles and matching trim pieces, bull nose, v-cap, and quarter rounds, along with thin-set mortar, grout, cement board, green board (which is actually purple), tile spacers, trowels, floats, and a manual (aka ‘muscle-powered’) tile cutter.
Somewhere along this time people started asking about the progress.
“Are we done yet?”
“It’s going on nine months, maybe you should hire someone,” was the gentle suggestion. Others proclaimed they’d never do something like this on their own, because “It takes too much time. And who has the patience to wait?”
Apparently, we did. Cement board went up, mud, tape, repeat. Then David painted this awful-smelling red paint on all the cement board which sealed all the joints. Holy cow that stuff stunk. Plus, it took a while to dry, along with a few days to be able to take a deep breath without watery eyes.
Then came the fun part. Tile. I was concerned about the size of the tile, wondering how hard it would be to cut and make it stay put. Up until this point, the largest tile I’d worked with was 8×8. Happily, it was easy to cut (even with my archaic score-and-snap tile cutter) and we set to work. We both took turns installing the tile, while I did all the cutting.
And finally, on the last day of December 2016, the shower head and hardware were installed. And it was finished.** For the first time in (a little over) a year we got to use our shower. And I think it looks pretty darn good.
**Okay, the truth is we still need to do the ceiling. But, the shower works and we have the tile for the ceiling. We just need to install it. Hopefully, it doesn’t take another year! Then comes the sink, the floor, and refinishing the cabinets.
I just love DIY projects.
Have you started a project? Finished a project? Or do you hire someone? Share in the comments.