Painting the bathroom (They say the tortoise wins in the end, right?)

Hello world!  Happy new year!  With this delay, you probably thought that all of my tile fell off the wall and I completely gave up on the bathroom, not to mention the many other projects that await me.  In fact, the bathroom has been basically done since October, with the last pieces (shelves) taken care of in November.  I also did some landscaping and undertook yet another furniture refinishing project, but I digress.  Today’s topic is painting the bathroom, which took it from construction zone to almost-done.

The tiling was finished in early August, and Mark the contractor kindly came back and installed the shower fixtures in the nick of time for our friends from NYC to come and visit.  They got to use a freshly tiled shower in a completely hideous bathroom (imagine it with fixtures):

…at least there was a wall hanging…

Not as good as where this post is going:

photo 1

Paint’s done! Yay!  Curtain is from West Elm.


But still, that’s better than this original bathroom from last January:


The next most ghastly thing to do, after installing a shower where there was none, was to paint the bathroom.  Masking off my fresh tile and the counter and the toilet without having plastic flapping around proved to be a pain in the butt.  Such a pain in the butt that I apparently did not take a picture.

Figuring that my tiling would be a bit rustic and I had a wooden countertop, I decided to theme this bathroom after a vintage Yosemite poster and even pick an object from which to pick a paint color.  Yosemite is quite possibly my favorite place on earth and appears in many places in our house.  This is the poster I liked, found at

yosemite poster

An aside on what this poster means: Camp Curry was (and is) basically a village in the park at the back of the valley with tons of campsites and tent cabins.  When the park opened, if you weren’t rich enough to stay in the luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel, you stayed in Camp Curry (named after the Curries, the couple who managed it).  The cliff you see behind it in the poster is Glacier Point, where there was another mountain house you could stay in (ironically: has since burned down).  In 1872, the keeper of that joint would put out his evening fire by kicking it over the edge of a cliff, right into a giant pine forest.  The campers below starting viewing it as an attraction to watch the fire fall off the cliff, and it remained a Yosemite practice until 1968 when the National Park Service put its hiking boot down and said no more.  (Read more.)

So, I admit a little scary that fire safety was that questionable, but it’s a cool piece of history.  I decided to paint the bathroom light blue (this was the last bucket of paint I bought before I got interested in whole house color schemes, like this method or this method), but I had a feeling that a dark green bathroom would be out of place and a bright orange bathroom would just be absurd – so I went for the blue of “Camp Curry”.  Our greenish wedding towels would also fit in well I thought.

Lesson #1: Yes, I frikkin’ learned it again: test the paint on the wall before you buy!  You see, this time I thought I had it figured out since I was just matching a poster.  I decided to try out Sherwin-Williams paint in Liquid Blue since they advertise mold/mildew-deterring paints and our old house didn’t come with bathroom fans (and I didn’t want to pay to add one in a guest bathroom).  I sprung for a quart of eggshell Emerald paint (answer to BM’s Aura) for the ceiling, this time going a shade lighter than the walls (instead of bright white) to test out this effect.  For the walls, I originally choose their Duration line because it was much cheaper. (Read the next lines really fast while I turn pink with embarrassment that no one but myself has caused….I’m choosing not to lie to give you, the reader, more confidence – you can’t possibly second guess yourself as much as I did!) Then I started putting it on the wall and it looked a whole shade lighter when wet.  I panicked.  The guy at the store offered to darken the paint a shade for free, so I took him up on the offer.  I put it on the wall.  I panicked again.  It was way-too-dark-neon-blue and the bathroom was claustrophobic.  I didn’t take a picture because I loathed the thought of revealing this publicly.  (At least I didn’t paint my garage doors pink, right, Dad?)  I crawled over to Home Depot in shame and bought Liquid Blue again (HD has all the famous brands’ colors in their computers) and slapped that on the walls, giving us this:

photo 1

This is pretty true to color on the left side of the photo.  You can also see our lovely Moen Caudwell fixtures.  The tile looks a little pinker than reality.

So, the color’s pretty cheerful (sky blue – like waking up in your Yosemite tent), but I think if I did it again (and I am not doing it again for a long while) I would’ve gone a little more teal to stay with the whole house color scheme or a little lighter so as not to shock sleepy guests!

 It may be ok to pick a color off of a thing to match the room to, but the house can end up looking like an easter egg if you tend to like very colorful things!  Fortunately, I can keep this in mind when I eventually repaint our hazelnut cream hallway and red office…oops.

Lesson#2: Of course, paintbrushes do not fit behind a toilet.  I am sure there is more than one way to deal with this, but I found that using an edger (which I did not like for actual edging) worked well.


An edger from Home Depot. There’s a little fuzzy, washable pad that snaps into the other side.


Start at the bottom and work your way up, moving the edger back and forth behind the toilet by sliding it from hand to hand.  This way you don’t cover your arm in paint.  Probably a paint stick duct-taped to the back would do the trick nicely too.

Lesson #3: Painting your bathroom at night is a great reason to consider green energy.  The guest bathroom was the one room we hadn’t changed out the incandescent lightbulbs for LEDs or CFLs yet, and the plastic that I wrapped the fixture in sort of melted around the heat of the bulbs.  You’d think it wouldn’t take more than a PhD to figure this out, but apparently it does…  In case we forgot, that’s an awful lot of electrical energy getting wasted as heat.  I have since replaced the electricity-and-plastic-burning bulbs with CFLs.

I actually bought CFLs enclosed in globes, like these, which look just like regular lightbulbs (instead of funny curled up fluorescents).  These look great in the fixture, but do take 30-60 seconds to warm up completely to have full light.  I was surprised because this is the first time I have seen such significant delay.  My dad loved it when he visited: he said that when he got up in the dark to go to the bathroom it was great because it gave his eyes time to warm up to the light.  I find it minorly annoying since I’m impatient, but then I again, I’m also one of those people who type 33 seconds into the microwave because it’s faster than typing 3-0.  Anyway, once the bulb warms up, it looks great.

Lesson #4: I had more trouble with the SW Durable paint leaching under blue painters tape than Behr or Ben Moore Regal paint.  This paint seemed a bit thinner than these others.  Maybe this same property made it a bit more mold resistant?  Personal preference.  I’m not anti-SW though: The SW paint store has better hours, discounts, better brushes and a little sprayer thingy you can load any kind of paint into (not used for this project).

To check in after the paint job, we went from this:

No way around it.

To this:

photo 3

still more to go…


The vanity does not belong, the mirror is just in place so our guests could see themselves while I bought a new mirror and I ended up adding a few more features for convenience.  Stay tuned (or rather, tune back in):

Want to catch up?

Tiling: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Bathroom countertop and the dud


Make your own shower – finally tiling

Today I’m finally posting about the actual process of tiling, from mixing thinset to tiling around obstacles.  Here I emphasize unusual tiling situations and mistake recovery while describing the thinset mixing process and a few bits of tiling basics.

I’ve procrastinated writing this post for three reasons:

  1. Work has been craaazy
  2. I couldn’t think of a cool title
  3. Writing the number of details that the engineer in me wants recorded sounded a daunting task to the creative part of me.

So, right down to business.  You can read the first parts of the tiling project here, here, or here.  The first thing we did is follow Home Depot’s tiling instruction video and screw in a wooden guide, as I show below.  The top of the guide was level and exactly 10 tiles+the quarter round from the top of the cement board.  Since we don’t keep a lot of scrap wood around, I bought this support board as broken door framing from a local hardware store for about $0.50.  It’s important that the board edge not be warped for this application.

photo 1

so happy…so innocent…so many more tiles to go

Using a brace like this has a couple advantages.  The first for me was that I could start building up while knowing that I wouldn’t have to end with a row of partial tiles.  The second is that such a board will provide a level surface to start tiling from if the tub doesn’t happen to be level (and apparently tiles should be floating about 1/8-1/4″ from the tub anyway in case the tub shifts when the water fills).

So, board went up, then I gathered tools.  There are many lists, such as this one, that list the supplies you need when everything goes smoothly.  Besides the obvious thinset and tile, I used two buckets (one for waste concrete/broken tile etc – bags break, one for thinset), a drill with mixer attachment, a power tile saw, 3/16″ spacers, a marker, a large putty knife and a standard thinset notch trowel.  Probably more importantly, there is also the list of things (pictured) that I found necessary for when things weren’t going so smoothly – like for dealing with crooked tiles or all of the thinset I splattered around.

tiling tools

That thing with the blue handle is called a grout saw. Also pictured are a mallet, small chisel, putty knife and tile scrubber.

Thinset is a whole topic within tiling.  I am no cement expert, and like other DIY’ers on their early tiling adventures, it is tempting to find a way to get out of mixing it. For about $40+/bucket, one can buy pre-mixed thinset, but then it’s technically mastic or some kind of organic adhesive, which is supposedly less stable and grows mold when wet (read: not good in a shower).  Actual thinset cement is more durable and is known to be more water resistant because the “setting” of true cement is actually a hydration chemical reaction between the cement binder and the water you mix in (read about this here in a basic article from my undergrad alma mater!).  It also notably costs only about $14 for a 50 lb. bag.

I’m cheap and a materials girl (not material girl) so I bought the thinset – 1.5 bags was enough for this project.

First lesson: if you will be using white tile, use white thinset.  It cost $2 more per bag and I didn’t see how it would matter anyway since the tiles and grout would cover it.  This is true if you use exactly the right amount and none squeezes through between the tiles…but some DID squeeze between my tiles and I have thin but funky gray lines decorating my grout.

Second lesson: mixing thinset is more like an art, not a science.  There are a lot of horror stories on the internet, but there seems to be a fair amount of flexibility since the mixture consistency is so dependent on temperature and the length of time the mixture has sat.  My rule of thumb became that if you are able to use it, i.e. it both spreads on the wall and holds tiles to the wall while applying them, it’s probably ok.  Thinset that is too thin can’t be spread on the wall – it’ll run off of the trowel or knife — and thinset that is too thick is hard to spread, won’t actually stick to the tiles and doesn’t squish out enough to coat the tile back.

I think there is an unwritten rule that thinset bags cannot come with clear directions.  The bags only give ratios for when you use the whole bag, but no first-time DIY-er has any business mixing up a full bag at a time since it’ll harden before you’re done.  Furthermore, the measurements are given in pounds of thinset and volumes of water.  I do not have a handy scale to measure pounds of thinset.

So, I did what I often do: I guessed.  I recommend using two of those red plastic Solo cups for measuring, one for water and one for cement.  I would add 1 red solo cup of water to the bucket (otherwise, the thinset clumps in the side of the bucket and won’t mix), then add about 6 solo cups of thinset.  It would take just under 2 more red solo cups worth of water and then I could actually mix it with the drill attachment.  Then I would add thinset and water until I had the amount I wanted with a consistency a little more watery than toothpaste.  The reason I went with a thinner consistency was that each batch allowed me to tile about 1.5 hours, over which it would thicken quite a bit.  I was willing to put up with a little thinner thinset at the beginning so that I could use the whole batch.  After the first mixing, I let it rest for 5 minutes, starting the thinset chemical reaction.  I learned with the bathroom countertop adventure that this wait is very important.  After 5 minutes, I mixed it again with the drill attachment.  I didn’t take a picture of it since it’s not a friendly environment for a camera, but I did watch this video (and then mix much smaller batches).

After this, I carried the bucket to the bathroom and began tiling.  There are many guides on the internet how to do this properly, including, and  When it was this thin, I found it easier to spread on the wall with a 6″ plaster knife or even a putty knife rather than a trowel.  I’d spread about 9 tiles’ worth on the wall and drag the notched trowel through it to make sure there was just enough thinset, then press the tile in and finally place two spacers in between each side of the tile and its neighbors.

Third lesson: I definitely ended with more thinset splatters than I see on other internet blogs.  I found that placing tiles without splattering cement was difficult, especially around awkward areas (window!) and wiping was hard.  It scraped off of our ceramic tiles pretty easily after it dried using the putty knife, dry tile scrubber and mallet/chisel for particularly stubborn bits, but this after-the-fact cleanup is an unnecessary step if one can juggle tiling and wiping with damp paper towels simultaneously – I could not.  It was surprisingly difficult to clean thinset off of the tub itself, so I recommend covering it if you plan on slopping thinset around.

crowded corner.  bad planning.

See those splatters?  Scraped them after drying.

Fourth lesson: If you are going to cut a whole row of tiles down using a wet saw, it is best to do so all at once so they are all the same size.  I learned that exactly once, then I recut the tiles that were supposed to go on the bottom of the window.

Fifth lesson: gravity is not a friend for field tiling.  Tiles above windows have nothing supporting them…except the large amounts of tape that I used.

photo 5

Sixth lesson: For tiling around the fixtures, I used a carbide-coated rod saw blade on our hack saw to cut curvy shapes and holes, a trick I learned from here.

Seventh lesson: For tiling around the window, I almost exclusively used the putty knife and I found it helpful to back butter tiles, or spread a little bit of thinset on the tiles before sticking them to the wall.  I also did this whole project over a couple days (er, weekends).  I let the tile row above the window dry, then I did the tiles and quarter rounds underneath the window top.  This way I could tape the upside down tiles to the tiles above the window.

For tiling around the edges, I used quarter rounds.  I used the small putty knife to fill the quarter round as if it was a celery stick I was filling with peanut butter.  Then, I would turn it over and press it on the corner of the wall, and tape it to whatever was above it (the next quarter round up or maybe the window itself).  It is also key to install the quarter rounds with the tiles on one side of the corner in such a case in order to control the grout line spacing.  Even worse, if the two sides were tiled without the quarter round, there is a risk that the quarter round might not fit between them.

Eighth lesson: The meeting corners of the quarter rounds were kind of an adventure to figure out, but I finally noticed how the quarter rounds in our other shower were cut.  Our wet saw came with a plastic piece that allowed me to slide the quarter round through the saw on an angle, sort of like a poor man’s miter saw.  I recommend drawing the 45 degree angle on both quarter rounds for a corner with a marker to make sure they are at the right angles, then cutting them before shortening the quarter round to its final length.  The exact mechanics of this will depend on the wet saw being used, but this worked for me.  Also, if the length of the quarter round is along the z direction, mitered cuts can be made on either the x-z plane or y-z plane.  The edges on the top corner of the shower, for example, were cut by rotating the quarter round 90 degrees in the saw compared to the one pictured.

photo (1)

(after grouting)

Ninth lesson: Mistakes (aka crooked tile) can be fixed, even after the thinset is dry. This was important since the tiles near that upper fixture were super crooked when I finished.  Wearing safety glasses, I stuck that little chisel behind the top of the offending tile and whacked with the mallet.  The tile would pop off and I could remove it from the wall.  I then chiseled out the thinset and used fresh thinset with a new tile to keep the tile level with the surrounding tiles.  This took a few minutes, and I wouldn’t want to redo a wall, but it was good enough to fix a few gaps on that top row.  This was also a handy trick when I figured out how to miter the edges of the quarter rounds – after I had already placed several.

At the end of tiling but before grouting, even with my tribulations, I was left with the most beautiful wall of tile (something about everything being beautiful to their own creator….?).

photo 2 (2)

which is definitely progress from the beginning:


Make your own shower – planning for tiling

This post is about some special discussion tile choices and how tile fit into our layout.  Many people pick their tiles based on design or decorating skill.  But when you are re-tiling your shower, chances are it is easier to redo just about any other part of the bathroom to match your tiles.  Therefore, one can pick pretty AND practical tiles.  I got lucky.

First, there is measurement to consider.  For some, the area of the shower and the size of the tile are totally independent; after all tile can be cut.  However, if one can nudge their shower to be a couple inches bigger or smaller to avoid cutting tiles, why not plan accordingly?

First lesson: The back of your shower is predetermined.  The sides are flexible and cane be chosen based on the width of your chosen tile – but once the backerboard is up, the size is determined.  When planning for the sides, we should not have forgotten about our corner grout line.  The tiles ended up kind of weirdly overlapping and our carefully-measured shower sides were just ~1/2″ too short since that corner grout line took up more space than I expected (and I sawed 1/2″ off of the 2×17 tiles that spanned the height of the shower).  For our 3/16″ tile, the corner line is ~3/16″ + thicknesses of the field tile because of how they line up.  Thank goodness for the power tile saw and caulk – but save yourself the grief.

crowded corner.  bad planning.

Crowded corner. The tiles on the right actually overlap those on the left.

Since the tiles on the left are too far over, it was also annoying because I ended up with a super skinny tile on the righthand side (which were also a pain to cut):

Thin tile set with thinset.

Thin tile set with thinset.

So, since the actual tile being used should influence some backerboard specifics for the measuring-inclined, here are some of my thoughts about which tile to use.  I relayed a lot about picking tiles here.  Then note that I had bought these particular tiles before I knew what Fireclay tile was.  For the shower, we picked a 4.25″ ceramic field tile called “Pepper White” by Dal (which you cannot see the speckles on in any pictures) because:

  1. We liked it.
  2. It had matching quarter rounds.  Many tiles, especially those made out of weird materials don’t have matching quarter rounds.  We needed quarter rounds for the window and all around the edges due to how our backerboard was not flush with the wall.  I didn’t want to have any alignment errors stand out because of a sudden color change.  Unusual tile materials and mosaics are less likely to have matching quarter rounds.  Also, the quarter rounds for this project cost basically as much as the field tile (~$150 for the quarter rounds)!  So, if you know you need ~90 quarter rounds, keep it mind that they charge by the piece for these special shapes.
  3. It was >35% recycled.  But I can do better next time this way.
  4. It was made in the USA.  Those freaking quarter rounds were not though.
  5. It wasn’t a solid white – I figured the freckles would distract from any of my alignment errors.  Judge for yourself
  6. It was cheap.  (And it’s clear why.  The Fireclay tile in our kitchen make these Dal tiles feel badly about themselves.)
  7. It fit well with the house – it’s not a modern tile in a not-so-modern house.  I like these stripy contemporary, wood-look-alike tiles, but it would look weird here with all of our real wood.
  8. It fit well with my wooden bathroom counter top – we are going for a sort of rustic look here.  At least that’s how I’m going to explain these grout lines!
  9. The tiles are still whitish so they should match nearly everything for a long time – what is the 2014 equivalent of pink tile anyway?

Here are the unexpected benefits.

  1. The 4.25″ tile plus our 3/16″ grout lines spanned the height of the shower perfectly, even when I had to consider the measurements of the silly window.  This was luck.  The height of our shower was chosen to be exactly 1 field tile + 2 grout lines + 2 quarter rounds.
    Tile around the window

    Tile around the window

    I don’t really want to spoil this, but it makes more sense with the picture.  I didn’t want an awkward half-height tile above the window, hence the choice of the total height.

  2. Stray thinset that dries on these glazed ceramic tiles scrapes off quite easily with a putty knife.  Remember that bit about learning from my mistakes?  This is not true for all pricier materials.  And with the quarter rounds, some of the thinset was not wipable while wet since I had to tape the quarter rounds into place.
  3. The tiles don’t scratch with sanded grout.
  4. The tiles cut easily with our power tile saw…which it was $80 to buy or $26/day from home depot to rent.  This project spanned at least 4 weeks so buying the saw was the right call!
  5. The tiles were sturdy enough were you can pry them off if, after the thinset dried, you determined rearrangement was necessary…

The next step of the process was mixing thinset and actual sticking these carefully-chosen tiles to our carefully-measured backerboard!

Did you miss out on part one on how to put up backerboard?

Make your own shower–the beginning

Our house came with two bathrooms, but the guest bathroom (ie, the bathroom not closeted inside of our bedroom) only had a tub with broken hardware, no shower.  So, I decided that we should put one in.  This seemed like a good opportunity for clean, comfortable guests (if you come to visit, it’s now probably best that you tell me just how enjoyable your shower was…) and a general home upgrade.  I’ll cover our adventure through several posts in time, with this being the first.  The rundown will be:

Here is the shower area in its original, 1956 glory:


These tiles are brownish. The pink tile is in the OTHER bathroom.

Not only is there no shower fixture installed, but the height of the tile was too short to just install the fixtures and call it a day (even if one liked the brownish tile).  Since we were losing the tub tile, we also said goodbye to the countertop on the vanity and replaced it (and the sink and fixtures) with this ensemble:

photo 2

The vanity cabinet still needs to be painted.

Our contractor, who we had hired to do the kitchen, kindly demoed all of the tile, leaving us with this:


The inspector hadn’t decided if she approved yet.

After this, the contractor installed drywall–actually greenboard that happened to be purple–on that lower half of the wall so that the whole wall was flush again.  This is where we took over to put tiles back up – and the goal was to do it for less than the quoted $3500.

First Lesson: Before doing anything, you should be measuring and planning.  And then re-measuring – buy a nice measuring tape.  Then calculating how much backboard to buy. Then dividing measurements by tile dimensions and remeasuring.  Telling the tile store your measurements and deciding how much tile to buy.  Then measuring backerboard and cutting it. I am terrible at measuring which made all of this very trying on my patience.  We had double the fun because you’ll note we have a window in the middle of our shower.  I didn’t want an awkward line of partial tiles above the window and I didn’t want to tile all the way to the ceiling so the dimensions of the tiled area had to be exactly 1 tile + edges above the window.  Tiling around that stupid window ended up taking about as long as it took to tile the rest of the shower, but we will get to the why on that later.

If you’ve been hunting around on the internet you’ll be noting right now that this tiling story is not beginning like other tile stories so far.  Most stories (such as that on Lemon Grove or Young House Love) go straight from the studs to backerboard (wonderboard, hardibacker, etc).  These bloggers battled with shimming and trimming backerboard to get it perfectly flush with adjacent drywall.  Our contractor suggested an alternative to us: line the drywall with water-proof paper, then put the backboard over the top of the studs, drywall and paper.  We were extra-convinced that this was a good idea since he had actually put that drywall back IN.  However, the waterproof paper is key – one absolutely should not put cement backerboard directly over drywall.  Cement backboard is porous and there is a possibility of water leaking through to the drywall without waterproof paper and then you get mold.  I was living in student-priced apartments long enough to learn more than once that mold is quite pesky.

By putting backerboard over paper over drywall over the studs, one does not have to deal with the same alignment perfection issues.  It’s not a total no brainer because there will be edges that need to be covered with quarter rounds (stay tuned for what it’s like to install these edge pieces) as opposed to the bullnose tiles that can be used with flush backerboard, but there are some advantages if you read on.

At our friendly & helpful contractor’s recommendation, we used GMCraft10 building paper, which is “weather resistant”.  I figure a roof in hurricane season has to keep water off of ALL of the dry wall in the house, so this should do the trick.  Building paper also cost less than paper sold for the same purpose in the tile department.  You’ll note that we papered around the window edges as well.  To put it up, I used a staple gun made for weaklings and cut the paper larger than I anticipated the backerboard to cover.  I tried not to be too staple happy since it was annoying to hit them with screws later, plus the paper will get seriously screwed down in the next step.  Later pulling staples out of the wall that weren’t hidden by the backerboard was a non-event.

photo 1

Here she is, all papered.

Supplies needed: building paper, staple gun + staples, knife, scissors, measuring tape.

Second lesson: Mark the studs on the ceiling and the tub before putting up paper over the screws marking the studs so that you know where to screw in the backerboard.  Fortunately, we learned this the easy way – before installing the paper. 🙂

Next up was the backerboard.  This makes for a nice, solid, water-tolerant surface to stick tiles too.  There needs to be backerboard everywhere that there will be tile, which, in our case, included those pesky window ledges (post forthcoming on dealing with windows in the shower).  We bought 1/2″ Wonderboard-brand backerboard & the longest backerboard screws at Home Depot.  We ended up buying 5 sheets (using 4.5) total for this space because we wanted to have the largest pieces possible to fill the space – did I mention that the window made things awkward?

To actually carry out this feat, we measured and calculated, then cut the backerboard to size outside.  It was actually pretty easy to mark the backerboard cuts with a chaulkline, scribe the backerboard with an exacto knife, flip it over and push down on one side – with the scribe line hanging off of the edge of the saw horse.


Setting up to scribe

I used a scrap board as a straight edge while scribing.  The trick was to use the knife to cut through the webbing that holds the cement board together, crack the cement, then scribe through the webbing on the back.  It gave nice clean cuts with minimal mess.  This is reminiscent of how I cleave small semiconductor samples actually, but a couple orders of magnitude bigger.  I completely wore out one knife blade so don’t hesitate to swap blades frequently.  We only used the jigsaw to cut out holes for the plumbing, which was nice to have (drill a hole for the jigsaw blade, then cut out the circle).  The cutting was fast.  The measuring was not.

Third lesson: If you can make your shower any size you want, make it something that is even multiples of your tile heights and widths – then you don’t have to cut the tiles later!  So, if you are measuring backerboard to fit the tiles, include the tile width, the grout line width, quarter rounds AND any excess width from the shower corner, which may be ever so slightly larger than the regular grout line.  One point for guessing which one I forgot.

Fourth lesson: it’s really annoying when your shower is 61″ inches long because backerboard is sold as 60″ long sheets.  There was one other decidedly sloppy advantage of having the drywall there: if one needs to add a 2″ extension of backerboard, there is (not-as-solid-as-studs) dry wall into which one can screw on an extra piece if one happened to miscut the first piece.  This is probably not the greatest for tile stability so I offer no warranties on these types of decision.  We don’t know anyone that would do that though… 🙂  Be sure that (as much as possible) the backerboard is screwed into the studs.

photo 2


Fifth lesson: Backerboard can be made slightly smaller to be crammed into certain spaces.  This can be done with a rubber mallet and chisel.  It is very annoying to remove 1 inch and less using the exacto blade method described above.  If one is not measurement challenged (how the heck do I have a PhD?!), one might not have this issue, but, in any case, Wonderboard is made of small particles “cemented” together, which my mallet and chisel did a nice job of disassembling into the pile of dust on the edge of the tub.  The mallet was also helpful for coaxing pieces flush against the wall and each other.  While my tiles do look a little rustic in the end, the seems were flat enough where, when combined with the thinset, the tiles lay flat.

In the photo, you can see gaps in the backerboard which are “mudded”.  In California, mudding actually means “thinsetting”.  So, I taped over the seems with webbing tape (also in the tile aisle at the ‘Depot), mixed up an early batch of thinset and spread the thinset over the cracks.  There’s a lot more to be said about thinset in a forthcoming post, but here is the effect:

photo 3

Backed and junctions sealed.

Note that it is now dusk outside.  It will continue to be depressing as you note the passage of time during my tiling.  I trimmed off the paper around the edges with an exacto knife before tiling so the quarter rounds would hide the edges entirely.

Supplies used: backerboard, exactoknife, chalkline, jigsaw with carbide blade, drill with large carbide tip, saw horses, measuring tape, rubber mallet, small chisel, backerboard screws, special drill bit that came with screws, shop vac, thinset supplies, strong human(s).

Next installment coming soon…applying the tile.