Author Topic: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner  (Read 2838 times)

merula

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Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« on: December 18, 2017, 04:09:27 PM »
My semi-fixer-upper house came with SUPER AWESOME 1960s era plastic tiles in the tub surround. The tiles are now falling off the wall, and the wall behind appears to be rotting. (Probably was regular drywall? Really hard to tell from what I can see.)

Anyway, my plan is to tear out the wall, put in backer board and do subway tile. However, I have never tiled ANYTHING, unless you count an eighth grade art class mosaic. So, this whole thing may be crazy. Please tell me if this is crazy.

Here are the questions that I can think to ask; but I'm open to any other suggestions, tips or expert advice
  • I have a membership at a tool library, and so was planning to borrow most of the tools I need. They have a tile saw, trowels, floats,
     levels, etc. The problem is that they have limited hours, so I need to know the tools I'll need ahead of time. Anything I should pick up that I haven't listed?
  • Buying tiles: plan is to look at The Tile Shop and Home Depot. I have no idea what I'm looking for besides style, though. Are there quality concerns? Materials or brands I should look for or avoid?
  • The online tutorials I've seen have recommended a waterproof membrane between the studs and the backer board. Most seem to suggest 4 mil sheeting, but one was suggesting roofing felt (???). Any tips here?

Thanks in advance for the help!

geekette

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2017, 04:16:25 PM »
The best place to get info is probably the John Bridge site.  There are articles, and forums, both.

jean

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2017, 07:55:22 PM »
Waterproofing is super important to get right and you definitely need more than just backerboard - I second the John Bridge site.  There are a few methods that are acceptable by code.  Most DIYers seem to do backboard and redguard (or similar liquid membrane).  Some sjust use cement board and nothing, which is not up to code (at least where I live).

Be prepared to replace some of the old framing if you suspect the wall may be rotting.

profgubler

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2017, 05:31:28 AM »
You have to have the membrane/vapor barrier. It is non negotiable. Grout is not water proof. In general any Subway tile you find should work fine, but most have a use rating on the spec sheet that will confirm if it can be used in a wet area.

If you don't want to use backer board you can use denshield depending on local code which will be easier to work with.

You aren't crazy for taking on this project. I did a complete tear out of my shower last year and built a new one and the only think I had tiled before was a floor.

You can do it. Just read a lot and watch a lot of videos before you start. I think I bought a book from the Floor Elf that was pretty good.


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merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2017, 08:03:57 AM »
You have to have the membrane/vapor barrier. It is non negotiable. Grout is not water proof. In general any Subway tile you find should work fine, but most have a use rating on the spec sheet that will confirm if it can be used in a wet area.

If you don't want to use backer board you can use denshield depending on local code which will be easier to work with.

Thanks for the tips! I'm definitely planning on using a waterproof barrier of some kind; the question is what. Roofing felt seemed like a really weird recommendation, plastic sheeting makes more sense, but I'm not entirely sure what to do where the sheeting hits the tub.

I've also see recommendations that plastic sheeting isn't totally waterproof and you should really use RedGuard or something. I see the point, but it seems like overkill given that my walls aren't 100% waterproof either, and the main wall of the tub is an exterior wall. Also, that'd add at least an extra day to the project, which is taking my main bathroom out of commission.

I guess that's another question: I was hoping to get this done in 3.5 days: (1) demo, sheeting, backer board; (2) tiling; (3) grout; (4) clean grout, caulk, install fixtures. Is that crazy? The total tiling area is about 35 sq ft because there's a window in the main wall. (Less tiling, more cutting and configuring.)

trollwithamustache

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2017, 08:14:22 AM »
Tiling is kind of finicky work to get everything laid out nice and square and the way you want it.  So allow time for each step and do your pre set up for the time sensitive steps like once you've mixed mortar. (make sure you've watched the videos of your tiling guru at least twice!)

I love doing my own tile work. The finickyness then makes it super satisfying when you get it done right. Years later its a project I still get satisfaction from.

lthenderson

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2017, 09:43:32 AM »
Thanks for the tips! I'm definitely planning on using a waterproof barrier of some kind; the question is what. Roofing felt seemed like a really weird recommendation, plastic sheeting makes more sense, but I'm not entirely sure what to do where the sheeting hits the tub.

I've also see recommendations that plastic sheeting isn't totally waterproof and you should really use RedGuard or something. I see the point, but it seems like overkill given that my walls aren't 100% waterproof either, and the main wall of the tub is an exterior wall. Also, that'd add at least an extra day to the project, which is taking my main bathroom out of commission.

I guess that's another question: I was hoping to get this done in 3.5 days: (1) demo, sheeting, backer board; (2) tiling; (3) grout; (4) clean grout, caulk, install fixtures. Is that crazy? The total tiling area is about 35 sq ft because there's a window in the main wall. (Less tiling, more cutting and configuring.)

In my area, plastic sheeting is the code. It is waterproof. The plastic should overhang the flange of the tub so any water that gets behind the tile will drain down the plastic and into the tub. I usually leave it long until the backer board is in place and then trim it flush with the bottom edge of the backer board. You do not want to use both plastic and RedGuard because you will essentially be creating a waterproof membrane on both sides of the backer board and if moisture finds a way in there, it has no way to get out and will become a giant reservoir or water and eventually mold.

For one person who hasn't done it before, tiling a tub surround in one day might be a big order especially with a window involved.

merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2017, 11:16:54 AM »
For one person who hasn't done it before, tiling a tub surround in one day might be a big order especially with a window involved.

I do have another pair of hands. He doesn't want to do the actual tiling because he's too much of a perfectionist but is happy to be on saw duty.

kudy

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2017, 11:27:51 AM »
I did this a few years back... my only tiling experience was the bathroom floor a few years before tackling the shower surround. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos, read online resources (like John Bridge), and I think I did a decent job. I used Kerdi waterproofing membrane (bought on ebay) over cement board.

I also worked with a plumber friend to update the plumbing as part of my project, so I could move to a more modern valve setup, move the shower head a bit higher, and install a shut-off valve behind the wall.

My only regret is that I used white grout - it never looks clean.

For a photo and cost breakdown, here's a blog post: http://www.monetarymusings.com/528/bathtub-remodel-cost-total/
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JustNeedsPaint

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2017, 11:22:11 PM »
You can totally rock this with a good eye for detail and patience. However, I also second lthenderson, the schedule seems aggressive.

When Iíve done my bathrooms Iíve observed the time really depends on your design choices. What kind of shelving: niche(s) in a wall or triangular shelves in a corner? Are you going to bullnose any edges? Are you incorporating any mosaics or different directions of tile work? It doesnít cost extra once you have the tile, but the time commitment really can vary the more imagination you have with your design--it is the best part about DIY (on top of not arguing with anyone but yourself).

I also used Kerdi as the waterproofing in my bathrooms.

Just in case you werenít already planning on it--really consider tiling all the way up to the ceiling. It really makes the room seem taller.
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profgubler

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2017, 05:33:52 AM »
That schedule is really aggressive for someone who hasn't tiled before. And if demo had lots of rot it mold it will take longer than you think.

I would not use roofing paper and the plastic will be cheaper than red guard and less likelihood for error.

Really look into denshield as it is basically waterproofed dry wall. So much easier to work with then backer board.


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merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2017, 09:52:19 AM »
Thanks everyone.

I also worked with a plumber friend to update the plumbing as part of my project, so I could move to a more modern valve setup, move the shower head a bit higher, and install a shut-off valve behind the wall.

My only regret is that I used white grout - it never looks clean.

Thanks for sharing! I like the height of my showerhead, and I already have plumbing access through a panel in the back of a closet in an adjoining room. What did the change in the valve setup do for you?

My plan is white subway tile, so I was thinking white grout, but maybe I should go with a grey? The overall look I'm going for is retro 1920s-30s, as my house was built in 1919 and I really like the bungalow vibe it has in some parts. Here's what I'm thinking:


(Actually, this photo is very much like my bathroom, right down to the window in the shower and the little back-of-the-tub shelf.)

When Iíve done my bathrooms Iíve observed the time really depends on your design choices. What kind of shelving: niche(s) in a wall or triangular shelves in a corner? Are you going to bullnose any edges? Are you incorporating any mosaics or different directions of tile work? It doesnít cost extra once you have the tile, but the time commitment really can vary the more imagination you have with your design--it is the best part about DIY (on top of not arguing with anyone but yourself).

I also used Kerdi as the waterproofing in my bathrooms.

Just in case you werenít already planning on it--really consider tiling all the way up to the ceiling. It really makes the room seem taller.

About the schedule: I have the whole week off from work, so if it takes the full week, that's fine, just less than ideal to have the bath out of commission for that time. After that, I'd have to turn it over to my saw-guy (who is off longer) and my husband.

I'm not planning to install any shelving except that I'm keeping a small shelf between the back of the tub and the wall (almost exactly like the photo). There's currently a piece of stone there that's in great shape that I'm just going to reuse, although I may need to rebuild the frame underneath depending on condition. Only planning to bullnose the outer trim, not anything around the window or elsewhere.

I appreciate the input on going up to the ceiling, but it's not really the look I'm going for. I'm looking for more bungalow-retro, in keeping with the rest of my house. (Or, how I eventually want the rest of my house to look.)

Really look into denshield as it is basically waterproofed dry wall. So much easier to work with then backer board.

DensShield looks perfect for my application; the cost isn't that much more when you factor in the time and extra materials of a separate barrier. Did you use this, or do you know of any reliable reviews? (Also going to look into any thoughts on the John Bridge forums.)

J_Stache

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2017, 10:00:56 AM »
Subway tiles are one of the easiest tiles to install because most have built in spacers.  If you have time, I'd suggest setting the first or two row and making sure it's level, then letting it dry completely.  Once that dries, you can go back and do the remaining rows without worrying about everything shifting.

meghan88

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2017, 10:12:43 AM »
- Ditto re. advice on the John Bridge forum.  It's the best place to post your tile project and get expert advice as you go.
- Make sure you get your hands on a good tile saw.  Rent one if you have to.  Don't try to do the cuts with tile cutters.
- Ditto re. avoiding white grout.  Go with the natural medium-grey grout color.
- If you don't tile up to the ceiling, you'd better pay attention to what you use re. paint.  Inferior prepping / inferior paint will start to peel sooner rather than later, and may lead to mould problems.

merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2017, 10:25:38 AM »
Subway tiles are one of the easiest tiles to install because most have built in spacers.  If you have time, I'd suggest setting the first or two row and making sure it's level, then letting it dry completely.  Once that dries, you can go back and do the remaining rows without worrying about everything shifting.

Good to know my aesthetic choice has other benefits! That's great advice, particularly if the demo takes longer than anticipated (as predicted by others), I could theoretically do some backer board/sealing in the morning, let it dry for 12 hours and then do a few rows of tile in the evening and let them dry overnight.

- Ditto re. advice on the John Bridge forum.  It's the best place to post your tile project and get expert advice as you go.
- Make sure you get your hands on a good tile saw.  Rent one if you have to.  Don't try to do the cuts with tile cutters.
- Ditto re. avoiding white grout.  Go with the natural medium-grey grout color.
- If you don't tile up to the ceiling, you'd better pay attention to what you use re. paint.  Inferior prepping / inferior paint will start to peel sooner rather than later, and may lead to mould problems.

I'm getting a tile saw from a tool library. This is the one I've reserved: https://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-7-in-Job-Site-Wet-Tile-Saw-R4020/202518378 Looks to be decent?

The walls in the bathroom are lath and plaster with ~100 years of paint, including at least two coats of high gloss, so I'm not super worried but I will keep it in mind. Thanks!

geekette

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2017, 11:40:43 AM »
I will third (or 4th) the use of Kerdi for the waterproof barrier.   

kudy

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2017, 06:55:49 PM »
Thanks for sharing! I like the height of my showerhead, and I already have plumbing access through a panel in the back of a closet in an adjoining room. What did the change in the valve setup do for you?

My plan is white subway tile, so I was thinking white grout, but maybe I should go with a grey? The overall look I'm going for is retro 1920s-30s, as my house was built in 1919 and I really like the bungalow vibe it has in some parts...

The house was built in 1979, so I had the two-knob valves, hot on one side, cold on the other - we upgraded to the more modern all-in-one valve.

White subway tiles look great, and I would probably go with a medium or medium-dark gray grout if I was doing it over.
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lthenderson

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2017, 07:15:35 AM »
Valves

One of the best things I ever did was install a thermostatic valve in my shower. It is a valve that gets installed before the valves for the shower head or tub fill valve. What it does is keep water temperatures constant and nearly instantly. Once set to the proper temperature, you never have to adjust it again. I just turn on the valve for the shower head and within two seconds the water is perfect temperature. It also automatically adjusts for changes in pressure such as someone using water elsewhere in the house so you never get boiled or a blast of ice water in the middle of your hot shower. The thermostatic valve is on the right side of the body sprays. The two valves on the left control the shower head (upper) and body  sprays (lower).



Installing Tiles

One thing I have found that saves on time when doing tile surrounds is to screw a level ledger board around the bottom of the shower. I usually make the top edge of it equal to the intersection between the second and third row of tiles. This does a couple things for me. Because things are rarely level, it provides a level surface for me to start tiling from and it supports the subway tile so I can install the tile all the way up to the ceiling. After the mastic has dried, I unscrew the board and remove it, patch the screw holes with redguard or something similar and install the bottom two rows of tile. Any out of level stuff can be tackled by cutting the last row to fit.

Like this:
« Last Edit: December 22, 2017, 07:19:20 AM by lthenderson »

merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2017, 08:32:40 AM »
The house was built in 1979, so I had the two-knob valves, hot on one side, cold on the other - we upgraded to the more modern all-in-one valve.

Ah, gotcha. I actually like the form and function of the separate handles over the all-in-one, but that's definitely a personal preference.

Valves

One of the best things I ever did was install a thermostatic valve in my shower. It is a valve that gets installed before the valves for the shower head or tub fill valve. What it does is keep water temperatures constant and nearly instantly. Once set to the proper temperature, you never have to adjust it again. I just turn on the valve for the shower head and within two seconds the water is perfect temperature. It also automatically adjusts for changes in pressure such as someone using water elsewhere in the house so you never get boiled or a blast of ice water in the middle of your hot shower. The thermostatic valve is on the right side of the body sprays. The two valves on the left control the shower head (upper) and body  sprays (lower).

Installing Tiles

One thing I have found that saves on time when doing tile surrounds is to screw a level ledger board around the bottom of the shower. I usually make the top edge of it equal to the intersection between the second and third row of tiles. This does a couple things for me. Because things are rarely level, it provides a level surface for me to start tiling from and it supports the subway tile so I can install the tile all the way up to the ceiling. After the mastic has dried, I unscrew the board and remove it, patch the screw holes with redguard or something similar and install the bottom two rows of tile. Any out of level stuff can be tackled by cutting the last row to fit.

Would the thermostatic valve work for multiple temperatures? I like near-scalding showers, my husband likes warm and our kids like near-body-temp. So right now we just have our water heater set to my preferred temp and I turn the hot water on all the way. I've learned that my kids' temp is full hot plus one-half turn cold. Definitely something to give more thought to, thanks!

And that's a great tip on the tile install. It's almost like the "do the first few rows and let them dry" recommendation above in support, but the tub is definitely not level (I just don't know how much yet), so it might be better to solve that problem.

lthenderson

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #19 on: December 22, 2017, 12:16:41 PM »

Would the thermostatic valve work for multiple temperatures? I like near-scalding showers, my husband likes warm and our kids like near-body-temp. So right now we just have our water heater set to my preferred temp and I turn the hot water on all the way. I've learned that my kids' temp is full hot plus one-half turn cold. Definitely something to give more thought to, thanks!

It's easily adjustable with a quick turn of the handle to the new desired temperature.

Fairviewite

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2017, 05:54:06 PM »
Cool project Merula! I plan on doing a very similar project in a rental property we recently bought (we have the exact doors in the picture you shared).

A question for the more experienced. Having a tub/shower with a window installed in that location, when you tile how do you adequately seal/protect the window components (trim/casing) from moisture?


geekette

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #21 on: December 22, 2017, 10:37:33 PM »
Quickly link on the difference between thermostatic and pressure balance shower valves - https://www.plumbingsupply.com/pressure-balance-vs-thermostatic-valves.html

merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #22 on: December 26, 2017, 08:46:01 PM »
Update: Today was day 1, and demo is done. (Note to the people who said my timeline was too aggressive: you were 100% right. Although, in my defense, I did take a couple hours off in the afternoon to hang out with a friend from out of town.)

Problems so far:
  • It was very difficult to get the lath and plaster out from behind the window frame, and we ended up pulling part of the window trim partially off, which will need to be reattached and repainted.
  • There's a little shelf that I wanted to reuse, only it's covered with some sort of caulk that just will not come off. Do I give up or keep at it? What's the best way to get caulk off om a semiporous surface?
  • Framing on the plumbing wall is insane. Luckily, my helpful BIL has dealt with worse, so I'm hopeful he'll have a solution. If anyone has a suggestion, I'm all ears.
  • I fumbled a hammer hand-off and chipped the tub. It's a green tub, and while I like it and think it's quirky and fun, it's definitely not adding to the house's resale value. I'm thinking that after we finish I'll get it reglazed to white. Anyone ever had that done? Looks to be a few hundred bucks with like-new results. Is there any harm in using the tub with a quarter-sized chip down to the iron?

Tomorrow is backer board and maybe some ACTUAL TILING.

ETA: I just realized these photos are not of the completed demolition; I took them midway through to ask advice via text. More photos tomorrow but I'm not getting out of bed now.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2017, 08:54:43 PM by merula »

MBot

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #23 on: December 26, 2017, 11:26:49 PM »


A question for the more experienced. Having a tub/shower with a window installed in that location, when you tile how do you adequately seal/protect the window components (trim/casing) from moisture?

This was tough to figure out. We used PVC trim and casing, plastic and impervious to moisture. To attach, used No More Nails. Not pros though

ChpBstrd

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2018, 08:24:05 PM »
I'd get a new tub while you have the whole thing disassembled. New tubs are cheaper than a professional re-enameling. It'll never be easier than now. Also you want to replace the drain pipe now so you never have to do it later.

merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #25 on: January 16, 2018, 11:08:25 AM »
Thanks for everyone's help and suggestions. Thank you especially to those who questioned my timeline, because it gave me a heads up that the project would take longer than the 3.5 days I was expecting. However, it might be more helpful for the next person with a similar project to say, oh, I don't know, "YOUR TIMELINE IS LAUGHABLY BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD."

I started work on December 26th. I worked at least 8 hours a day, typically more like 10-12, through January 1. I went on a business trip on Jan 2, and it wasn't done or usable. I got delayed on that trip (thanks bomb cyclone), and wasn't able to do more work until that weekend (after which the shower was usable, just not pretty), and finishing the trim took another weekend.

I was nearly in tears in the middle of it, but coming out the other side, I'm really glad that I took the time that I did and didn't try to take shortcuts to speed things up. My concern now is how to find another chunk of time to be able to finish the bathroom (vanity, toilet, tiling, wainscoting).

I'd get a new tub while you have the whole thing disassembled. New tubs are cheaper than a professional re-enameling. It'll never be easier than now. Also you want to replace the drain pipe now so you never have to do it later.

Interesting thought! I looked into this, but the cheapest tubs that would fit my space I was finding at the big box stores were $400 just for the tub, not counting delivery or install. (Not that I would hire out the install, but I would assume there'd be some other supplies/tools needed.) Meanwhile, I got a quote for refinishing for $450 all-in, which will take around 4 hours. The only additional cost is that I'll have to re-caulk around the tub, but caulk is cheap.

My drain pipe is accessible in the unfinished basement.

Mgmny

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #26 on: January 16, 2018, 11:43:57 AM »

I'd get a new tub while you have the whole thing disassembled. New tubs are cheaper than a professional re-enameling. It'll never be easier than now. Also you want to replace the drain pipe now so you never have to do it later.

Interesting thought! I looked into this, but the cheapest tubs that would fit my space I was finding at the big box stores were $400 just for the tub, not counting delivery or install. (Not that I would hire out the install, but I would assume there'd be some other supplies/tools needed.) Meanwhile, I got a quote for refinishing for $450 all-in, which will take around 4 hours. The only additional cost is that I'll have to re-caulk around the tub, but caulk is cheap.


What size is your tub? A regular no-frills tub should not START at $400...


merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #27 on: January 16, 2018, 04:48:41 PM »
[What size is your tub? A regular no-frills tub should not START at $400...

I don't recall the dimensions offhand, but it's narrow and long. The house was built in 1919, the tub appears to have been put in in the 50s or 60s. I could have gone with a wider tub, but that would cut into an already very small floor area and I wouldn't be able to fit the vanity I want.

(I'm also going to have to spend more to get a toilet and vanity that fits the footprint, because, as god is my witness, I will never have a pedestal sink again.)

JustNeedsPaint

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #28 on: January 16, 2018, 09:01:20 PM »
Don't beat yourself up over positive thinking for timelines. I think we all do it at some point. Although I'd say now I just say an awful large estimate and then double it when it comes to my own projects.

The important part is you didn't compromise on anything and did not take shortcuts! An hour saved is definitely not worth kicking yourself for the rest of the time you own your home.

12 hour days seems right. With barely any stops. ;-)

IMHO I think your corners look better than the corners in your sample photo. Good job!

Thanks for keeping us updated!
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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2018, 02:28:37 PM »
One thing that is code in our area is "No" water contro/Drainl (so tub handles or sink handles) can be within 5' of an operable window. So if your window opens and closes you might want to check that code.
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Mgmny

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #30 on: January 18, 2018, 02:37:47 PM »
One thing that is code in our area is "No" water contro/Drainl (so tub handles or sink handles) can be within 5' of an operable window. So if your window opens and closes you might want to check that code.

What kind of nonsense is that code for?? Just freezing temps?

merula

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Re: Tiling Tub Surround for a tile beginner
« Reply #31 on: January 18, 2018, 04:00:51 PM »
One thing that is code in our area is "No" water contro/Drainl (so tub handles or sink handles) can be within 5' of an operable window. So if your window opens and closes you might want to check that code.

What kind of nonsense is that code for?? Just freezing temps?

Every house I've ever lived in has had a kitchen sink under a window, including new construction. I mean, I can see the rationale, but it would shock me if this was a code that I wouldn't be grandfathered into at least. Particularly since the sink and toilet aren't 5' from the window either, so I might as well not have a bathroom if that's the case.