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Old 01-10-2018, 09:20 PM   #1
brickhouse1928
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Want to re-tile 1920s bathroom wall, lots of challenges, please help!

Okay, this is a little embarrassing. My lovely, motivated wife started scraping the paint and some tiles off the bathroom walls, without a real plan, and now we have a mess on our hands. It's a 1928 brick house with lath and plaster walls. The bathroom is very small and it's the only bathroom in the house. It started out as an innocent enough idea. We wanted (and still want) to apply 2"x4" subway tiles throughout the entire shower/tub and much of the rest of the room. But we have since realized a large number of unique challenges with our particular bathroom:
  1. The exterior wall has no studs at all. It's plaster on block on brick. So framing it would involve moving the tub and shrinking an already small bathroom.
  2. There is asbestos vermiculite in the attic on top of the ceiling. I assume any sort of tear down would involve also tearing down the ceiling which would open up a major can of worms.
  3. The walls themselves are noticeably off a bit. The exterior wall is about 1" wider near the ceiling than it is just above the tub.
  4. As you can see in the pictures, the paint on the bottom half of the walls is still intact. It really can't be scraped at all. Paint only comes off the top half of the walls. This leads me to think tiles would adhere better to the top half. But most people tile the bottom half.
  5. There isn't a real pipe between the tub faucet and the shower. It's just an attachment on the tub faucet. I don't know how to best improve this situation.
  6. There is no ventilation fan, and shower water gets on the wooden window sill. Addressing these issues would certainly add to the complexity of this project.

What on earth should I do? We really just wanted to re-tile the walls. We're first-time homeowners, just got married, still have student loans, and don't have a ton of money. Any advice is much appreciated! Thanks.
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Old 01-10-2018, 10:12 PM   #2
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Codie,

Welcome to the forum and congrats on your recent wedding.

How long are y'all fixin to stay in this home?

A serious remodel would include a solid vinyl window which means you'll be at lease chest deep into a full remodel.

If you were my brother nephew, I'd recommend hiding the tools from your dear wife then coating the non tiled areas with Red Guard or Hydroban until you have the funds for a full remodel or you have to sell the house, whichever comes first.
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Old 01-11-2018, 07:52 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Houston Remodeler
If you were my brother nephew, I'd recommend hiding the tools from your dear wife then coating the non tiled areas with Red Guard or Hydroban until you have the funds for a full remodel or you have to sell the house, whichever comes first.
If I was a betting woman I'd say that he has Calcimine paint in that bathroom that is now exposed where it has been scraped. Calcimine is notorious for not letting anything stick to it for very long (ask me how I know ). I'm not sure the Red Guard or Hydroban will hold without removing it. Takes a lot of elbow grease, and I do mean a lot but it can be done.
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Old 01-11-2018, 09:18 AM   #4
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Hi Lynne and Codie,

I don't know that this is the best idea, but it's possible to tile over the existing tile. maybe you could attach quarter-inch cement backerboard above the tile area to even it out and tile all the way to the ceiling. If that's possible or feasible you could chop out enough of the existing installation to change out the plumbing.

As to whatever is in the attic, the ceiling doesn't need to be torn out at all.
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Old 01-11-2018, 09:56 AM   #5
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Honestly, in my experience doing bathrooms in houses of this vintage and trying to ignore the ick-factor, I think the best thing would be to replace the window with vinyl and do one of those bath-fitters things until the OP has the money/time to do a full restoration. It's a stop-gap for sure but at least he'll have a functional bathroom. I'm just afraid that without doing the tile job the right way from the beginning it's going to take a whole lot of work and look terrible in the end.
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Old 01-11-2018, 01:12 PM   #6
brickhouse1928
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Thank you Paul, Lynne, and John! These are all very thoughtful responses.

We're fixing to stay here for at least a couple more years, but our plan is to eventually sell it and move closer to family. While money is tight, I should add that we just received over $300 in gift cards to a major hardware store chain. That store has the tiles we want and they're currently on sale until Saturday. The picture below is the closest example of how we want it to look. We also already purchased a pedestal sink. Whatever we end up doing will most likely be the final product.

I don't know if the paint is calcimine. There are three layers of paint: the light green is the newest layer, the pink is underneath that, and then the tannish color seems to be the plaster. Do you think maybe the pink is calcimine? Our original thought was to scrape it down to the tan part and tile onto that. The existing tiles come off the shower walls rather easily (I think the previous owners used mastic), so I wouldn't feel comfortable tiling over those.

I think I like John's idea of attaching 1/4" CBB to the walls. I just don't know how I'd attach it. The exterior wall is plaster on block - no wood at all. The block is "structural terra cotta" and is hollow inside. It has been described as "brittle" on one website. I used an impact drill once to hang a mirror in our bedroom, and it worked alright, but I'd be worried about pumping a whole wall full of holes like that. Would that be okay anyway? Should I skim coat the walls first to make them more level? Are there any other products that could also work instead of CBB? I've read a little about "Wedi" and would be willing to spring the extra $$$ if that would work better. Alternatively (assuming the paint isn't calcimine), would Red Guard or Hydroban secure the tiles better? Thanks again!
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Old 01-11-2018, 02:00 PM   #7
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I think the tan paint is the calcimine judging by how the pink paint is peeling off of it. Plain plaster is more grey. If you can get the pink paint off but you don't want the mess of getting the tan off you can mitigate the Calcimine with a seal coat (I completely forget what I used but it stunk to high heaven). This does not solve the problem of the wood window though. Your tub alcove was meant for a tub only, not a shower. Anything you do to fix this bathroom will be for naught once the window starts rotting in earnest unless someone here can tell you how to avoid the problem.
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