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Unread 12-28-2018, 12:59 PM   #1
bob_cville
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Master Bathroom Remodel -- Pull the Plug?

We have a house we are trying to sell, and have decided/been convinced to redo the master bath. We are changing the 3'x4' acrylic shower to a 3'x5' tiled shower, removing the floor and wall tile, re-tiling the floor and a row around the large whirlpool tub.

A friend who is a handyman/contractor/plasterer has started on the project and has finished the demo, and the reconfiguration of the plumbing, and built the new stub wall for the shower and firred out the exterior wall for the shower head and controls. The old floor was on a 1" thick mud bed, atop 5/8" inch thick plywood. At first it seemed that the mud bed could be leveled and re-used but as the demo proceeded it got tore up enough that patching it would probably be more work than removing it and starting fresh.

Even in those steps there have been a few red flags -- loose or crooked or warped studs that he has added. The new stub wall for the shower was built 1/2" out of square. The new drain pipes needed to be sawed out and redone. The shower head and controls were considerably off center. An electrical wire was sandwiched between a new stub and the T-111 plywood siding.

In some cases I've undone and redone work that he has done. In some others I've gone ahead and did the work myself in the first place to avoid the extra step of undoing his work. For instance I added blocking all around the hole that was cut for the plumbing, and added a new piece of 5/8" plywood -- shimmed all around to account for the fact that the modern 5/8" plywood is thinner than the old-timey 5/8" plywood.

I then carefully cut two new sheets of plywood to add a second layer of 5/8" everywhere, staggered from the first, but running in the same direction as the first layer, perpendicular to the joists. It needed two more sheets to finish that second layer, and I only had one full sheet and a number of cut-off pieces so I stopped there, a couple of days ago.

Yesterday I got tied up checking a broken toilet in our rental duplex, and picked up a additional sheet of 5/8" and got to the house and found that the contractor had been there and had "finished" installing the second layer of plywood, by scabbing together a bunch of small pieces, most of which were run in the parallel to the joists, then because he wasn't able to measure and cut accurately enough he filled the gaps along the edges and between the sheet fragments with thinset mortar, leaving the mortar at least 1/16" thick along those joints. I also saw that near the doorway rather than cutting the door trim and putting the plywood under it, he notched the plywood around the door trim -- poorly.

I'm not sure how much of a problem this last one is. Should I remove the new scabbed-together pieces and use two new pieces run the right way? Should I leave them and scrap the thinset so they are smooth and level? Should I leave them as-is, since they are down, and it is not that much of a problem since we will be putting down 18" square porcelain tile rather than stone tile.

I've seen enough posts here about tile jobs that have gone wrong, where the advice is "you should have pulled the plug several steps ago, now you have to tear all that out and start over." that maybe I'm seeing minor issues and imagining they are red flags. My fear is that since it seems he is speedy but not very careful with details in the early stages that that might carry through to the later stages where details are clearly visible.

As far as I can tell his plan seems sound, with a Schluter foam pan and Schluter foam curb, DensShield for the shower walls, and Kerdi band to cover the seams. Ditra for the floor outside the shower, with two different mortars to use. (one modified, one unmodified) and the plan is to use Rondec along edges rather than having cut-up bullnose tiles.

I think he could get the job done, and was giving a better rate than usual since we're friends and since his travel time is only 5 minutes, but that won't matter if it needs to be redone.

Any thoughts or insights would be appreciated.
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Unread 12-28-2018, 01:09 PM   #2
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Welcome back, Bob.

Getting a poorly done job cheaply does not make it inexpensive.

Tough to judge the subflooring without seeing it, but if the second layer of small pieces is incorrectly oriented, I would replace that portion properly.

In the places where the new subflooring was not fit under the door casing and jambs, keep in mind that you will want your tiles to fit under that trim properly and will have no proper support.

If he can't be bothered doing the prep work properly, I'd invite him to cease being "helpful." Anyone can learn to set pretty tile, it's the preparation work that's really important to the finished product.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 12-28-2018, 01:33 PM   #3
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This image shows the rough layout of the room. It is about 7'9" from top to bottom, and about 12' 3" from left to right. The 4'x6' tub is to the right of this drawing, which is just for determining the floor tile layout.

I'll draw the plywood pieces on a subsequent image.
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Unread 12-28-2018, 01:56 PM   #4
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Even if I were selling the house I just couldn't do it, Bob, I'd have to replace the small pieces of ply with a single sheet, especially if the pieces are not perpendicular to the joists.
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Unread 12-28-2018, 07:40 PM   #5
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Going as best I can from memory here is a diagram showing how the second layer of plywood was put down. The large orange/brown rectangles are the new pieces. The double headed arrows show the grain direction. and the dotted lines show to the best of my recollection where the edges of the first layer of 5/8" plywood subfloor is. The two rectangles on the left are the ones I put in over Christmas, the 5 pieces on the left are the ones the contractor put in. Another issue is that I left a 2x4 on the floor along the edge of the tub trying to figure out where the new tub support wall should be and he screwed it to the subfloor where it was sitting and then put the new plywood up to the edge of that 2x4, which might not be where that wall should be.

FYI The joists are 16" OC 2x6 with about 7'8" of unsupported span.
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Unread 12-28-2018, 08:46 PM   #6
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Bob, with 16" joist spacing the first layer of nominal 5/8ths" OSB is the absolute minimum requirement for any manufacturer's tile installation substrate material. If you're happy with that, you don't even require the second layer. I would personally not install tile over such a subfloor on a bet.

The incorrect orientation of the second layer of plywood means it adds very, very little in the way of structure, but it does add something. Even the small pieces that are correctly oriented appear not to span more than two joists.

Entirely up to you how you want to deal with it.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 12-30-2018, 10:29 PM   #7
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Thank you very much for your opinions. I decided to remove the small plywood pieces, and have parted company with the contractor. Fortunately since he and his wife are good friends I think we've managed to salvage the friendship.

Unfortunately for you all, it now means I may be DIYing the tile job and will probably have many questions, from what materials to use and what techniques to follow, especially for which is easiest for a relative novice to not make a fatal error.

I have done three smaller bathroom tile installs and a 200 sq ft kitchen tile job in the past. Except for the first on that was directly on the cement basement floor, they've all been on 1/4" hardibacker, but I hate cutting it and working with it, so I think I may try Ditra this time.

I have not ever tiled a shower, and have read enough here to be a little phobic about it.

Thanks again.
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Unread 12-30-2018, 10:45 PM   #8
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Tiling a shower is no different from tiling anything else, Bob. It's the construction of the shower before the tiling that's critical.
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Unread 12-31-2018, 07:57 AM   #9
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What cx said, Bob, the vast majority of the effort will/should be spent on all the prep work, as it will dictate how smoothly (or not) the actual tile work will go.
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Unread 01-02-2019, 10:07 PM   #10
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The initial plan was to have a corner shower with two walls tiled and with two Schluter foam curbs, with glass for the other two walls. However the plumbing vent pipe was in the wall that was removed to change the shower from 36x48 to 36x60. Since there was no way to eliminate the vent pipe or move it to the firred out wall where the shower head and controls will be, the outer end of the "stub wall" in the above images is a rectangular column that goes up to the ceiling, that contains the 1 1/2" PVC vent pipe. In the gap between the column and the exterior wall (at the bottom of the image), there will be a large glass panel, atop the approx 20" tall stub wall.

Given this layout and my current plan of approach of a Schluter 32x60 sloped foam shower pan, with an 4" wide Schluter foam curb, making the shower be 36x60 within the framed in niche which is 38"x 60", I have a few specific questions. Also rather than the Denshield tile backer the contractor I

1) Given that the 60" back wall will require 62" or 63" of tile to reach the glass panel and that most tile backers (including Denshield that the contractor was going to use) come in 60" lengths, that would require a seam. Should I instead use a couple of sheets of 4'x8' of purple drywall, mounted horizontally, and then completely cover the area inside the shower with kerdi? (I'm still having trouble accepting that drywall can be used in a shower with a surface applied waterproofing method)

2) If drywall, how do you deal with the recessed edge along the long edge of the board? Alkali-resistant mesh tape and thinset? Should there be blocking added along that seam before installing the drywall? How flat should the studs in that wall be? Currently a 6' straight-edge laid across that wall touches at both ends, but is about 1/4" away from the studs in the middle.

3) The inside surface of the column and the short stub wall is covered with 3/4" Advantec (to stiffen and strengthen the structure) does that need to have drywall added before installing the Kerdi? Or can the Kerdi adhere to the Advantec directly?

4) The tile store guy suggested tiling just up to where the glass will be, and then holding it in place from the outside with some sore of trim. His reasoning was that if something happened to the glass in future it would be easier to replace. But is that a sound plan from a water proofing standpoint?

5) We're planning use Rondec along edges. Along the edges of the door opening where should the tile end and the Rondec be placed? aligned with the outer edge of the curb (36")? At the outer end of the firred-out wall and column? (38.5") somewhere in between?

6) For the Schluter drain how large of a gap should there be in the plywood around the 2" drain? And at what height should the drain pipe be cut? And When in the process? (That may be in the instructions for the drain)

7) Is the Schluter foam drain pan suitable for our planned cut-flat pebble floor tile? Or is the slope insufficient?
Thanks in advance for any guidance.
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Unread 01-03-2019, 08:29 AM   #11
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1. I would recommend using plain, white sheetrock for the walls, covered with Kerdi. Purple, green, or any other color sheetrock won't do anything for you, and actually the coatings on those type of board can interfere with the bond when you install Kerdi over it.

2. I usually don't do anything with the seams in sheetrock, since the Kerdi serves the same purpose of seam tape. As for the recessed edges, they're usually not that shallow, so I add a little thinset there when installing the tile.

3. You'll need sheetrock over those places. Kerdi will not bond well to wood.

4. Glass on a horizontal surface should be installed at the end. The tile should be installed with the top of the wall sloped such that water would shed into the shower. Then the glass is installed on top of the tile.

On all horizontal tile surfaces, do not allow the glass installer to drill through the tile or waterproofing. The vertical surfaces can be drilled, as long as the hole is filled with silicone before the screw is inserted.

5. That should fall at the outside edge of the curb, if not further out of the shower. You definitely don't want it to fall on top of the curb, or inside the shower.

6. I think the rough opening for the drain in the subfloor is 4 5/8". The best way to cut the drain off at the proper height is to cut it to subfloor height, dry-fit the drain, then measure the height of the plan off the subfloor. Subtract 1 1/2" from that measurement, and cut that amount of the riser below the top of the subfloor. You'll need an inside pipe cutter to make that cut below the floor, unless you have access below.

When to set the drain? That's up to you. I usually do it right after the sheetrock is up, and immediately before putting the mud floor in. Others like to do it after the waterproofing is completed on the walls, and others will tile the walls and even grout them before putting the floor in.

7. Schluter claims their newer trays are suitable for pebbles. My biggest hangup with the tray is that they're sloped at the bare minimum for proper drainage. And you better make darn sure your floor is flat and level in all directions, or you won't even have the minimum slope. For those reasons, I prefer a mud floor, and with pebbles I make the slope at about 1/2" per running foot. You might get by with a little less if they're shaved pebbles, but I still like to have it at no less than 3/8". Once the floor is in, it's too late to add more slope, so make sure it's where you want it.
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Unread 01-03-2019, 05:42 PM   #12
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Thanks for the response, KMan.

I got home tonight to discover that my wife had already picked up 5 sheets of purple drywall. How big an issue is that? Should I have her take them back and get plain white drywall? If so I think Lowe's only has lightweight drywall which I found has a fair number of voids in it.

Also I think the hole that was cut in the plywood for the drain connection is too tight. I think it is a 3" diameter hole around the 2" PVC pipe. There is access to the pipes from beneath but it is tight cramped crowded access between a mess of ducts, supply pipes, electrical lines and joists.
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Unread 01-03-2019, 06:00 PM   #13
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I would recommend changing the drywall, Bob. I don't shop Lowe's and don't know what they have for plain gypsum board.

If you cut the riser pipe flush with the top of your subfloor, you'll be able to easily cut the hole larger with a jigsaw. You can then cut the riser to proper height with an inside pipe cutter.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 01-06-2019, 11:16 AM   #14
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While at the tile supply store to purchase the Kerdi pan, kerdi, ditra, curb and mortar, the salesman steered me towards using Denshield sheets on the walls and a built-up curb covered with Denshield rather than the too-large looking Schluter curb, and Kerdi band to cover all of the seams.

So that now is all ordered. I feel somewhat more confident that I can do this than the all Kerdi route over drywall. I hope he hasn't steered me wrong.

Also while there I saw a display for "Acufloor Leveling Spacers" for spacing the tiles and for preventing lippage. Does anyone have experience with that system?

It also caused me to realize that I hadn't yet thought about the intended grout line size. The planned design has 18x18 floor tiles on a square grid, and 10x13 wall tiles, in a running bond pattern. My current thinking is 1/8" might be too small, and 1/4" might look too large, which nudges me in the direction of splitting the difference at 3/16"
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Unread 01-10-2019, 03:38 PM   #15
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OK so the Desshield is paid for, but when I went to pick everything up at their warehouse they said "We don't have any 4x8 sheets in stock". When I asked when they would have some in, they responded that they don't know.

Great.

I've been doing as much as I can without having the Denshield, but might run out of other things. I suppose I could do the Ditra and the floor tile.

I do have one specific question. How do you handle the transition from sections that are to be tiled from other sections that are to be painted. For instance along the column at the corner of the shower, the two faces towards the inside of the shower will have denshield and tile, and will be where the door or glass panel will be. The outer two faces will be drywalled and painted. But what to you do along the edge where the drywall and the denshield meet? Use the usual drywall corner bead and mud it as usual?
Or something else?

Or along the back wall of the shower the tile and the denshield will go as far as the glass (or somewhat past the glass) but the wall continues in a straight line down toward the windows and the tub. That section will be drywalled and painted, but what do you do along the seam between the denshield and the drywall. Tape and mud as usual?

I know you don't want drywall mud in the shower but since both of these location will be (just) outside the shower, maybe I'm worrying about nothing.
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