Monday, December 10, 2012

home improvement: attaining intermediate

Good news, guys. Tony and I have officially attained "intermediate" status as far as home improvement projects go.

Here's why attaining the intermediate level is important: Earlier this week, I'd been doing some research about the possibility of Tony and me tearing out our ugly back patio and replacing it ourselves. I got a boost of confidence when I saw that the Lowe's DIY page listed this project as intermediate. It says building a patio is the same skill level as installing a ceiling fan or build a birdhouse.

We were able to reach intermediate level in a completely unrelated project Saturday afternoon. Tony and I set out to replace two mismatched tiles in our bathtub, but we ran into a bit of a hiccup. I frantically called my dad on Skype to show him the problem, and he said that if we could pull this fix off, we'd officially be intermediates. And if there were anyone able to bestow beginner, intermediate and expert levels for home improvement projects ... it would be my dad.

(I'll fast-forward about six hours ... we fixed that baby! Intermediates, heck yeah.)

If you want a tutorial on replacing bathroom tile, touching up grout, and caulking a bathtub, you should probably consult Bob Vila or an "expert." This is just the story of two intermediates claiming victory over home improvement.

OK, here is the before photo.

Someone, at some point in time, clearly needed to access behind the tub, so they removed two of the tiles. I'm guessing they couldn't be bothered to go to Home Depot and spend 10 cents on the correct tiles to match, so they just put in two white tiles they had lying around. Also, it's hard to tell from the photo, but the white tiles are a little bit sunken, not flush with the rest of the brown speckled tiles.

I used a hammer and chisel to remove the grout around the two bad tiles.

Which turned out to be super EASY because the tiles were more or less just sitting in this hole with grout around them. No backerboard. No mortar. And there's a 4-inch hole between where the backerboard should be and what appears to be a cement wall.

This is the point where the Skype call was made. 

My dad was really great, and he helped us come up with a plan. First, we used construction adhesive to attach two short 2-by-4s to the concrete wall.

Once that set, we used the construction adhesive again to attach a piece of plywood to the other side of the 2-by-4s.

The plywood is acting like our backerboard here, which gave us something to spread the thin-set mortar on. We used a whole bunch of the thin-set to get the new tiles flush with the old tiles.

The replacement tiles are from Community Forklift. A while ago, I spotted some that match our bathroom, so we grabbed a few because we knew this would be a project we'd have to tackle eventually.

Next we grouted around the new tiles, and we touched up the grout in the rest of the tub, which had been chipping off over time.

And finally: caulk! I scraped out all of the layers of old caulking around the tub and replaced it with caulk that is mold and mildew resistant, which is important for bathrooms.

Which brings us to the after photos.

Drum roll please...

Lookin good, am I right? The tile selection wouldn't be my first choice if I were to pick the tile for our bathroom, but re-tiling our entire tub is not on our to-do list. And at least they all match now!

I'm really proud of ourselves. Looks like intermediates did this project, doesn't it?

And the other great thing about this project is that it gave us the confidence boost we'll need to work with mortar, tile and grout to re-tile the floor in our half bath ... eventually ...

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