Monday, November 17, 2008

Upstairs Bathroom Lessons Learned

After each major project I want to write a Lessons Learned post about the mistakes (and a few successes) made along the way, and how we dealt with them. You can take a look at my past half-assed attempts by clicking on the posts tagged lessons leared.

  • Make sure you have enough tile, especially trim pieces - We purchased the wall tile back in February. There was 2-3 times as much tile as we needed, and there is a ton of cove molding and base molding. But there wasn't enough bullnose molding. We found this out while the contractor was tiling. I called Daltile asking where I could find some bullnose and they told me the tile in the exact color I was looking for, Ice Grey #1276, was discontinued. Not good. Instead of finding near matching tiles, we decided to just not use bullnose in a few areas, like in the niches and on one small edge above the linen closet door.

    Also, deciding to tile the front of the tub and the niches with slate meant we were two floor tiles short. Luckly Home Depot was able to get the tile for us quickly. Moral of the story, make sure you have enough trim and buy plenty of extra tile (or plan better) and be wary of buying a specialty color/type of tile, as purchasing additional tile may be tricky. In the end, all is well as we spent about $600 on all the tile in the room, which is pretty cheap considering how it all came out.


  • Make sure you account for all door swings when laying out new closets/walls - The decision to add a linen closet was a late addition. We talked it over with the contractor, and I made it clear that we didn't need a large closet, just something that would take an 18" pre-hung door and would fit in the space without being obtrusive. I had thought he had taken into account the fact that the door swinging into the room would be able to swing a full 90 degrees and fit in the blank space to the right of the linen closet. He didn't take this into account, so the door is 2-1/4" too long and hits the linen closet when opening, creating a small dead space in the room. Eventually I'd like to switch this to a 26" door, but with tile laid and the door already in it was a bit late to ask for this change.


  • Make sure you get the matching diverter for your shower - I thought maybe we could use the old diverter for the tub. Wrong!


  • If using a floating vanity, make sure the plumbing rough-in is at the correct dimensions - While the floating vanity looks great, it has a lot of structure to make sure it is well connected to the wall, thus leaving a small area for pipes to enter/exit the vanity. Originally the plumbing was roughed in haphazardly, which had the supply and drain lines below the vanity. A floating vanity with plumbing hangining below is not hot. This is a change we had to pay extra to get fixed.


  • Find a contractor you trust - When it comes to contractors (and people in general), I trust my gut. We had about 6 folks come through the bathroom for estimates. We ended up going with the person who said they were willing to work with me, and really seemed to understand that the design may evolve as time progressed. He also wrote into the quote that additional work that was out of scope would cost extra at a flat hourly rate, and that if I did some of the work that he would take money off the quote. I worked along side him for a considerable amount, so many potential increases in scope were offset by work I did to help him out. This style of work probably isn't for most folks, but it was perfect for us as it helped get us the design we wanted at a cost we could afford.

    We also did the quote as labor only, as we had already purchased the materials. If you are using high end materials, realize it might be better to pick out yourself and price separately as it is just too hard for a contractor to bid the job.


  • If you are purchasing a fan/light, do NOT get the flourescent version - The flourscent version uses a 42 watt, 4 pin bulb (GX24q-4 base), which is hard to find. You can't just plug a normal bulb in the light as the ballast is integrated into the light. We want to replace the light for two reasons (a) the color temperature is too cold and (b) the bulb is very dim when turned on and takes a long time to come to full brightness

    The color temperature is easy to fix. I did some research and found our bulb is a 3500K bulb, which is a cool-bluish white. Not appealing in the bathroom, as it casts a ghostly bluish pallor to the sking. We want a 2700K bulb, which is a tungsten balanced bulb that puts off the warm and cozy orangish glow we are used to.

    The issue of being dim when it starts up is more complicated. Looking up the light I found it's spec sheet. After skimming through a lot of gobbly'd'gook I finally found evidence of what I was looking for on page 6. This page shows a graph of lumen output as a function of time. At start up, this bulb only puts out 20% power, and take 2-3 minutes to come up to full power! If you are just going in to use the bathroom quickly, this is far too long to wait. Since the bulb is 4 pin, it requires an electric ballast be installed in the light for it to work. Now I don't know if the poor light output at start-up us due to the light, or to the ballast. With lights running at around $10 a pop plus shipping I am not excited about ordering new bulbs only to find out they take just as long to get bright. I wish I would have just gone with a normal incandescent fixture and fit it with a CFL. :-(


  • If installing tile, make sure your floor is stable enough to support it - Tile is very stiff and does not bend. While the tile is stiff, the grout in between it is not nearly as stiff. If you do not support your subfloor enough, then your grout lines will crack creating ways for water to seep into your floor. If your floor is really bad, you can even have the tiles crack. Not good.

    I read up on prepping subfloors in Tile Your World, and even looked at John Bridge's Tile Forum. I suggest checking both resources before tiling a floor. He recommends a floor that has deflections less than 1/320 for ceramic tile and 1/720 for natural stone. My floor is slate, so I knew it had to be stiff.

    After demo'ing the room I stepped in spots and could feel the floor deflecting below my feet. While the Deflect-O-Later said I was ok for tile, the deflections I felt told me otherwise. I had just planned to add a layer of subfloor over top of my floor, but after feeling this we decided to rip out the old subfloor and sister the joists and add cross bracing to stiffen up the area. Also, we laid new subfloor and 1/2" hardiebacker cement board on top. I am very glad we took this step, because if not it could have been a very expensive thing to fix down the road, as the entire room would have to be ripped up.


  • If I think of more things in the future, I'll just add to this post.

    3 comments:

    Jennifer said...

    Very helpful list! Thanks

    John said...

    Good stuff more of the same please.

    Cirkemspekt said...

    the door swings got me when I did my bathroom this summer. especially with the old floors in my house. Also, measure twice, cut once, when shaving off that last quarter inch from the bottom of the door. Oh and remember which side is "up".